The young man pats the seemingly unperturbed buck as it nibbles straws of grass he had offered it.
Thirty-three-year-old Eston Mugendi, a dairy goat farmer from Mitheru, in Chuka, adds more grass in the animal’s feeding trough and says, “This goat has done me proud.”
The animal was voted the Best Toggenburg Buck in the country during the recently concluded Nairobi show.
“The judges found the buck has a right range of brown colour of the Toggenburg goat and its hind legs were slightly shorter than the fronts. The goat’s tail was also short and not very much curled, among others.”
But the journey to the top, which started sometime in 2006, has not been easy.
Mugendi, then in his early 20s, attended an agri-fair in Tharaka Nithi and was attracted to a tent where there was training on goat-keeping.
He was enticed into the agribusiness by the returns he learnt about then, and the small size of his farm also made him make the decision.
He did not hesitate to take the plunge by buying three Toggenburg goats – two does and one buck aged 18 months – at Sh15,000 each using the savings he had from an earlier business.
That was then, nearly 10 years later, his thriving goats venture that sits on a half-acre farm in the relatively semi-arid region boasts of 60 Toggenburg animals, which offer him milk that he supplies to a factory in the region.
He keeps the goats in cages built in a housing unit measuring 100 by 15ft, and raised above the ground to prevent dampness, which is a sure cause of diseases.
The well-ventilated cages are made of wooden planks, iron sheets and poles that are readily available in his neighbourhood.
“Goats are very economical to keep while their returns are bountiful,” he says, adding that 10 goats can be fully fed on feeds consumed by one dairy cow, while their milk is more nutritious and pricier.
PESTS AND DISEASES AFFECTING GOATS
Mugendi feeds the goats on hay, napier grass and calliandra, which he inexpensively buys from his neighbours.
Supplements such as dairy meal, minerals, salt licks and de-wormers are what cost him a little more, especially when the does are expectant.
On the other hand, the bucks require special mineral supplements for their virility and quick growth.
(Read also: Formula to maximise returns from dairy goats)
Out of his 60 goats, Mugendi currently milks 17 does, each producing three to four litres daily, from which he supplies 10 litres at Sh100 per litre to Kibiciku Farm, the proprietors of Kibidav Dairies which processes the produce into various products.
“What remains I sell to neighbours and hotels in the region at Sh150 per litre,” he says, adding that he and other goat-keepers in the area are in the process of forming a sacco through which they intend to start churning yoghurt and in future, make cheese.
Goats’ milk is considered to be smelly by many consumers. To control the goat-like odour and taste in the milk, he keeps the buck away from the does especially after the female animals have delivered and are ready for milking.
Martin Ituuru, a livestock officer working with the Meru Goat Breeders Association, says goat milk is highly nutritious and medicinal, which is why it is recommended for convalescents, as it speeds up recovery.
“Goats are more profitable, take only a small portion of one’s farm to keep, feed on far less food and are hardy compared to dairy cows.”
He notes keeping goats in cages controls their interaction with other livestock, which in turn helps in controlling diseases and pests such as ticks.
Ituuru isolates Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP) disease, which is spread through the inhalation of airborne contaminated droplets from coughing or sneezing livestock, as the main threat to goats.
He recommends culling, in case of suspicion of the disease in the flock, to curb its spread and seeking veterinary treatment for the infected goat.
Mastitis, Rift Valley Fever and worms, are other setbacks to effective goat-keeping, in which case goats should be vaccinated and treated at the right moment and dewormed from time to time.
UP-GRADING GOAT BREEDS
Mugendi has a novel way of upgrading other goat breeds to pure Toggenburgs. Using his pure Toggenburg buck, he mates a doe of a different goat breed to produce a semi-hybrid Toggenburg progeny and repeats the cycle on the resultant female offspring sequentially, producing a breed which has more than 94 per cent of the pure breed genes.
In-fighting between aggressive goats in the cages, dry season feeding problems and inbreeding are the major snags that he contends with.
He, however, has found ways to counter these hurdles by dehorning the aggressive goats and keeping them in separate housing units, buying and storing large quantities of feeds in anticipation of the dry season and selling the buck after it has sired kids with numerous does in the flock.
“In the long run, in-breeding due to continued reliance on one buck, tends to produce weak genes, hence frail animals and breeds,” he says adding that the kids are also prone to becoming heir to adversative traits from the buck, if in-breeding is sustained in the flock.
Many of Mugendi’s does produce two to three kids per year, which he sells at Sh15,000 each when aged three months, while the mature goats he sells from Sh25,000–Sh30,000 each.
His customers are mainly other goat farmers and institutions around.
“At the end of a good month’s business, I earn a profit of more than Sh50,000 after deducting the expenses I incur,” says the father of two, adding that the goats droppings also provide manure for his kitchen garden.
Housing the animals
- Keep them in a barn that is clean, warm and has dry bedding.
- The floor can be made from cheaply available material like timber and spaced to allow wastes and urine to pass through.
- Proper ventilation is also necessary to prevent respiratory problems.