For milk and meat: Breeding goats the scientific way

Boer goats are raised mainly for their meat. (Henrylito Tacio)

Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio

There’s money in raising goats, claims a non-government organization based in the southern part of the Philippines. More so, if you breed your goats yourself.

“We have been raising goats since the early 1970s and we have observed that the demand for the animal has been increasing,” says Jethro P. Adang, the director of the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation, Incorporated.

MBRLC is a non-government organization based at the foothills of Mount Apo, specifically in barangay Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur. The center is not only known for its sustainable upland farming systems, but also for its goats. In fact, it has earned the moniker as the goat center of the province.

“Unlike in other countries, only a few Filipinos raise goats on a large scale in the country,” says Adang. “If you go around the rural areas, you will see those goats being tethered around. They are left alone to feed themselves.”

More farmers raising goats

But the good news is: More and more Filipinos are now raising goats. In 2022, the total number of goats in farms was estimated at 3.91 million heads, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The previous figure was 3.81 million heads.

Of the total goat population, 98.8% were raised in backyards while the remaining 1.2% were from commercial farms.

Central Visayas recorded the highest goat population of 597.87 thousand heads as of December 2022. This was followed by Western Visayas and Central Luzon with corresponding inventories of 485.91 thousand heads and 421.43 thousand heads. These three regions shared 38.8% of the country’s total goat population, the PSA said.

“Goat raising is one of the most simple, low-cost food production projects that a Filipino can get involved in,” Adang says. “Because of the rising cost of commercial feeds these days, goats have become one of the most economical alternatives for meeting the protein needs of Filipino families.”

Unlike other livestock, goats require low maintenance because they eat tree leaves, grasses, weeds, and agricultural by-products. “Goats require less feed than cows and carabaos,” Adang says.

For milking purposes, the recommended breed is Anglo Nubians. (Henrylito Tacio)

Milk importation

Cows, carabaos, and goats: these three livestock are the sources of milk in the country. “Our dairy producers meet only one percent of the demand for milk and other dairy products,” said Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, during the 5th Cagayan Valley Dairy Business Conference and Stakeholder’s Forum at Tuguegarao City a couple of years ago.

This still holds true today.

About 99% of the country’s milk and dairy products are sourced from abroad. Each year, the country imports about $800 million of milk and dairy products. Major suppliers are New Zealand (42%), the United States (20%) and Australia (6%). “Milk and dairy products are currently the country’s third largest agricultural import after wheat and soybean,” the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

Of the three animals mentioned earlier, the goat is the least expensive to raise and its milk is the best for infants and children. In addition, goat milk is less likely to cause allergy in humans, especially infants, than cow or carabao milk.

Adang believes that by raising goats, farmers can help augment milk production in the country and lessen the malnutrition problem among children, especially those living in rural and upland areas.

Raising goats does not mean raising goats per se. In order for goats to become profitable, the farmers need to increase their herd. And they can do it only if they breed their goats themselves instead of buying stock from others.

Boer goats are raised mainly for their meat. (Henrylito Tacio)

Breeding goats

“Breeding and raising goats is not simply getting one male, also called a buck, and putting it in a yard with female goats, known as does,” says Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol, who used to be the head of the Department of Agriculture.

Piñol knows what he is talking about. After all, he raises goats in his Braveheart Farm in Kidapawan City. To start a goat farming project, he urges would-be raisers to have a clear understanding on what they really want to produce out of goats: milk or meat?

“If it is milk production, then you have to get good dairy breeds because our local goats do not produce a lot of milk,” Piñol says.

Among the breeds they could choose are as follows: Anglo Nubian, La Mancha, Alpine, Saanen, Oberhasli and Nigerian Dwarf.  “Of these breeds, I would select the Anglo Nubian and La Mancha as they are the most prolific daily breeds, even in Philippine climatic conditions,” he says.

In meat production, there are only two choices: the South African boers and the Philippine native goats. The boers could grow to as much as 100 kilograms. The Philippine native goats, on the other hand, are small and basically mongrels.

While traditional boers would predictably come out with white body and dark or red head, the Philippine native goat colors are unpredictable – white, cream, black, brown, grey, or spotted.

“As a chevon eater, however, I would go for the native goats, especially when slaughtered young, because the meat does not have the gamey smell or ‘anghit’ in the local language,” Piñol says.

Now, if the farmer has already established what he would like to achieve, he can now choose which breeds to raise to attain his objective. “Just a word of advice though,” Piñol reminds, “goat breeding and raising is not recommended for impatient people and the ‘virtual’ farmers.”

To upgrade your stock, you can breed native goats (shown in photo) with introduced breeds. (Henrylito Tacio)

Meat type

Between milk and meat, Piñol prefers raising goats for meat. “However, there is still a need to upgrade our native goats and really establish a distinct genetic line for uniformity of meat quality and phenotypic manifestations,” he suggests.

According to him, there is a need to improve its size for more meat – from the current 15 to 25 kilograms to at least 40 to 50 kilograms. He doesn’t recommend using boer bucks to upgrade the native goats.

“Based on our experience, we lost many native does during birthing because the half-Boer kids are just too huge to pass through the vagina,” Piñol says.

To upgrade the native goats, he suggests going through the process of crossing the native does with pure Anglo Nubian or Anglo Nubian-native cross to produce larger female goats. “The explanation to this is that while Anglo Nubians would grow large, the kids are actually lean and bony at birth, thus the native female goats could push them out during the kidding process,” Piñol says.

Dairy goats

The MBRLC, however, suggests raising goats for milk. Research conducted at the center has shown that the volume of milk produced from a purebred milking doe is about 3-4 liters per day (including the milk fed to the kids), which is more than the national average production of 2 liters.

By raising goats, the country can develop its own dairy industry. “Popularizing goat milk consumption nationally would drastically cut the huge amount of foreign exchange being spent by the country annually to fill domestic demand for milk and its by-products,” Adang says.

The following are considered important when it comes to breeding goats: age to breed, signs of estrus or heat, and gestation period.

“A doe should not be bred until she weighs 40 to 45 kilograms,” says Adang. “That’s about eight to twelve months old. Earlier breeding will stunt the goat. It is best to breed before she is one year old.”

Estrus is the period when the doe will receive the buck. “Usually, this lasts two to three days,” Adang says. “It is best to breed the doe on the second day of the heat period because conception is usually more successful at this time.”

Gestation period is the period from conception to kidding. “Normally, the gestation period is from 145 to 155 days or an average of 150 days,” says Adang.

According to Adang, a doe that is in heart in the morning should be bred in the afternoon and a doe that is in heat in the afternoon should be bred in the morning of the following day. “If the doe is still receptive 24 hours after the first service, she should be given a second service,” he says.

A doe is generally fertile and easily becomes pregnant after one service. “If your doe does not become pregnant after being bred over three heat periods, she should be culled, or placed under close observation if she is a valuable breeding animal,” Adang suggests.

Why goats fail to get pregnant

There are many reasons why does fail to get pregnant. These are: infertile sperm from the buck, abnormal egg, female diseases (such as brucellosis and vibriosis), hormone malfunction, overfat condition of the doe, very hot weather (which causes the fertilized egg to be aborted), and too weak (not in good physical condition).

In some cases, normal reproduction can also be prevented by malnutrition or lack of protein, energy, the mineral phosphorus, and lack of vitamin A. Abortion may also result when the female is bumped or injured by other animals. “Goats tend to abort more often than other farm animals,” Adang says.

Breeding systems

Adang says there are four systems of breeding goats. These are upgrading, inbreeding, line breeding, and outcrossing. “You may use the goat breeding system that best suits your purpose,” he points out.

Upgrading: This is the mating of native or relatively unimproved parent with a highly improved breed. You may get a purebred buck to service native does. The kids of this union are called grades or half-breeds.

Inbreeding: When you mate closely related animals such as brother and sister or parent and offspring, this results in inbreeding. In this system, the bad traits are reinforced as fast as the good traits. As such, farmers who will use this system must be willing to cull the offspring heavily for any undesirable characteristics. This system is not recommended for beginners.

Line breeding: This is a mild form of inbreeding and is different from inbreeding only in terms of degree. The mating is between half brother and sister. It is used considerably to retain a high degree of relationship to a certain animal.

Outcrossing: This is the mating of unrelated animals, within the same breed. Improvement is somewhat slower using this method, because the two animals mated have widely different inheritance.

Done strategically, breeding goats can be both profitable for the farmer and beneficial to the nation.

Photos by Henrylito Tacio

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