A bleating fortune: Dairy goats are next big thing

Friday February 21 2014

Dairy goats such as these can produce up to

Dairy goats such as these can produce up to three litres of milk per day. They are also easily adaptable and are disease resistant. File | Nation 

Imminent climate change necessitates a focused effort towards developing sustainable livestock populations. Resilient and productive animal breeds will be needed to meet the growing demand for food.

One candidate livestock species is the goat (capra aegagrus hircus). Compared to other livestock, goats have the most potential to help eradicate poverty and improve nutrition.

Goats are resilient animals that are well-adapted to climatic challenges and, as aggressive browsers, can survive in extremely dry conditions.

They also are a source of meat and milk, especially for small-scale farmers. A characteristic feature is their renowned twinning abilities. The “double for your trouble” slogan would be attractive to anyone.

Of interest, is the goat milk that has a higher nutritional value compared to cow milk. Goat milk is low in fat, rich in fatty acids and calcium, and extremely nutritious.

It is the preferred alternative to breast milk due to its similar chemical composition and is, thus, often given to infants vulnerable to allergies.

Despite all these known benefits, goat milk remains a rare commodity. This could be attributed to low production.

Kenyan Alphine Dairy Goat

Yet the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya rears a well-adapted, hardy and highly productive composite dairy goat breed, the Kenyan Alphine Dairy Goat (KADG).

This is a dairy goat breed that has been developed through upgrading of the local indigenous small East African does with German Alpine bucks. The composite breed has a high daily milk yield (DMY) of an average of two to three litres and, with better management, can even hit four litres.

This is a very impressive production record compared to the local indigenous breeds that can only produce one litre per day. A fully grown buck of three years weighs 50kg to 70kg and, if well-maintained, can also be used as a breeder for a fee, earning you extra revenue.

The doe, under good management, can be served at eight months of age, an incredible attribute especially for women groups who distribute offspring within their members.

According to the DGAK chairman, Mr Julius Kangee, a renowned goat breeder, the association has distributed this breed widely across the country. Their current projects are being implemented across hot and dry regions such as Mbeere, Mwea, Kenol and Thika.

The breed is resistant to infectious diseases such as CBPP, making it a “pocket-friendly” dairy animal as small-holder farmers do not incur costs on treatment regimes.

Presently, the composite dairy goat breed is available through the DGAK. Mature does cost between Sh5,000 to Sh20,000. These prices are also dependent on the genetic group of the goat.

The association provides extension services and keep a close eye on the breeding activities, such as ensuring the rotation of bucks after 18 months to maintain genetic diversity, which is crucial to the survival and genetic dynamism of these improved populations.

This excellent dairy goat breed offers an opportunity for Africa to contribute to the upcoming ‘livestock revolution.’

Dr Muchungu is a livestock expert