WATCH: Farmer builds strong genetic foundation for goat breeders
Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
One of the most successful investors of all time, American business magnate and philanthropist Warren Buffett, once said that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
In the case of a breeder, one inferior gene can actually lower the quality of an entire herd and wipe out all the hard work from previous years.
Mr. Christ Grant (46), owner of Mzilikazi Kalahari Red Goat Breeders in Umguza District in Matabeleland North, understands the importance of establishing a strong genetic base from the start.
Growing up on a farm in Ntabazinduna where his father was a cattle herder, Mr. Grant is not new to animal husbandry. He started out as a cattle rancher before deciding to move into commercial goat farming.
In 2012, Grant visited a farm in South Africa where the shiny auburn coat of Kalahari Red goats caught his eye. Fascinated by their color and appearance, he decided to switch to goat farming, starting with four animals to build his Kalahari Red stud farming project.
Today he has a herd of 280 hinds (female goats) including native Matabele/Kalahari Reds crosses, pure Kalahari Reds and Boer-goats crosses and 10 males.
“I used to do commercial cattle raising until I decided to switch to goats because they are quicker in terms of rewards. I bought my first four goats from a farm in South Africa after being attracted to the brilliant red coat of Kalahari red goats,” he said.
“Unlike cattle, which can take you up to three years to make a profit, you can actually raise goats and then sell them in a year or even six months. Farming is a business and the sooner we think of it as a business, the more profitable it becomes.”
In his 10 years in goat breeding, Mr. Grant has turned Mzilikazi Kalahari Red Goat Breeders into a solid genetic foundation for goat breeders.
“Developing a successful stud farm takes time, as you not only build the quality of your herd, but also your reputation.
In fact, without a good reputation, you can’t really make stud a success because people want to know they’re getting what they pay for,” Mr Grant said.
“As goat farmers, we need to put in place a genetic traceability system that farmers can trust.”
Mr Grant said there were two kidding seasons, namely April and November, reaching a kid percentage of 180%, with a weaning weight of 35kg for both males and females.
All the animals are sold at six months having reached between 40 and 45 kg, as well as all the old females not meeting the selection criteria.
Mr Grant said goat keepers should pay special attention to feeding to increase the likelihood of producing twins.
“Nutrition affects fertility and weaning percentage, and the sooner the kids are weaned, the sooner the females can regain good body condition and begin to give birth again.
First-time mothers are kept in a separate camp where we monitor them and ensure that they and their children remain in good condition,” he said.
Mr Grant sells his goats mainly for breeding with cross breeds for US$150 while the youngest females, who will be at least three-quarters Kalahari Reds and a quarter native Matabele, fetch up to US$180 .
“For the males, we sell Kalahari red males for US$500 and the cross for around US$300. There is a high demand because people want to improve genetics.
The demand for goat meat is high and every year we have religious festivals and there is a demand for goats as it is healthier and leaner meat,” he said.
“We bring in males every two years because you have to change all the time because you have to keep increasing your average by bringing in new genetics every two years so you can keep breeding.”
Mr. Grant also makes 100% organic and nutritious goat feed using acacia pots and bushmeal, which he mixes with corn, sorghum, salt and lime.
“Goats are selective feeders and if you put food in their feeder they will only eat the meals and what we do is we pellet them. We currently use alfalfa and also add salt, lime and corn bran, which we mix and granulate,” he said.
“When I started it was just a feed for my own goats and people started getting interested in my stock feed that I was making and soon there was a huge market for goat feed .
We researched what is nutritious for goats and found that if we use these ingredients they are highly digestible. Mzilikazi Kalahari Red Goat Breeders also offers training programs for goat breeders.
“We teach farmers about nutrition, goat management and how to select a good male as well as look for good traits.
Every goat has to give you twins every time, so nutrition and fertility go hand in hand,” he said.
“When we train our farmers, we put a lot of emphasis on this so that people understand the importance of feeding the goats.
Mr Grant said Matabele goats are essential for herders in the region given the right environment.
“We have good genetics in our country and we have to take care of them, nurture them and promote them. With climate change and changing goat production in Zimbabwe, the demand for goat meat.
I’m sure if we could just promote the native Matabele goats that have just been registered as a breed, we’ll have herders from Ethiopia and Australia, the biggest goat producers in the world, coming to buy this genetics of our Matabele goats,” he said. — @mashnets