Gracinda Mataveia * **, Abubeker Hassen** and Carina Visser**
* Department of Clinics, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique
** Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Goats play a vital role in food security and contribute to improved livelihoods for various resource-poor communities. In Africa, goats are deeply entrenched in almost every African culture, particularly within those communities that are not able to keep large livestock. Goats have a relatively high productivity in harsh environments, use inexpensive feed resources, have a short reproductive cycle and have higher prolificacy when compared to cows. These animals also have a beneficial effect on income generation and provide social and economic security to rural communities.
Goat production has increased during the last decade and there are currently more than 1 billion goats, globally. Approximately 96% of these animals are meat goats and are found in developing countries in Asia and Africa. The African goat population has also increased over the last five years to approximately 422.7 million goats, representing 40.9% of the world’s goat population. Approximately 35 million of these goats are part of the Southern African population. Mozambique has around 3.94 million goats, ranking fifth among African countries in terms of its goat population. Of the total number of goats in Mozambique, smallholder farmers keep 97.7%, while only 2.27% are part of medium-scale systems and a negligible 0.07% is produced in intensive systems.
The traditional production system in which smallholders keep their goats is characterised by informal labour (mostly from a family member), sometimes with low numbers of livestock kept per unit area, minimal use of technology and limited resources. The system is often hindered by land and water shortages, infections and predators. The smallholders generally do not have the skills and resources available for keeping records and uncontrolled mating and inbreeding occur.
The two main types of goats found in Mozambique are the indigenous Landim and Pafuri breeds, which are both meat goat breeds. The Landim breed, also known as the Portuguese Landrace, is the most abundant and found throughout the country, while the Pafuri breed is mainly limited to the Pafuri region, and north of the Gaza Province. The indigenous Landim is a small-framed breed, and an average male weigh 50 kg while the females are lighter at approximately 35 to 40 kg. The Pafuri breed resulted from the cross-breeding of male Boer goats from South Africa with Landim females. The average mature body weight of an adult male Pafuri goat is 60 kg, and the females weigh approximately 43 kg.
Goat production in Mozambique faces several challenges, of which fodder scarcity in the dry season is the most severe. Goats depend exclusively on natural veld to meet their nutritional requirements, however, the seasonal fluctuations in forage availability and quality have been recognised as one of the leading causes of nutritional stress limiting animal production in (sub)tropical regions. Protein is the primary limiting nutrient in the dry seasons, and mineral deficiencies can decrease forage digestibility and herbage intake, which can ultimately lower live weight gain and livestock production efficiency. Due to nutritional stress, indigenous goats generally have low conception rates and litter sizes, as well as high rates of mortality and stunted growth of young animals. The poor physical condition of adult animals’ results in inferior growth performance, reduced carcass yield, low meat quality and an overall low productivity index.
Crude protein (CP) and minerals such as calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) should be supplemented in the dry season in Southern Africa. Conventional supplementation might not be feasible in low-income communities in Mozambique due to the high cost involved in the acquisition of such supplements. Therefore, there is a need to introduce cost-effective and sustainable alternative energy and protein sources. Such alternative feed resources may include locally available fodder trees, which represent an inexpensive source of protein and micronutrients. Recently, there has been an increased interest in the utilisation of alternative protein sources such as tree foliage and shrubs as feed for goats. Leucaena leucocephala (LL) and Moringa oleifera (MO) are two of the alternative local sources that were identified with the potential to improve nutritional supply to goats. The advantage of forage trees over conventional concentrate supplementation is that the leaves can be readily harvested, sun-dried and used to prepare protein supplements by goat keepers. These can then be used to replace the more expensive standard supplements.
Findings of the study:
Goats in two resource-poor districts of Mozambique, namely Namaacha and Moamba were raised under extensive systems where the goats were dependant on natural pasture throughout the year. Although the goats were hardy and well adapted to local conditions, their production was limited by poor nutrition, a lack of management and a high prevalence of diseases and parasites. Tethering was a common management practice and this often limited adequate dry matter and nutrient intake during the dry season.
The key browse species commonly consumed by goats in the Changalane district included Sclerocarya birrea, Spirostachys africana, Dichrostachys cinerea, Flueggea virosa, Acacia nigrescens, Acacia nilotica, Panicum maximum and Morus alba. These species were able to provide adequate energy and protein levels, meeting the daily energy and crude protein intake requirement to support maintenance and growth of the goats during the rainy season, but not during the dry season. The daily intake of calcium and phosphorus did not show significant seasonal variations and were below the maintenance requirements of a goat during the dry season and a pregnant doe during both seasons. There was a clear need to supplement goats with energy, protein and phosphorus for maintenance, growth and reproduction during the dry season.
Supplementation with L. leucacepha and M. oleifera leaves during the dry season had a positive effect on the growth rate and reproductive performance of goats. Moderate levels of supplementation (LL75 and MO60) were found to be optimal and these levels could be used to overcome shortages of major nutrients during the dry season.
Both Leucaena leucocephala and Moringa oleifera are easy to plant and are resistant to droughts. Levels of supplementation must be indicated to smallholders in a way that is possible to implement practically as these resource-poor goat farmers do not have adequate equipment such as weighing scales.
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.