- From shrinking land sizes to lack of quality breeding stock and semen and uncontrolled outbreak of diseases, farmers are crying for help as the sector stagnates.
- Rapid population growth, shrinking land sizes and increased urbanisation are some of the things that are taking a toll on goat farming, livestock experts and farmers have observed.
- Lack of quality genetic material has slowed down the production of pedigree goats, leading to declined milk production, the conference was told.
- Dr Mugo Njeru, a dairy goat expert, advised farmers to form associations so that they can easily access supplement feeds which are expensive.
After moving to his home on the outskirts of Nakuru town four years ago, John Ngunjiri went into goat farming, keeping some five milk animals on his eighth-acre.
Soon, however, several flats were built in the neighbourhood, making it harder for him to continue keeping the animals in the environment.
“I sold them and moved to chickens because neighbours were always complaining. Again, getting feeds for the animals became a little harder,” he said.
Rapid population growth, shrinking land sizes and increased urbanisation are some of the things that are taking a toll on goat farming, livestock experts and farmers have observed.
Other challenges include lack of quality breeding stock and semen for dairy goats, poor record-keeping, cartels in the industry and poor funding for research by the government.
There are also uncontrolled outbreaks of diseases, leading to massive deaths, lack of goat-specific products, high transportation cost of bucks from one county to another and lack of extension services.
These challenges, which were discussed at the recently held Animal Production Society of Kenya Scientific conference in Nakuru, have weighed down on the sector, leading to diminishing production despite a majority of farmers going for hybrid animals.
The meeting brought together farmers who are members of the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya (DGAK), researchers and experts in animal production.
The consensus at the event was that goat farming is facing a bleak future unless measures are taken to correct what is ailing the industry.
Some of the goat breeds kept in Kenya are Toggenburg, Oberhasi, Galla, Small East African Goat, Alpines and Boer. Most farmers keep Alpines and Toggenburgs mainly for milk.
REUSING THE SAME BUCKS
Charles Nyairo, a goat farmer from Kisii County, said that at the farm level, most goatkeepers, unlike their cattle counterparts, do not maintain records, making it harder to do breeding and know the output of the animals.
“Many farmers do selection for breeding without records? This is like picking the best out of the worst? Even if the milk quantity is small, farmers need to keep records,” said Nyairo, who further decried lack of extension services at the grassroots.
Lack of quality genetic material has slowed down the production of pedigree goats, leading to declined milk production, the conference was told.
“The genetic material that farmers are using today was imported from South Africa many years ago. Farmers are reusing the same bucks for breeding and this has resulted in inbreeding, low production and stunted growth in animals,” he said.
Many goat farmers are, therefore, losing their animals, a situation that is discouraging other potential farmers to join the production line.
“Farmers who cannot keep a cow due to their small land sizes or cost of feeding the animal would prefer to keep a goat but with no genetic materials to improve their herd, that is proving to be a tough task,” said Nyairo.
A majority of farmers are also not aware of mastitis in dairy goats, whose prevalence in areas such as Thika is estimated to be more than 50 per cent.
“Farmers need to be trained on how to tackle the deadly mastitis through good dairy husbandry and clean milking practices,” said Nyairo.
Farmers further cited lack of supplement feeds for dairy goats, which are not manufactured in large quantities as compared to those of cows.
“Feed manufacturers should know that most dairy goat farmers have embraced zero-grazing. Therefore, they also need dairy meal for their animals,” said Alex Adagala, who has been keeping goats in Vihiga for close to 30 years.
Adagala added that farmers need to be taught how to construct simple, affordable but quality structures that protect the animals from pests, diseases and vagaries of weather.
More lessons are also needed to help farmers know how to eliminate odour in goat milk, which puts people off.
According to experts, while having a buck in the same pen with the doe contributes to the odour in goat milk, the produce has a high amount of lactic acid which multiplies faster especially if the milk is stored in temperatures above 380C. This affects the flavour and smell of milk.
Therefore, once milking is done, the milk should be promptly cooled to about 170C. This is necessary to stop enzyme action and prevent lipolysis (the breakdown of fats and other lipids to release fatty acids), which contributes to the goaty flavour (smell) of milk.
He said goats kept under zero-grazing feed on napier grass, Rhodes grass, Kikuyu grass, maize and hay.