Goat keeping is one of the most unexplored agri-businesses in Uganda. It can be as profitable as cattle keeping or a piggery project if farmers took time to understand the business.
Alfred Kasango, an agri-business consultant with National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank, says, “Most farmers and people in rural areas keep goats for meat purposes and also for sale, but there is more to goats than that.”
There is a ready market for their meat, skin and milk within the country and internationally. Information from the National Livestock Resources Research Institute shows that most of Uganda’s goat exports go to the Middle East. Although the goat population is estimated at 14 million, Uganda cannot sustain the ever-growing demand for goat meat hence the need for more interest by farmers in this sector.
Goats do not require a lot of work and, depending on the breed, they can attain a weight of up to 120 kilogrammes, according to Saleh Mulondo, an agri-business expert at Adroit Consult, and they can sell for between Shs100,000 and Shs400,000 each.
In Uganda, more than 62 per cent of the people own animals and of those, about 15 per cent own goats and keep them in a free range system. The few who keep animals in a free range system complain of space as a challenge.
That, Kasango says, can be solved because goats can be kept in pens on a small piece of land while those who keep them in their homes keep them in their backyards.
The pen system allows the farmer to monitor his or her animals, what they eat, and for any signs of diseases.
On the other hand, a free range system requires larger amounts of land. Unlike other animals, goats have a wider range of adaptations that enable them to survive and thrive in their grazing styles.
Robert Kibugo, an animal genetics expert, says their adaptation to various types of climates represents a unique characteristic of the species. He says the tropical climates are interwoven in such way that they comprise areas within the tropics that are arid, semi-arid and sub-humid and the sub-tropical regions, humid and super humid.
Regardless of the conditions of the climate, goats are found in these areas and are reared for meat, milk, fibre and skin. This is because of their successful adaptation in a variety of ways to the different climatic environment.
Goats must adapt for them to successively perform well and the impact can be seen in variable sizes, body characteristics, survival and performance. Kibugo advises farmers who intend to keep goats in pens to watch out for these signs because the adaptation by goats lies in their behavioural pattern.
Paul Muyinda, who keeps 100 goats in pens on a small piece of land in Katabi, Wakiso District, says he manages to keep his goats in good condition, because he provides water for them, takes time to deworm them, and has a plantation where he has a section with elephant grass for them to feed on. “I also have workers who collecting banana peelings, which I sprinkle with a certain kind of salt called ekisula, which goats like very much,” he says.
Goats can produce milk and hides, but there is variation between what can be got from indigenous and exotic breeds. A study by I. Arineitwe and E. K. Ndyomugyenyi from Gulu University found that a farmer earned more from exotic goats than other breeds.
Exotic goats were heavier than indigenous ones because the latter have a higher feed conversion efficiency and a big body frame that accommodates more meat.
The study also found that a goat’s market price was more dependent on the weight. So, being heavier than indigenous goats, exotoc got better prices.
However, to maximise returns from goat keeping, it is more about good agricultural management practices than the breed.
tips on keeping goats
Since goats are very adaptive animals, they are some of the easiest animals to look after.
? Like most herbivores, they feed on pasture and other extras like banana peelings and require a lot of water.
? Though they are normally kept in a free range system where they are left to fend for themselves, goats can also be kept in a pen system where they are housed and everything is brought for them in one place from water to feeds. They can be kept on a small piece of land, and some breeds also give birth to triplets so it is easy to increase stock.
? A good pen house for goats must be atleast a metre above the ground, and it must be kept clean and dry most of the time so the goats cannot to contract diseases.
? Farmers keeping goats for meat, especially Boers, should castrate them as this would improve their quality. But the quality of the goats and how they will grow is a lot more dependent on the feeding and care they get, and the breeds just contribute a little.
? Different breeds are kept for different purposes and even the way they feed is different. Farmers should consult an expert before choosing a breed. The demand for goat meat is high making it highly priced on the market, so keeping goats can be made into a profitable business.
Goat breeds in Uganda
The Mubende goat is poorly characterised and has no distinct breeding population or geographic area where it is found. However, there is certainly considerable variation among the local breed and this has enabled people to select some faster-growing, larger goats from the general population. This may eventually lead to the development of a well-defined Mubende breed.
This has origins from the highlands of Kabale and Bundibugyo districts. It has a small compact, short legged body. Average weight is about 30 kg.
The Small East African goat
Kept for meat, the Small East African goat grows slowly, has a heavy-set conformation and is resistant to heartwater (a tick-borne disease) and worms and possibly other diseases such as mange. The hides give a good quality leather. An adult weighs between 25- 30kg and the age for first kidding is 18 months.
Sudanese Dwarf goat
Found in the Acholi and Karamoja regions, these goats are much smaller than the Small East African goats. Although, the Karimojong milk them sometimes, it is only the large numbers kept that make this feasible--only 100ml, or occasionally 200ml of milk is obtained per goat.
This breed is adapted from the Karamoja region. It is suitable for the arid areas of Kotido, Moroto,Abim and Nakasongola districts. It is a short-haired, mainly white breed. It is a relative of the Galla goats breed of Kenya.
This is suitable for the highland areas of Mt Elgon in Kapchorwa and southwestern Uganda. It can withstand lower temperatures.
The Toggenburg goat
This is named after a region in Switzerland where the breed originated. It is medium-sized, moderate in production, and has relatively low butterfat content (two to three per cent) in the milk. Wattles, small rudimentary nubs of skin located on each side of the neck, are often present in these goats.