Production, breeding practices and physical traits of economic importance in Ugandan goats
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Two studies were conducted in the districts of Sembabule, Soroti and Arua in Uganda to characterise the goat production and breeding practices and to determine the variability in body measurements. In the first study a survey of goat farmers was conducted to collect information on production and breeding practices from 160 goat owners in one-visit-interviews. In the second study , data on Live body weight (LBW), Corpus length (CL), Height at withers (WH), Height at rump (RH), Heart girth (HG), Shoulder width (SW), Hip bone width (HBW) and Chest depth (CD) were collected from Mubende (n=198), SEA/Teso (n=188) and SEA/Lugware (n=188) goats kept by traditional farmers. The data were classified on the basis of breed, age, sex and coat colour pattern and regression analysis was carried out for LBW with all the linear body measurements. More than 57% of farmers in Sembabule showed livestock as their main activity, while all (100%) in Soroti and Arua indicated mixed crop-livestock as the main production system. Goat keepers were generally sedentary with small flocks with isolated cases of semi-nomadic and/or transhumant farmers in Sembabule. In Soroti and Arua, management system was tethering in the cropping season with free range during the non-cropping season. Over 80% of all the farmers gave supplements in form of crop residues mainly in the wet season. All provided water, mainly from spring wells and dams for Sembabule with maximum walking distance being 2km for Soroti and Arua, and 4km for Sembabule. Provision of salt was minimal. Women and children played a substantial role with regards to routine management activities but have little control on decision making. More than 75% of farm labour was provided by family members while all capital to run the farm activities was from personal savings. Goats were mainly acquired by buying while removal was by selling. Goats have multi-functional roles, though mainly kept as a regular income source in all the three districts. Over 97% of the farmers reported incidences of disease, especially respiratory disease, helminthosis and tick-borne diseases. There was a wide coverage by veterinary services (100%) across all districts. Mating was generally natural and uncontrolled. In each village, less than 20% kept their own bucks. Breeding does were selected mainly because of performance, birth type and body size while bucks were chosen mainly on the basis of growth rate and body size across all districts. There seems to be a non quantifiable level of inbreeding depicted by the long duration (up to 4.0 years) buck owners take with their breeding bucks, coupled with poor record keeping. Tolerance to disease was the only adaptive trait merely reported as a little considered trait, as they tended to consider such traits as naturally given to indigenous livestock. Although majority of the goats kept were indigenous, there appears a clear trend from pure indigenous towards cross-breeds. Breed, Age and sex significantly (P<0.05) influenced all the body measurements. Coat colour pattern had no significant (P>0.05) influence any measurement. Older animals were superior (P<0.05) to the young ones in all measurements. In all age groups, sex significantly (P<0.05) influenced live body weight and linear body measurements with males showing superiority. All measurements were significantly higher for the Mubende goats (P<0.05) implying that this breed is bigger than SEA/Teso and SEA/Lugware. All linear body measurements and live body weight were highly (P<0.001) and positively correlated for all ages except for the group with two pairs of permanent incisors. From the regression analysis, live body weight could be predicted with accuracy from some linear body measurements especially; heart girth, height at withers, corpus length and rump height. It can be concluded that goat production in Uganda is still subsistence and that linear body measurements can be used to predict the live body weight of goats. Any programmes intended to actively and sustainably utilize and improve indigenous goat production levels should consider farmers as the first stakeholders.