Management directly affects the flock reproductive performance. Reproduction efficiency in the goat flock can be assessed by considering the following aspects:
The interval between consecutive kiddings of a ewe (i.e. preferably less than 250 days).
The number of kids per ewe .
The number of kids born and weaned in the flock.
Studies show that the current productivity of flocks in communal areas is low. Poor production results mainly from kid mortality. This results in a shortage of ewe kids to keep as replacements when older or unproductive goats are culled. Mortalities of kids are due to poor management (including poor nutrition), unhygienic overnight kraals/facilities, theft, poor flock hygiene (with coccidiosis as a major problem) and predators.
In general the goat production system found in Uganda is that of free ranging goats with mating occurring throughout the year but most kids being born between March and August. In a system where the rams are with ewes throughout the year, the advantage is that the ewes will take the ram as soon as they are ready for the ram. However, it results in kids dropping throughout the year, making good management, recording and strategic feeding of ewes impossible. It also means that the farmer needs to keep the ram in good condition all year round.
The challenge with kids being born in late wet season this is that there is a shortage of feed during late pregnancy when the growing foetus is putting heavy demands on the ewe, as well as during early lactation.
The ram must be managed (and fed) so that he is healthy and able to work effectively during the mating season. During the breeding season, keep a ratio of 1 ram to 20 – 30 ewes. Replace rams every three years to prevent inbreeding.
Choosing a ram
It is important to ensure that the ram that you choose is bringing the correct genes into your flock. Use only the best animals for breeding. The ram contributes half of the production characteristics of each kid. It is also important to ensure that the ram is fertile. Besides reproductive soundness, it is important to make sure that the ram has sound legs and feet so that he is able to work effectively over the breeding season.
Make sure that:
The sheath and penis are free from any abnormalities, swellings and wounds.
There are two testicles and they are roughly the same, well-formed and freely moving within the scrotum
The testicles feel firm and cool and are without swellings or wounds.
The circumference of the scrotum is 34 cm from 18 months of age.
Choosing an ewe
Only keep ewes that kid every year. When buying or selecting an ewe make sure that:
Udder is firm and well-shaped
Teats are clear off the ground.
Teats are evenly sized and show no signs of damage.
There are no signs of pain when handling the udder .
The temperature of the udder is the same as that of under the belly.
The milk is creamy, smooth and free from clots or blood.
The vulva has no abnormal discharges or swellings.
Management before mating
It is important that ewes have access to good browse, or a good nutrition from three weeks before mating to two weeks after mating. This may require supplementation over the wet period to ensure reasonable body condition. Body condition score of approximately 3 will be ideal for the mating season. Also, minimise handling during the mating season, and for two weeks after the end of the mating season.
Ewe management during pregnancy
Gestation (or pregnancy) in goats is approximately 150 days (5 months) long. Make sure that there is sufficient feed during the early stage (to prevent reabsorption of the foetus) and sufficient food during the last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, when the foetus is growing fast, but do not overfeed the mother as it may cause birth difficulties.
Management practices at kidding
Avoid disturbing ewes during kidding (e.g. do not move them or handle them)
Try to separate them from the rest of the flock .
Earmark kids, with a number related to their mothers.
Sufficient feed must be available – animals have increased needs during kidding.
After weaning kids, decide which ewes to breed with the following season and which ones to cull – cull those with udder or mouth problems as they will not be able to raise another kid properly.
Raising female goats as replacements
Young ewes tend to reach puberty or sexual maturity at 5 to 9 months of age, provided they have been grown adequately and are in good condition. Try to make sure that young ewes do not mate until they are 9- 12 months of age or their growth will be stunted. Therefore, if possible, keep weaned female kids away from the rams to prevent early mating .
Animals with good characteristics need to be kept as replacements while those with poor characteristics should not be used for breeding and should be sold.
Generally breeding in ewes should be delayed until the animal has attained 60 to 70% of its mature body weight. For indigenous goats, mature ewes weigh on average 35 – 40 kg so should not be mated until they weigh 22-28 kg.
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