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Goat production in the Swaziland Middleveld

S.H.B. Lebbie & P.R. Mastapha

Department of Animal Production & Health
University of Swaziland
P.O. Luyengo Swaziland


Introduction
Material and methods
Results and discussion
Major constraints to goat productivity
Strategy and recommendations

Summary

This study attempted to define the characteristics of traditional goat production systems and to identify constraints to increased productivity. A pilot survey was carried out by questionnaire using a total of 150 randomly selected farmers in the Manzini district of Swaziland. Goat production practices are essentially traditional and characterised by low productivity. Poor overall management, inadequate housing, malnutrition, improper use of grazing resources, inadequate health services, lack of organised marketing and lack of a national policy on small ruminant production, were identified as major constraints. Suggestions are made for the consideration of both government and farmers to improve this potentially viable sub-sector of the livestock industry.

Introduction

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a small country (17,364 km²), with a human population of approximately 650,000. Two-thirds of the population on half the land depend on subsistence agriculture; the remaining land is freehold, operated as large farms and using modern technologies.

The livestock industry is an important sub-sector of the national economy. The agrarian sector contributes about 70 to 74 per cent of the total domestic export earnings of which livestock account for 18-23 per cent. About 98-99 per cent of this contribution could be attributed to cattle and the rest to the poultry sub-sector. Goats, like sheep, do not contribute to export earnings.

Although goats do not contribute to the official cash economy, they contribute to the food and cash needs of the rural households. This is evident from the large number of goats and their popularity in rural areas. In 1983, there were 642 447 cattle, 333 895 goats, 38 820 sheep, 16 420 pigs and 682 592 poultry in the Kingdom. Thus, about 32.6 per cent of ruminants were goats, 99 per cent of which were managed traditionally. Compared to goats, only 79 per cent of the total cattle production is found on Swazi Nation Land (SNL). It has been estimated (de Vletter et al, 1983) that 32.7 per cent of SNL homesteads owned goats.

The goat's adaptability, prolificacy and modest nutrient requirements make it ideal for exploitation under the semi-arid conditions of Swaziland. Except for socio-economic studies (de Vletter et al, 1983) no information has been documented on goat production systems and their productivity.

The basic objective of this study was to examine goat production systems among the rural farmers in the Middleveld of Swaziland and to identify constraints so that improvement strategies might be formulated.

Material and methods

A diagnostic survey was undertaken in December 1984 in the Manzini District of the Middleveld of Swaziland. The survey was done using a questionnaire designed to solicit both factual information and the attitudes of farmers with regard to goat production. As a pilot project, it was restricted to one of the four districts of the country. Manzini was chosen because of two technical advantages: its proximity to Mbabane; and because it has about 32.6 per cent of the goat population compared to 26.6, 21.1 and 19.7 per cent for Shiselweni, Hhohho, and Lubombo districts.

A random sample of 150 homesteads was interviewed in three sub-districts. In addition to the questionnaire, most agricultural extension officers in the district and at the agricultural headquarters were also interviewed in order to determine the involvement of government in this sub-sector.

As expected, not all information sought from farmers was received, especially that related to income. Being a descriptive study, comparisons were made purely on a percentage or absolute number basis.

Results and discussion

SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROFILE OF RESPONDENTS

Details of marital status and sources of income of the 150 respondents are provided in Table 1. The greater popularity of goats among married homesteads could be largely attributed to available human resources. In addition to the parents, the average number of children was estimated at eight (range 6-10). In most cases, young children provided the labour to herd goats and other livestock while older ones and parents were occupied in other economic activities (growing crops, trading or working for wages). Single individuals found it difficult to cope with the conflicting demands of tending goats and other income providing activities.

Table 1. Socio-economic profile of farmers (percentage of replies) in the Swaziland Middleveld

Feature

Goat herd size ranges

1-10

11-20

21-30

31-40

41+

Total

Marital status


Married

25

41

29

34

5

134


Widowed

5

3

5

-

-

13


Single

-

1

2

-

-

3

Source of income


Livestock and cropa)

21

31

28

25

3

111


Livestock, crops and wages

3

11

5

6

2

27


Livestock, crops and business

6

-

3

3

-

12

Note: a) Livestock include cattle, goats and sheep.

About 74 per cent of respondents derived cash income from raising livestock and growing crops, 18 per cent from livestock, crops and wages and eight per cent from livestock, crops and business (Table 1). While it was not possible to obtain estimates of income derived, it was obvious that respondents who were not engaged in business or earning salaries depended largely on crops for their annual cash income. Livestock, including goats, only supplemented crop earnings. According to de Vletter et al (1983), the average annual income per homestead at the national level was E1075.00 (E1 = 49 US cents), 8.7 and 6.2 per cent of which came from crops and livestock respectively. They also observed that in the pert-urban rural development areas, the average annual cash income per homestead was E1089.00 of which 6.2 and 5.2 per cent came from crops and livestock. Russel & Ntshingila (1984) estimated that 10.9 and 7.0 per cent of the average annual income per homestead in central Swaziland came from crop and livestock sales.

Although overall cash income derived from animals, and particularly goats, is small, they contribute largely to home consumption. Based on studies of 1150 homesteads, de Vletter et al (1983) estimated that 64.6 per cent of homesteads owning goats slaughtered an average of 2.9 per year while 31.0 per cent of the homesteads owning cattle slaughtered an average of 1.6 cattle per year.

CHARACTERISTICS OF LIVESTOCK HOLDINGS AMONG RESPONDENTS

All the respondents indicated owning goats. Some 50.7 per cent raised goats jointly with cattle and sheep, 30.0 per cent with cattle only and 17.3 per cent raised goats only. At the national level, de Vletter et al (1983) noted that 14 per cent of the homesteads owning goats did not own cattle.

Goat herd size varied widely among respondents (Table 2). Only 3.3 per cent owned more than 40, with an average flock size of 60 goats for the group. The average flock size for all respondents was 21 goats. This figure can be compared with the national average of 15.4-20.6 and the 23.2 average e derived for the whole of the Middleveld (de Vletter et al, 1983).

Table 2. Goat population and distribution in the Swaziland Middleveld

Herd size ranges

Respondents

Number of goats

Average herd size

Number

%

Total

%

1-10

30

20.0

240

7.5

8

11-20

45

30.0

630

19.8

14

21-30

36

24.0

864

27.1

24

31-40

34

22.7

1 156

36.2

34

40+

5

3.3

300

9.4

60

Total

150

100.0

3 190

100.0

21

The respondents as a group owned a total of 3 190 goats of which 32.3 per cent were six months old or less. Of the animals over six months, 48.0, 13.8 and 5.9 per cent were does, bucks and wethers, respectively. The low percentage of wethers is indicative of minimum castration practices among goat owners. This may be responsible for the high ratio of bucks to does (1:3.5). High buck to doe ratios are characteristic of traditional goat husbandry systems. In Nigeria, Sellers et al (1974) and Matthewman (1977) observed buck to doe ratios of 1:4.3 and 1:2.7 respectively. In rural southern Botswana, Matlho (1983) noted a buck to doe ratio of 1:3.5. Respondents stated that high ratios of buck were an insurance against losses during drought conditions. They also indicated that male goats took longer to reach market size, hence the greater numbers.

REPRODUCTIVE PERFORMANCE

Reproductive performance data suggest a relatively low level of productivity. The estimated fertility for the 12 months prior to our study was 67.3 per cent. Of a total of 819 births reported, 78.14 per cent were singles, 21.37 per cent twins and 0.49 per cent triplets. Prolificacy was thus 1.16 goats per birth.

These fertility and prolificacy rates are low compared to other African estimates, though from different regions and breeds. In Ghana, Buadu (1972) reported average fertility and prolificacy rates among goats to be 154 and 184 per cent, and Vohradsky & Sada (1973) recorded fertility and prolificacy rates of 124 and 184 per cent. ILCA (1980) reported fertility rates of 83.2 and 124 per cent for goats raised respectively in the forest and derived savannah zones of Nigeria.

None of the respondents practiced controlled breeding. Males and females, run together at grazing and are put together in kraals overnight. As many as 12 per cent of the respondents had no mature bucks in their flocks: these indicated that since their flock mingled with others during grazing or at dip tanks, their does could be mated at no cost to them. They also said mature bucks had a tendency to escape from kraals and ravage crops, thus creating unnecessary problems for them.

MORTALITY

It was difficult to get actual or meaningful mortality figures, as all farmers relied on their memory of deaths for the previous 12 months. As such we decided to record mortality in terms of losses equal to five or less and losses above five animals. For young goats (birth to six months), 27.3 per cent of the respondents claimed to have lost five or less kids through death, 16.7 per cent lost over five and 56.0 per cent were not sure. For adults, 20.6 per cent lost five or less, 5.3 per cent lost over five and the rest were not sure. On the question of reasons for deaths, au respondents believed most animals died during the drought period which the country experienced for the greater part of 1984. About 90 per cent believed that in addition to deaths from drought, internal parasite infestations were partly responsible for the deaths. The rest believed their animals, especially the younger ones, died of cold in winter and other unknown reasons.

FEEDING

Goats owned by all respondents scavenged and fed entirely on the natural veld, even during winter and drought periods when both quality and quantity on the veld are at their lowest. Salt licks were provided mainly for cattle, but where goats were raised jointly with cattle they could use these.

Watering points for goats included streams, rivers and ponds. All respondents indicated providing water occasionally, particularly during drought periods.

HEALTH MAINTENANCE

Health maintenance practices considered were vaccination, dipping and drenching.

Only 39.3 per cent of respondents claimed their goats were vaccinated by the veterinary extension officers in their area. The veterinary extension officers involved stated that most treatments were related to pneumonia and quarter evil, particularly among the young and for nonspecific infestations. Vaccines were paid for by the stock owners. Those who did not vaccinate (61.7 per cent) relied on traditional remedies including the barks of various trees and leaves, roots and flowers of numerous plants.

In Swaziland, dipping against ectoparasites is compulsory, and the government has provided an extensive network of 350 dip tanks covering all SNL. Drenching was done by 40.7 per cent of respondents at their own expense. The majority of those who drenched had 30 or more goats in their flocks.

FLOCK UTILISATION AND DISPOSAL

A majority of respondents (82 per cent) raised goats for meat, skins, traditional obligations and income. None of the respondents milked his goats. About 62 per cent slaughtered goats for home consumption and 38 per cent for cash income as and when necessary. On average, two goats were slaughtered per year by those who claimed to do so.

The bulk of cash sales (87.7 per cent) was to individual buyers. The rest were to local butcheries. Farmers preferred to sell to individuals as they paid more than butchers. Individual buyers bought goats to meet urgent traditional needs or household obligations.

Unlike cattle, goats have no organised marketing channels. Prices quoted by respondents for a mature goat of about 30 kg live weight ranged from E50 - E80 (US$ 25 - US$ 40).

OTHER MANAGEMENT ASPECTS

All respondents identified their animals by physical features such as colour, size and special features. No "modern" identification methods were used. There was a common consensus, however, that since au goats raised were of the local breed, the success of the using of physical features to claim ownership depended largely on the honesty of the goat owners in any particular area.

None of the respondents weaned young goats.

Major constraints to goat productivity

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS

The average flock size of 21 provides limited scope for a commercially oriented approach to production. A market oriented approach will require substantial cash input to purchase more animals, for better housing, improved pastures and the necessary infrastructure. Currently, the annual cash income per homestead is too low to meet these costs. The limited number of goat owners vaccinating and drenching their goats may be largely a result of financial constraints. This has serious repercussions as untreated animals continue to contaminate the environment for treated ones.

TECHNICAL CONSTRAINTS

Uncontrolled breeding does not only lead to some females being bred too early, resulting in low conception rates, low birth weight and poor kid survival but also allows for the perpetuation of inferior genotypes.

The low productivity and common non-specific disease problems encountered could largely be due to inadequate nutrient intake by the goats which survive by scavenging and feeding on the natural range. These unimproved grasses are of low nutritional quality, this situation becoming worse in winter and during droughts.

MARKETING CONSTRAINTS

Goat farmers do not seem to have any problem selling their goats as most are consumed at home. However, a market oriented approach will need organised marketing channels, services and facilities.

INSTITUTIONAL CONSTRAINTS

The communal land tenure and grazing system currently operating is a disincentive to individuals or groups to institute measures such as fencing or rotational grazing for better land utilization. The result is general overgrazing of the SNL.

The scattered nature of the homesteads which form the base for goat production, makes it difficult for government to provide essential services such as electricity, good roads and water supplies.

Strategy and recommendations

Our study indicates that goat production has great potential for development in Swaziland. This potential lies in the animal, human and land resources. Goats are second to cattle in terms of the ruminant population. Present fertility and prolificacy rates are low. The large family units provide adequate labour potential. The strong agricultural base provides a range of non-conventional feed resources, such as pineapple waste, citrus waste, sugarcane tops, straw, corn stalks and molasses, which could be used to supplement feed from the rangelands. The semi-arid nature of the environment in itself provides ideal conditions for goat production.

Strategies and/or policy recommendations should be aimed at fully exploiting this potential by removing or minimising the current and future constraints against improved productivity.

There is, therefore, a need to improve the feeding base and practices, adopt a stratified modification of the traditional methods and infrastructure, improve livestock resources, institute more efficient health maintenance programmes, and improve marketing services and facilities.

Feeding of concentrates does not appear worthwhile at present but farmers, in addition to grazing, can feed household scraps, crop residues and industrial byproducts. Research into the economic viability of feeding concentrates, use of improved pastures and use of feedlots or zero grazing is needed to provide the basis for any further development programme

Controlled breeding could be achieved by keeping fewer bucks and tethering the few males when they are not wanted with the females. Fencing and creation of paddocks to allow for separation requires high inputs which most families cannot afford. Controlled breeding will ensure that kids are not dropped at times of the year when they are most likely to die of starvation. Productivity could be improved if farmers did not keep animals over eight years old or that have not dropped kids after two years of mating. These practices would reduce the pressure on the limited grazing resources, provide better grazing and improve productivity.

There is a need to revise the land tenure system and to encourage individuals or groups to develop better land utilization. Land tenure systems are highly sensitive issues and therefore caution is needed. Initiation of farm settlement schemes on a voluntary basis could probably be a starting point. The single tribal structure makes such settlements relatively easier to establish.

Swaziland has an enviable health control programme and is a net exporter of meat and meat products to the EEC. However, the lack of legislation to ensure that livestock owners, in addition to dipping, must drench and vaccinate their stock is counter productive. With the present communal grazing practices and intermingling of stock, drenching and vaccination by a few is ineffective as the untreated animals continue to contaminate the fields.

The Swaziland Meat Corporation should extend its services to goat producers. Currently, it deals mainly with cattle and with pigs and sheep on a small scale. There is a need for the establishment by Government of a formal institutional framework within which to work, such as a Small Ruminant Production Unit, as a sub-sector of the livestock industry.


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