Animal Science Research Institute of Iran, Karaj, Iran
History of goat breeding in the province
The archaeological excavations show that Aryans were the first to domesticate goats for the first time. They were domesticated more than 9000 BC in Asia and the Middle East, especially in the lands now called Kurdistan. Given the many similarities in terms of coverage and characteristics of the produced fiber between Markhoz goats and Angora goats, they have been known as Iranian Angora goats and their fiber as mohair in some references. Some researchers assume the center of Anatolia and many have speculated Asia Minor as the origin place of Angora goats, especially where Kurds live in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. The variation in the goats in Kurdish areas supports the latter speculation. Markhoz goat population may have been part of the core Angora goats isolated from its population in Iraq and Turkey for long years.
Geographic distribution areas
Markhoz goats have dispersed for years away in the provinces of Kurdistan, West Azerbaijan, and Kermanshah. At present, there are only few of them in a small part of Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces. More than 90 percent of the population of Markhoz goats are scattered in its natural habitat, in the county of Armarda in the vicinity of the city of Baneh
According to the statistics offered by Jihad-e Sazandegi (Construction Jihad) Organization in 1996, the population of this breed accounted for 22,000 and 15,387 in the three provinces and Baneh, respectively. Based on the report prepared by the experts in the field of domesticated animal breeding, the population of Markhoz goats was 5,000 in Baneh in 2005, and since then the downward trend has continued. Its population has decreased sharply in the recent years; 1,669 and 804 goats were counted in Baneh in 2013 and 2016, respectively. Considering the number of goats kept in research stations in Saghez and Sanandaj, the number of goats in Iran is 1,400 heads.
The types of rearing systems
In its traditional breeding system of Markhoz goats in their primary habitat, one or more households form a unit called Kokh. They graze the goats alone or in combination with many hair goats and sheep in a distinct area of woodland pasture of the region. Breeding Markhoz goats in Kokhs and villages in Baneh is very similar to the breeding of goats and sheep in most parts of the Zagros Mountains. At the beginning of the growing season of range plants from the mid to late April, grazing at pastures begins. Fresh leaves from oak trees are harvested during the summer and early fall for the consumption of grazing goat flocks. From August to September, leaves are cut in an intermittent period of 2 to 3 years and stashed, locally known as Taya, on the same trees. With the weakening of pastures during the late fall and over the winter, the collected or purchased oak leaves are the primary sources of feeding for goats. Industrial farming of these goats has not been done.
On account of the decline in Markhoz goat population in recent years, the number of farmers has decreased, and only 30 households are directly engaged in Markhoz breeding to make a living. Also, about 40 people are indirectly engaged in spinning to produce traditional clothing.
Cultural, social and economic relation with nomadic and rural communities
Markhoz goats are regarded as triple-purpose livestock for their meat, milk, and fiber (mohair). In terms of meat quality, their meat is crispy, low-fat and tasteful. It has many fans in the region of Baneh and is preferred to the meat of other livestock and even hair goats. The residents of the area are to some extent self-sufficient due to supply of meat, milk, and clothing manufactured from their fibers. The declining population has had a significant harmful effect on people's lives and has destroyed the available customary system. The decline in the number of Markhoz goats as the main element of the system has affected other system components, especially the forest and pasture and has put them in danger.
Markhoz goats vary in color: white, different spectra of brown, grey and black. They are agile and clever with compact and relatively small body. Their head size is average with prominent eye sockets, thin snout, and relatively long and hanging ears. Their face has no coating fiber with except for a small portion of the forehead. Horns are thick and torsional in a male goat, while they are slim in female goats. Their short neck, legs, belly, and their whole body is covered with fiber, the chest is shallow, back is almost straight, and legs are short and narrow.
The fibers obtained from this goat are invaluable and unique. With the increase in production to provide the local markets, it can also be exported as a non-oil commodity to earn foreign exchange.
Items use of products
Markhoz goats are regarded as triple-purpose livestock for their meat, milk, and fiber (mohair). In terms of meat quality, their meat is crispy, low-fat and tasteful. It has many fans in the region of Baneh and is preferred to the meat of other livestock and even hair goats. Milk and dairy products made from it play a crucial role in feeding families and breeders usually do not sell them. The fiber is used in making clothes and various products
(Fabrics, scarves, hats, socks, etc.). The fibers are often spun into strips in traditional workshops, which have decreased in number in recent years. Finally, they are woven into expensive men's costumes.
Measures for identifying and genetic improvement
The Directorate for Animal Husbandry in Kurdistan Province purchased a large number of Markhoz goats to protect them in 1989, also carry out research projects and distribute several goats in the region annually. A station was launched in Sagez in 1995 to provide appropriate conditions for the conservation of this breed and to conduct research projects. Since then, lots of projects have been prepared and implemented in order to identify, improve the production and reproduction performance and conserve of this breed. The goats with brown coat are more popular as there is no need for dyeing.
Suggestions for ways to improve performance
The results of simulation experiments show that in addition to improving the management and control of adverse events, the genetic management of flocks in the form of a conservation scheme in the habitat increases population so that the inbreeding and genetic drift are well controlled. Given the state of Markhoz goat in its primary habitat, keeping a goat flock in the station guarantees the conservation of the race. The possibility of proliferation and distribution in the region increases and it provides support for the research and conservation programs in its primary habitat. A conservation program sponsored by the government is a short and medium-term solution for the transition from a critical period facing a race. The best way for this breed to survive is increasing its profitability so that there will be no need for further financial assistance. The profitability of Markhoz goats is feasible through genetic improvement and the development of manufacturing sector (product extension and development).
Special thanks to Farhad Mirzaei (IGA-CR Iran) for sharing this report with us.