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A survey of the productivity and functions of goats in Uganda

K.L. Okello

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Makerere University
P.O. Box 7062 Kampala Uganda


Introduction
Material and methods
Discussion

Summary

The social and economic importance of goats in the agricultural systems in Uganda is identified and evaluated in terms of their productivity and functions. The most important role of goats is the provision of meat. Small East African goats from the eastern region show a higher dressing-out percentage than from other regions. In an abbatoir study goats slaughtered were between one and half and three years old and their composition was 53.6 per cent females, 34.9 per cent castrates and 11.5 per cent entire males. Other roles are religious ceremonies, funeral rites and cultural rituals. There is however, still need for people to utilise goats to bridge the protein gap by directly supplementing family diet. This requires a change in attitude which is still inhibited by custom and tradition. Modern management regarding goat husbandry should be adopted and breeds capable of improvement should be identified.

Introduction

Uganda is a landlocked country with an area of 236,860 km2 between 1°S and 4°N. Inland lakes and rivers account for 14 per cent of the area. The greater part of the country has an average rainfall of about 1000 mm which falls in March - May and August - November. The driest and hottest period is December to February in the northern part of the country while in the west the driest period is between June and August. Average maximum temperature is 27°C and average minimum 16°C. Because of the adequate rainfall, the vegetation types are varied and remain lush and green throughout the year in most parts of the country.

There are an estimated two million goats in Uganda, almost all of them indigenous types reared in the villages in the traditional way (Okello & Obwolo, 1984). The distribution of goats has a direct relationship to the type of habitat found in a particular region. As shown in Figure 1, the goat population is largely concentrated in the western, eastern and northern regions where the habitat consists mainly of a mixture of dry acacia and grassland savanna.

The economic importance of goats in the provision of animal proteins in the developing countries has been extensively reviewed elsewhere (Devendra, 1981). In Uganda however, apart from the provision of meat, goats are also important culturally, socially and economically to the small farmer. It is against this background that this paper examines the importance of these animals in the agricultural system by describing their productivity and functions.

Material and methods

Evaluation of carcass yields of different types of goats in Uganda was done at the abbatoir of Uganda Meat Packers in Kampala. Before slaughter, data on each goat (district of origin, age, sex, breed and liveweight) were recorded. Approximate age was determined from the incisor teeth of the lower jaw. After slaughter, the dressed carcass was weighed and the dressing-out percentage calculated on the basis of live body weight. A total of 209 goats from different breeds and of various age groups and sexes were subjected to this treatment, selection being at random.

In relation to other functions of goats, visits were made to all the regions of Uganda where the roles of goats were identified by observation and interviews of the local people.

Figure 1. Distribution of goats by district in Uganda (1983)

BREEDS OF GOATS

There are three distinct types of goats in Uganda (Mason & Maule, 1960). The Small East African (SEA) goats are the most numerous and are distributed throughout the country but are more concentrated in northern and eastern regions. Average liveweight for adult entire males is 27.4 kg, castrates 33.5 kg and females 26.1 kg. Mubende goats are found mainly in the central region, with a concentration in the Masaka area in the south. The colour of this goat is predominantly black although a mixture of brown and black is not uncommon. Average liveweight for adult entire males is 35.7 kg, castrates 36.0 kg and females 31.5 kg: individual male castrates may weigh up to 42.0 kg. Kigezi goats are found mainly in south-western Uganda with some in Ankole and other bordering regions. The colour of this goat is black and the hair is long. Average liveweight for adult males is 28.8 kg, castrates 30.0 kg and females 30.3 kg.

CARCASS YIELD

The majority of goats brought for slaughter were over one and half years old. Young goats below one year old were rarely slaughtered. Of the animals slaughtered 53.6 per cent were females, 34.9 per cent were castrates and 11.5 per cent were entire males.

Tables 1, 2 and 3 show the carcass yields of the different breeds of goats in terms of dressing-out percentage. The SEA goats from Soroti showed a higher dressing percentage than those from other regions. Male castrates slaughtered between the ages one and half and two years had a higher dressing-out percentage than those slaughtered between the ages of two and half and three years.

Table 4 shows the effect of body weight on dressing-out percentage of the three breeds. Generally physiological age had an effect on dressing-out percentage. Ueckermann (1969) showed that heavier goats (45.4 kg) dressed higher than lighter goats (31.8 kg) by about 2-4 per cent depending on the plane of nutrition. Heavier Mubende goats (40-50 kg) gave dressing percentages higher by 7.8 per cent than those at 20-30 kg liveweight.

Table 1. Dressing-out percentage of Small East African goats in Uganda

Sex

Age (years)

Region

Eastern

Northern

Central

l.w. (kg)

dcw (%)

l.w. (kg)

dcw (%)

l.w. (kg)

dcw (%)

Male castrate

1 ½ - 2

31.0

57.7

35.7

52.6

23.1

45.6

2 ½ - 3

33.9

53.9

-

-

-

-

Male entire

1 ½ - 3

28.8

58.3

25.0

49.4

28.3

55.0

Female

1 ½ - 3

29.7

58.2

23.0

51.5

25.5

52.1

Table 2. Dressing-out percentage of Mubende goats in Central Region

Sex

Age (years)

Liveweight (kg)

dcw (%)

Male castrate

1 ½ - 2

28.4

44.1

Male castrate

2 ½ - 3

36.0

50.7

Male entire

1 ½ - 3

35.7

56.4

Female

1 ½ - 3

31.5

54.4

Table 3. Dressing-out percentage of Kigezi goats in Western Region

Sex

Age (years)

Liveweight (kg)

dcw (%)

Male castrate

1 ½ - 3

28.8

52.0

Male entire

1 ½ - 3

30.0

49.4

Female

1 ½ - 3

30.3

51.6

FUNCTIONS OF GOATS

Goats have important roles in the traditional, cultural, social and economic sectors of the Ugandan small farmer. The most important role, however, is the provision of meat. In au regions of Uganda, goat meat ranks only second to beef in quantity, but in terms of palatability and delicacy, it is preferred to beef. In au areas, goat meat is a favourite food on special occasions such as the celebration of funeral rites, Christmas day, Easter day, wedding ceremonies and thanksgiving ceremonies for the birth of a new baby.

Because of its small size, a goat is often slaughtered in honour of a special guest, a visiting relative or a friend. The carcass is easy to store and can readily be preserved by smoking and drying. In Lango and Acholi (northern Uganda), goats are often slaughtered to provide meat for consumption during communal work. Roast goat is liked by many people because it is tender, juicy and soft. In Bunyoro, goat meat is sometimes mixed with herbs when preparing traditional medicines.

Table 4. The effect of body weight on dressing-out percentage of breeds of goats in Uganda

Breed/sex

Liveweight (kg)

15-20

20-30

30-40

40-50

Small East African:


male castrate

46.10

53.77

51.29

55.20


male entire

46.17

59.44

-

-


female

50.50

50.45

58.35

-

Mubende:


male castrate

46.05

46.38

47.23

54.20


male entire

-

-

51.40

54.80


female

54.65

54.40

48.64

62.20

Kigezi:


male castrate

-

53.43

48.15

-


male entire

-

53.07

48.03

-


female

-

54.14

49.05

-

Goat's blood is also a delicacy in certain regions. For example in Buganda (central region) when a goat is slaughtered, its blood is collected, clotted and cooked together with the intestines to make a delicious meat known in the local language as 'Kafeche'. In Bugishu (eastern region) the blood is cooked and made into a soup, then mixed with a bitter leaf to make a common popular diet among old people.

Other important aspects are the roles it plays in the religious and ritual customs of the peasant farmers. In au parts of Uganda goats are normally offered as sacrifices by witch doctors and traditional healers to appease local gods, the spirits of dead people and ancestors.

The circumstances which necessitate this kind of practice may be a result of unexpected upheavals in the community, for example failure to have children, the death of an infant or prevailing mysterious disease conditions within the community. In Busoga (eastern region) instances are known where it is believed that a child may be crippled by a particular angry crippling god. This condition is claimed not to respond to medical treatment. However, remedy and relief is believed to be brought by offering a goat as a sacrifice. Likewise such gods, referred to as 'Lubaale' in Buganda, are given the same attention if there is any similar calamity in the community. In this region witch doctors use goats (normally black or white) as sacrifices in the belief that one's personal misfortune such as failure to get a wife or finding a job can be overcome.

Traditional divine healers also use goats of specific colours, normally pure black or white, in healing their patients. The bones of goats are used as diagnostic tools. These are thrown down and the healer studies the pattern in which they have fallen in order to predict the nature of the sickness of his client.

Among the Acholi, goats are often slaughtered as a sacrifice following incorrect social behaviour, as for example in the committing of sexual offences between relatives (Okello & Obwolo, 1984). The Lugbara in West Nile use hairy goats to make sacrifices to their gods.

In Bugishu and Sebei, goats are often slaughtered to purify a candidate for circumcision rituals. The soothsayers of Sebei often slaughter a goat and examine its abdominal contents in the belief that fortunes will be revealed to them.

In all regions of Uganda goats are given as bride price in marriage, either alone or with cattle. The number given for this purpose varies from one region to another. In Teso, for example, a large number is often demanded by the parents of the bride. In Buganda and Bunyoro if the bride is found to be a virgin the groom is supposed to give a very fat black and white buck to the parents of the bride to thank them for having looked after their daughter so well. The groom also gives a goat to the father of the bride and one to the person who officially gives the bride to her husband. During negotiations for the dowry a skin is normally donated to the parents of the bride.

Goats also play other social functions as a symbol of exchange. In Kigezi a goat is exchanged between families in order to cement family relationships. In Acholi, and Lango, a goat is normally paid as compensation when cattle destroy a neighbour's crops. It can also be used by a man as payment of fines to the parents whose daughter he has made pregnant outside marriage. Disputes and petty crimes in the village can also be solved by using a goat as payment for the offence. In Teso and Lango, goats are used as barter for cereals and other foods during periods of famine. A landlord may also sell some part of his land to landless people in exchange for goats.

In all regions of Uganda, goats are preferred, valued and recognised as presents in honour of special guests or beloved relatives. In Lango a goat can be offered to seal and strengthen brotherhood and friendship between a visiting member of another tribe and his hosts, as a symbol of acceptability in that village This often occurs when the visitor decides to stay and live in that community.

Goats also play direct roles as a source of income. This can be done by selling to butchers who slaughter the goats at abbatoirs. However, village slaughter for sale of goat meat is minimal: most homes have goats and local buyers are therefore few. The goats from such a village are normally bought by traders who subsequently send them to large urban centres where the demand is higher. Money obtained from sale of goats is normally used to pay school fees, graduated poll tax, and for other small family requirements. Where goats are sold in large numbers, the money can be used for big investments like building shops and residential houses.

The skin is used for a variety of purposes. In au regions it is used as mats for sitting on, especially by women, and for sleeping on by children. It can also be used as clothing, especially in Sebei where it is oiled before sowing. Traditional dancers also use it as costumes. The skin is also used for making drums, bags, handles of knives, and for covering milk gourds. Certain good quality skins are hung on house walls for decoration. It must be emphasised that Mubende goats provide better quality skins than the other breeds. Nowadays, goat skins are sold to the tannery at Jinja.

The amount of goat milk consumed by people is negligible. However, in Sebei and Bugishu, goat's milk is considered delicious (especially the colostrum) and normally reserved for young children and herdsmen. Among the Iteso and Karamojong in eastern Uganda there is a belief that goat's milk has medicinal value in curing epilepsy (Okello & Obwolo, 1984).

Horns and hoofs are used for various functions like treating headaches and other ailments in Buganda. In Teso they are used for decorative purposes, while in Acholi and Lango horns are used as a flute for communicating messages during hunting, at traditional dances and at funeral rites.

While in some quarters goats are blamed for destroying environments in Uganda they may be used to control growth of bush and grass. Because of their browsing habits, goats feed on small shrubs thus controlling their growth especially near the homesteads. Their droppings are used as manure, thereby improving soil fertility. Crop residues (potato, cassava or banana peel) are fed to goats thus helping in the disposal of these waste products.

Not everyone in Uganda keeps goats for their economic and cultural usefulness. There are some who keep them for prestige and as a sign of wealth. This is most commonly true of elderly people who take pride in the size of their herd and will hardly sell a single animal even when faced with vital needs. Such a person may prefer to go in rags than sell his goats to buy clothes.

Discussion

As revealed by the survey the primary function of goats in Uganda is the provision of meat. However, it is important that the people be properly educated to rid them of the belief that goats should mainly be slaughtered at funeral rites, in honour of special guests or at sacrifices (Maher, 1945). Since the goat seems to be the ideal animal for a peasant farmer, it is important that it should play a direct role in supplementing family diet of protein in order to bridge the protein gap prevalent in most developing countries. In these countries average protein consumption per person per day is only about 11 g while in the western industralised countries it is about 72 g. (Pugiese & Coulomb, 1981). This requires a change of attitude of the small farmer about the traditional roles of the goat in his society.

Accurate statistical data regarding the total population of goats in Uganda should be established. This would help policy makers in the Ministries both of Agriculture and of Animal Industry in deciding how the production of goats can be improved. However, under the Uganda revised recovery programme the national census of agriculture and livestock will soon be launched. This programme is to be sponsored by FAO for a period of three years. Already FAO under its technical cooperation programme with the Government of Uganda has plans to launch a dairy goat keeping project with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). This project will initially involve the importation of 300 exotic European dairy goats to be distributed to 180 YWCA clubs around the towns of Jinja, Mbale and Entebbe (FAO, 1984).


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