Goat farming: The crucial quality in building your herd
Goat farming is a lucrative industry, with the animals producing meat, wool, dairy, and skin products. Justin Dziruni, the founder of Zazo Goat Studs walks us through the basics of herd building and infrastructure.
Dziruni describes her journey into goat herding as accidental. He says his first foray into goat farming came when he was looking for land to grow vegetables.
“It was with the aim of trying to obtain additional land to develop the vegetable business that I went to Limpopo with an agent who showed me potential farms that I could acquire. When I came to this farm, I saw the potential it had for raising goats, having been exposed to some goat farming operations when I was growing up.
Like any new farmer, his first efforts were not crowned with success. His first goat herd was poorly reared, which he only learned after being exposed to more experienced herders.
“They showed me what quality was, so I made the decision to sell all the goats we had acquired and start building the quality stock that formed the basis of the herd we have now. “
Now Zazo Goat Studs has operations in Limpopo, Gauteng and Zimbabwe.
Make sure the kids are warm
Dziruni explains that proper infrastructure for your goat farm is important.
“The biggest thing goats need is protection from the elements, so you should protect your goats from the cold if the area you are growing in is exposed to cold, as well as any heavy rain.”
He says providing protection from the elements is especially important for young animals.
“Provide shelter to kids or lambs that are born young because they are the ones who need heat the most. [If] the weather is not so harsh in terms of rainfall and cold, [the goats] You actually like to sleep in the open, but if you’re growing in a fairly cold region, you need to make sure you provide shelter for your goats where you then need to enclosure them at night and make sure they’re protected.
Apart from shelters, Dziruni also highlights the other basic infrastructure requirements such as drinkers and feeders and enclosures.
Secure your animals
Cattle rustling is a sad reality in South Africa, and one that you need to protect yourself against, advises Dziruni.
“It goes without saying that when you farm with cattle they are vulnerable to cattle rustling, so you need to make sure that you provide the infrastructure that prevents access to your farm and protects your goats from thieves. And also, predators like jackals.
Dziruni explains that jackals are a particularly threatening security threat, which means that part of your infrastructure should include jackal-proof fencing.
“I also have Anatolian Shepherd Dogs who protect the goat herd from any predators. They also act as a security barrier at night as they are with the goats 24/7.
Basic Herd Building
The first step in building a herd, Dziruni says, is deciding what kind of herd you want to manage. The way you manage a stud herd will be different than a commercial herd.
“With your stud farm, you really have to separate your does or ewes from your rams or bucks, because you really have to track every mating, as well as every offspring to be able to really tell who the specific female and sire are for that child.
“While on a commercial farm, where the goal is to raise goats for meat, that might not be as important. So you can have many dollars running with many females.
Another aspect of building a basic herd for goats is the male to female ratio. “You want to make sure that you give each doe a good chance to mate with a buck or a ram, so the ratio becomes important. can be pushed up to 30 or even in some cases up to 50.”
ALSO READ: This accountant is the GOAT of, well, goat farming
The importance of good genetics
Dziruni emphasizes that good genetics are the cornerstone of successful goat breeding. He emphasizes that it’s not about the quantity, but rather about the quality of your stock, especially for breeding stock keepers.
“It’s about the lines, the pedigree of your animals. It’s a matter of genetics, and quality is the most important aspect, not necessarily quantity”.
For Dziruni, spending a little more money on quality genetics is the best strategy for a successful stud.
“Whatever you sow is what you reap, and the same goes for your genetics. Whatever genetics you breed with, those genetics are what are passed on to offspring, so you really need to make careful selection of the lines you want to breed with.
Good breeding isn’t just about selecting the right breed and bloodlines, it’s also about selecting parent animals that have the characteristics you want to see reproduced in their offspring. For Dziruni, this means carefully selecting the best parent stock.
“I realized that for me, you can’t really cut corners when it comes to superior genetics. You just have to invest. In my experience when you invest in genetics you get a return on investment in terms of the offspring you get which you can then sell in the market and it actually helps you market your goats because quality sells rapidly. If you breed quality, especially in your stud farm, you will have no trouble selling goats.
Dziruni’s advice for aspiring goat herders
Do your research on goats
I think, sleeping and drinking anything related to goats because I’m pretty passionate about goats, and that drives me to do a lot of research about them. So, gain as much knowledge as possible through reading, visit other established goat breeders, go to auctions, see what quality goats are auctioned off and how the market works.
You don’t have to start big
Start with a few goats. Learn the ropes as you go, and as you learn more and more about them, you then make adjustments and can add to your herd. Because if you were to acquire a large herd without necessarily knowing how to take care of the goats, it could actually end in tears.
Run your operation like a business
Goat farming is a lucrative business. And like any business, it needs to be run like a business for you to be successful.
ALSO READ: Goat Farming: Here’s How To Get Started
Sign up for Farmer’s Inside Track: Join our exclusive platform for new entrants in agriculture and agribusiness, with newsletters and podcasts.