A study of 18 commercial goat farms across India
Reasons behind movement to an intensive system
They provide food and nutritional security to the millions of marginal and small farmers and agricultural labourers. However, the productivity of goats under the prevailing traditional production system is very low (Singh and Kumar, 2007). It is because they are maintained under the extensive system on natural vegetation on degraded common grazing lands and tree lopping. Even these degraded grazing resources are shrinking continuously. Moreover, adoption of improved production technologies/ management practices in the farmers’ flock is very low. Therefore, rearing of goats under intensive and semi-intensive system using improved technologies for commercial production has become imperative not only for realizing their full potential but also to meet the increasing demand of chevon (goat meat) in the domestic as well as international markets.
Responding to the market signals, the goat production system in India has been slowly moving from extensive to intensive system of management for commercial production
The popular belief is that goats can be economically maintained only under semi-intensive and extensive systems with a provision of grazing in commons. However contrary to that, the goats were being successfully reared under intensive system of management on 46 per cent of the commercial goat farms. In the large category, all the farms were maintaining their goats under intensive system. This finding would encourage the aspirant commercial goat farmers who do not have access to grazing resources efficient unit of commercial goat farming should not make very heavy investments on sheds and structures.
The mortality rate in kids was well under the permissible limits, except in three commercial farms, which were not able to spare sufficient time to look after their farms
Time taken to slaughter
Based on empirical evidences, it has been suggested that the medium and large sizes of goats reared under intensive system for commercial production should attain more than 25-kg body weight at the age of 6-7 months for achieving their full economic potential (Singh, 2006). Therefore, the farmers need to make efforts to further improve the weight gain of their animals through better management and technological interventions.
There was high level of adoption of recommended package of practices and technologies related to direction and type of shed, feeding and watering devices and mineral mixture, but the adoption of daily management practices and prophylaxis was not 100 per cent.
Diseases & Mortality
Mortality and morbidity losses due to diseases in goats have been a major constraint in the traditional flocks (Kumar et al., 2003). The risk ofcertain diseases increases in large flocks maintained under the intensive system. The major diseases that affected goats on commercial farms were: PPR, enterotoxaemia (ET), pox, FMD, diarrhoea and pneumonia. The other health ailments were abortion, tympani, gidd, external parasites, etc. The overall mortality in kids in different categories ranged from 5.64 per cent to 12.28 per cent and in adults, it was 4.89 per cent.
High mortality in goats due to PPR, diarrhoea, pneumonia, tetanus, etc. in the beginning of the project, was a major concern of the farmers. It resulted even in closure of a number of farms in the beginning. High mortality in goats in the initial phase was mainly due to lack of knowledge about package of practices of improved goat farming, poor prophylaxis, non-availability of vaccines, etc., poor preparedness of the farmers, lack of personal attention of the entrepreneurs and poor access to veterinary doctor with experience of small ruminants.
Non-availability of vaccines, especially PPR, was another major constraint. Even the ET vaccine, which is being produced for decades, was not available in time in many states, including U.P., Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.
In the absence of proper standards and specially-designed vehicles for transporting the live goats, the officials in collision with police harass the farmers under the pretence of welfare of the animals during transportation of the breeding stock from long distances.