|By Pinoy Farmer | February 29, 2008|
SHELTER AND SPACE
Although goats have adapted to diverse and adverse climates without the aid of man-made shelters and support, maintenance of good health and dairy productivity require minimizing the stresses associated with excessive heat, cold, humidity, and wind.
Protection from Cold and Moisture
Shelters are needed where temperatures remain below 5[degrees]C, especially if there are kids. Wooden walls and roofs are better than stone or metal constructions, which tend to accumulate condensation water, thus adding to respiratory and other health problems because of increased humidity. Open buildings or sheds are satisfactory as long as their length and depth exceed the height and the location of exits and open windows does not cause excessive drafts.
The build-up of ammonia in the shelter from the bedding, urine, and feces is easily avoided with small roof vents or rafter louvers that can be opened and shut. Roof insulation is necessary only when condensation cannot be controlled in this way. But the greatest need for insulation is on the floor, where the goats tend to lie against the cold, wet ground. Slatted false floors made of treated 5 cm x 10 cm lumber 2 cm apart on 10 cm x 10 cm cross pieces will reduce the risk of infection. Wooden slatted floors reduce the costs of bedding. Concrete floors must be avoided, even when poured upon plastic insulation sheets. A sleeping platform helps to keep the goats clean and dry.
In parts of India, dairy goats are kept in small sheds, often with a portion of the structure closed off to store feed and equipment. Bedding material is usually provided to keep the goats clean and healthy. Available bedding materials vary in their capacity to absorb urine. Spaced wood boards (as described above) make excellent bedding. Sawdust or shavings, bagasse, paddy husk, groundnut hulls, wheat straw, crushed maize cobs, and dry grass are all good, cheap, and available in many tropical countries. If nothing else is available, coarse sand can be used. To increase the effectiveness of the litter rake the droppings into it. The depth of the litter will partially depend on the price and availability of suitable materials. If they are cheap and available, use 7 to 10 cm. If less than 2.5 cm is used it will not absorb all the urine and the floor may become wet. Used bedding can be spread in fields and vegetable gardens to increase plant growth.
Protection from Heat
Goats, especially dehorned goats or those originally from temperate zones, begin to seek relief when the temperature reaches 32[degrees] C by reducing feeding activity, sharply increasing respiration and open-mouth ventilation, seeking shade, and resting on the north sides of stone walls or buildings, and inside ground-depressions, ditches, and open dirt pits. Goats with horns or coming from hot and arid zones suffer less, use the rumen as a water reservoir, and adapt with more concentrated urine, wool cover insulation and variable body temperature. Shelters in hot climates need to provide shade and plenty of air circulation through open walls. Trees can serve these functions very cheaply. Straw or hay stacks on the upper story of a shelter provide excellent insulated shade below.
Metal roofs should be painted with white sun-reflecting paint. Tropical thatched roofs are excellent if they shed rain and don’t harbor too many flies and other bothersome insects. Soil covered roofs, used in some countries, are excellent insulators, but they require strong supports and may grow grass, which invites undesirable grazing of goats on the roof.
Stilted or elevated housing is popular in hot and humid climates. Slatted board walls and flooring provide good ventilation. They also allow for clean maintenance, with easy automatic separation of feces and urine from the goats. This, in turn provides some control of internal parasites and clean udders for low bacterial counts in the milk. Overhanging roofs keep out driving rains. The feeding trough is usually placed on an outside wall and is also covered with an overhanging roof. In the tropics, a typical elevated shelter for 20 or more goats measures 20 to 80 sq m. The shelter is supported 60 to 90 cm above the ground. The roof is 150 to 200 cm above the slatted floor,
sloped at about 28[degrees] (53 cm rise for each 100 cm level measure). Roof materials may include clay tiles and palm leaves. Treated floor boards or bamboo pieces are secured a finger-width apart.
Space and Fencing
Goats need and enjoy exercise. The herd manager will have fewer fence problems if space allotments are liberal and daily fresh, palatable feeds are provided generously. The minimal interior space, 2.5 sq m per adult animal, is commonly provided in tropical countries. Ten square meters is considered ideal.
A fenced area that allows 40 sq m per animal with a fence 1.5 to 1.8 m high per animal is common in most tropical countries. Fencing should allow maximum air circulation for hot weather, but should offer some winter protection against cold winds. Posts should be placed not more than 1.5 m apart, and the bottom strand of wire needs to be close to the ground to stop kids from crawling underneath. High-tensile fence, barbed wire, turkey wire, timber bamboo and sticks all have pros and cons. Some sizes of wire mesh fence may be hazardous if they allow kids with horns to insert their heads and become trapped. Vertical wood or bamboo pieces also invite trapped heads. Horizontal wire on fencing invites climbing; vertical-only stockade-type fences may be too expensive or keep out cooling winds in hot weather.
A sheltered container filled with clean water should always be available. Outside hayracks should be sheltered against sun and rain, with a bottom trough to reduce waste. The same applies to outside feed troughs, best placed below hayracks and along fences to reduce hay wastage, keep out feces, and facilitate filling and cleaning.
Extensive goat management systems based upon pasture feeding and migration sometimes use only night-time shelters. Goats may travel far during day-time grazing; night shelters are traditionally provided in many countries for safety and comfort.
MILK AND MILKING
The world’s dairy goat production has grown partly because of a trend toward increasing self sufficiency by people in many countries. A goat eats little, occupies a small are, and produces enough milk for the average unitary family (an average doe will give about 2 L a day); whereas the prospect of maintaining a cow at home is often more than the homeowner can cope with. Hence the growing popularity of goat as the “poor-person’s cow.”
As the interest in dairy goats continues to rise, it is important to address many misconceptions and exaggerated claims. A comparison of cow and goat milk will erase some prejudices against goat milk. And while goat milk is somewhat unique, it is certainly not a magical elixir.
A persistent objection to goat milk is that it has a peculiar “goaty” odor or taste. The presence of a buck among does at milking time can result in this objectionable feature. Another major cause of off-flavored milk is low-grade udder infection (subclinical mastitis).
Diet affects the taste and odor of both goat and cow milk. Although the diet of cows is usually closely watched. goats are often allowed to consume a great variety of materials at any time. Such unmonitored feeding may allow objectionable tastes or odors to be transferred to the milk, if it occurs within two hours of milking. If goats and cows are similarly managed, the smell and taste of both milks are sweet and neutral.
Goat milk is similar to cow milk in its basic composition (see Table 2).
Average Composition of Goat and Cow Milk
Dry matter, Percent of Percent Protein Fat Lactose Mineral matter
Goat 12.1 3.4 3.8 4.1 0.8
Cow 12.2 3.2 3.6 4.7 0.7
However, there are also differences that give goat’s milk a special place in human diets. For example, in Third World countries where meat consumption is low, goat milk is an important daily food source of protein, phosphate, and calcium not available otherwise because of a lack of cow milk. Calves can consume large quantities of goat milk while similar amounts of cow milk may cause dysentery. Goat milk can, therefore, be used not only for growing veal, but also for raising valuable dairy replacement heifers, which will benefit from the high milk intake and show superior growth.
The Saanen breed is best known as the Holstein (a very productive dairy cow) of the goat world, producing a large quantity of milk with somewhat low fat levels. At the other extreme is the Jersey of the goat world, the Nubian. This breed produces a lesser amount of milk with a high fat content. The Toggenburg, Oberhasli, and Alpine give milk with intermediate values, as does the La Mancha, a breed not listed above.
Whether goats are milked by hand or by machine, care must be taken to produce a clean, wholesome product and to prevent injury to or infection of the udder.
Non-commercial herds use mostly hand-milking, which requires few facilities and little equipment. There is no minimum number of goats required for machine milking, because the convenience and reduced discomfort to the person’s hands, wrists and arms may outweigh considerations of efficiency or economics. Portable single or double milking machines are easily assembled, washed, and maintained. Although machine milking is not covered in this paper, a brief description of hand milking follows for the goat herder who wants to produce a quality product.
In contrast to cows, the milking of goats is routinely done in different ways and schedules, depending on tradition, convenience, and budget. In most countries goats are milked twice a day, 12 hours apart. Routine, once-daily milking is not recommended. The doe’s udder produces milk throughout the day and night, but production is slowed as milk accumulates. During the height of lactation heavy producers can be milked three times a day at eight-hour intervals to relieve pressure in the udder. This procedure often yields more milk.
Milking equipment should include a strip cup, a seamless milking pail, and a milk strainer with a filter that is thrown away after each milking. Goats should be milked in an environment free of dust, odors, dogs, and disturbing noises.
To produce clean milk it is necessary to have clean equipment, a clean area for milking, healthy goats, clean clothes, and clean hands. The milker’s hands (short fingernails) should be washed with hot water and soap before starting, and before moving from one animal to another. Hands should be washed after cleaning feces from the udder. The udder can be washed with a clean cloth, but both the udder and hands should be dried before milking.
The first stream or two of milk should directed through a fine wire mesh, such as a tea strainer, into a separate strip cup so that the presence of flaky milk, which is often an indication of mastitis (discussed later) can be detected.
Dairy goats should be milked dry at each milking. When some experienced milkers think they have milked the goat thoroughly they will often push the udder gently a few times and run the index finger and thumb down each teat until they have “stripped” out the last drop of milk. The advantages of this procedure are not entirely clear.
As soon as the milk has been collected from the doe, it should be poured through a single-use filter. The milk should be cooled promptly and rapidly (to as near 0[degree]C as possible) to ensure good flavor and retard the growth of bacteria. Air cooling is not recommended; the closed container may be cooled by immersing it in ice water with frequent stirring. After cooling, the container of milk should be taken promptly to the consumer, stored in a refrigerator, or immersed in ice water. Unnecessary temperature changes can cause bad flavor.
All milking equipment should be rinsed in warm water immediately after use and then washed in hot water to which a mild chlorine solution and detergent are added. Finally the utensils should be rinsed in clean, preferably boiling, water and kept in a dust-free place to dry.
PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF DISEASE
Although often considered one of the healthiest of all domesticated animals, goats are susceptible to the same diseases that affect cattle and sheep. If infected cattle or sheep are nearby try to prevent contact with them. The occurrence of disease may be affected by locality, amount of space vgiven to each goat, the feeding program, and housing, as well as the general health of the individual goats and the amount of exposure to infected animals or parasites.
In many parts of the tropics vaccinations against goat pox, rinderpest, and foot-and-mouth disease are generally advised. In addition, goats are usually tested routinely for brucellosis (Malta Fever, Bang’s Disease), tuberculosis, and mastitis. Diarrhea, caused by bacterial infections, viruses, or coccidia, can also be troublesome. In addition to infectious diseases, goats sometimes suffer from such noncontagious ailments as pneumonia, wound infections, milk fever (parturient paresis), bloat (tympanites), external and internal parasites, and plant poisoning.
Ideally, the diagnosis and treatment of goat diseases should be left to a veterinarian. The importance of an accurate diagnosis cannot be over-emphasized because the treatment is determined by the cause of the ailment. However, veterinary services are often too costly for people who keep goats, except in the most urgent cases. Fortunately, most goatkeepers can acquire enough basic knowledge to cope with basic problems.
No doubt, it is always better to prevent disease than to have to treat infected animals! Some precautions needed to maintain the health of a goat herd are listed below:
1. Avoid involvement in goat trading or trafficking.
2. Buy young kids preferably from healthy goat farms where diseases are under control and the animals look healthy.
3. Separate kids from adults immediately at birth and feed them pasteurized milk.
4. Isolate a goat that becomes sick.
5. Do not allow equipment to be brought to the goat farm from locations where the goats are unhealthy.
6. Keep visitors from walking around in the goat house or corral.
7. If possible, get an accurate and early diagnosis from a qualified veterinarian if evidence of a disease appears.
8. Use medications only when necessary.
9. Consider goat droppings as a potential source of disease.
10. Eliminate ticks, lice, and mites, and control predatory animals.
11. Keep the goat herd separated from sheep and cattle.
12. Use good business ethics and do not sell diseased goats to an unsuspecting buyer.
13. Keep the goat house clean and dry.
14. Trim hooves at least four times yearly. Brush goats when needed to remove loose hair and dirt that might contaminate the milk.
15. Keep feces out of the feed and water: keep goats’ feet out of hay racks and keep feed and water containers above tail level.
16. Keep fresh water available and uncontaminated.
UNDERSTANDING DAIRY GOAT PRODUCTION By VITA Volunteer Harlan H. D. Attfield