Upon invitation, Professor Christopher Lu visited the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine of Guizhou Academy of Agricultural Sciences during 2016. Dr. Lu presented an invited paper entitled “Overview of Global Meat Goat Industry”.
There are approximately one billion goats in the world, mostly for meat purposes. The top ten countries with the largest goat populations are China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iran, and Mali. There are about three million goats in the United States with a continued increasing trend since the 1980’s.
Dr. Lu discussed the history, anatomy, behavior and diseases of meat goats. He also covered major breeds of meat goats such as Boer, Spanish, San Clemente, Pygmy, Arapawa and interesting breed such as Tennessee Fainting goats. The “fainting” is due to a genetic neuromuscular disorder called myotonia congenita that affects the muscle movement when startled. It was theorized that the goats were used when traveling to protect the herd. When a predator is chasing the herd the fainting goats will be targeted and sacrificed, allowing the herd to escape. They attract interest because of the increased muscle mass as a result of the stiffening of the legs. Role and implication of meat goats in biological control of weeds, mixed grazing, heat stress resistant, efficient water utilization, environmental adaptation, and production potential were also discussed. Dr. Lu emphasized the importance of nutrition, reproduction, genetic and breeding, disease control, integrated production systems, and packaging and marketing for a successful meat goat enterprise. Dr. Lu cautioned the audiences on the potential environmental cost of meat goat production such as greenhouse gas emission, waste management, and deforestation and overgrazing, but pointed out the potential of meat goat production in the alleviation of poverty, economic development in marginal land and meeting the demand of ethic groups. He suggested that performance testing is an important tool to improve the production efficiency in meat goats.
Guizhou Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine is a growing research organization and aspires to the transformation of being more internationally visible. The Institute has a long research and extension history and is in the process of constructing a new campus due to urban expansion. It works with important livestock and poultry species in the Guizhou Province of China. Because of a wide range of availability of natural plant species in the largely mountainous terrain in the Guizhou Province, meat goat production holds an important economic role in rural development and poverty alleviation. A Chinese news release can be accessed at: http://www.gzxms.cn/News/ShowDetail/5833.
Accompanied by Professor Xu Gongyi of Sichuan Agricultural University and others, Dr. Lu visited several goat operations in Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. Most notable are one organic goat operation using bioactive plants to control disease, one extensive goat operation leveraging browsing, and one goat operation that improves and maintains the landscape diversity. To conform to organic standards and avoid using chemicals, one goat operation utilizes the abundant bioactive plants that have been used as Chinese medicine for centuries. They use water to dissolve bioactive compounds and deliver to goats as a supplemental drinking. The herd is in a remote mountain village and is one of the most well cared goat herds that Dr. Lu has ever seen around the world. Another herd, leveraging unique browsing ability of goats, is able to achieve an excellent productive performance without grain supplementation. Dr. Lu saw goats, the only ruminant to climb the trees, utilized their browsing skills with mobile upper lip, prehensile tongue and agile front legs to acquire the most nutritious part of plants.
During a trip across the mountainous terrain, Dr. Lu and the group reached a mountaintop that afforded them a view of the difference goats could make in maintaining the diversity of plant species. In contrast to the adjacent area that was dominated by weed species without goats, the area browsed and grazed by goats has a distinct even growth among plant species.
The International Goat Association promotes goat research and development for the benefit of humankind, to alleviate poverty, to promote prosperity and to improve the quality of life.