Special goats to boost local farmers
Villagers told their stock is a special genetic type
Goat farming in North West has never taken off as most residents choose not to eat goat meat. But for villagers living in Pella, near Rustenburg, breeding goats could provide a breakthrough into the international market.
The villagers said they had not known the quality and worth of their livestock until a woman from their village, who is a PhD student in genetics, told them their breed of goats was in fact special.
Almost every household in rural Pella keeps goats and sheep, but none have entered into commercial farming.
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and 26 delegates from 14 countries recently visited the village ahead of the 5th African Goat Improvement Network programme with the aim of creating a community-based breeding programme to improve the existing goat gene pool.
In 2014, research by Keabetswe Ncube, a researcher from ARC and a Pella-born resident, found that the goats there grew faster than Nguni goats and were drought- and disease-resistant.
Pella resident Shimmy Teme, who owns 88 goats, some of which he sells to locals, said he did not know his goats were special and of a high quality.
“Life is tough. I become happy when someone pays me R800 for a nine-monthold goat. To me it’s a lot of money,” he said.
He said the breeding programme would help him with the pricing of his goats.
The council says the community-based breeding programme has the potential to improve the livelihoods of goat farmers by helping them get higher incomes, achieving better food availability and by the pooling of the resources of participating households.
The programme selected 40 farmers with 400 goats to take part in the project.
ARC’s Isaac Ntshauba said: “Such a programme is important for the sustainability of the community goat breeding programme as farmers will be equipped with tools to better manage their animals even after the project has ended.”
He said the benefits of record-keeping included enabling goat owners to monitor the health of their animals, improving their ability to select animals by weight for sale and slaughter, helping them to evaluate the breeding performance of animals for genetic selection and managing animal weights prior to mating to achieve better reproduction rates.
One of the delegates from the US, Jennifer Woodward-Greene, said a lot of effort had been put into enhancing the quality of livestock .
“It has not really worked very well and we believe that this is because they (rural communities) were breeding exotic breeds,” she said.
She said goats were not as highly regarded as cows, but many people depended on them in the world, in Africa in particular. She said most smallholder farmers rushed to sell their goats instead of breeding them.
“So part of this programme is to convince them that they have good goats, as they tend to believe that they don’t have good goats. The breeding might be the problem, not the goats.”