Forage systems for goat production in South Africa.
Househam, Sheila Drummond.
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Goats are found in almost every country and are an important source of protein and produce lactose-free milk. In South Africa, survival rates of goat kids are low, mainly due to malnutrition. Intensive goat production systems based on cultivated pastures were evaluated, at various stocking rates to evaluate the effects of improved nutrition on goat production. The pastures chosen to be evaluated for goat production were Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu) and Secale cereale (Stooling rye). Kikuyu is one of the more important dryland summer pasture species in KwaZulu-Natal. Three stocking rates of goats on kikuyu were evaluated using ewes with kids. When analysing the period to weaning, the ewes lost weight in all stocking rate treatments and for both years. The years had a significant effect on weight loss (P<0.001; R²=95.7%) with a mean ADG of -0.0267 kg.animalˉ¹.dayˉ¹. There was a significant difference between ADGs between stocking rates, with ADGs of -0.0157, -0.026 and -0.0384 kg.animalˉ¹.dayˉ¹ at stocking rates of 30, 45 and 60 goats.haˉ¹ respectively (P<0.001; R²=95.7%). The analyses of the entire grazing period showed no significant difference in ewe ADGs between treatments, but a significant difference between the two years (P=0.03), with a mean ADG of -0.0205 kg.animalֿ¹.dayֿ¹. There was no significant difference between kid masses between treatments. There was a significant difference between kid performance between years (P<0.001; R²=21.8%). However, factors such as ewe start mass (P<0.001) and whether the kid was a singleton or a multiple (P=0.015) had an influence on kid ADG, while gender had no significant effect (P=0.446). Interpretation of the combined ewe plus kid weight revealed that the high stocking rate produced the highest total mass per hectare (P<0.001) with an overall mean of 2377 kg.haˉ¹. Kid ADG was positively correlated to ewe ADG (P=0.013; R²=5.8%) although this was not a strong relationship. Protein was negatively correlated to pasture height (P=0.036; R²=30.8%) and had a quadratic relationship with ADG (P<0.001; R²=48.4%) with maximum ADG occurring at protein levels of 26.17%. Rainfall was different between the two seasons, which affected pasture growth, with the stocking rates in the second year being too low, so the maximum stocking rate per hectare was not reached. Stooling rye is a pasture used predominantly in South Africa and is a good source of high quality winter feed. Four stocking rates were evaluated over winter, using pregnant ewes. Rainfall was not an important variable since supplementary irrigation was given and the difference in temperatures between the years was negligible. The rate of weight gain showed a similar response for both years with the level of weight gain varying significantly between years (P=0.001; R²=90.2%). The regressions for ADG on stocking rate were determined and were y=0.2340-0.00293x for 2001 (P=0.151; R²=58.0%) and y=0.1292-0.002198x for 2002 (P=0.137; R²=61.6%). Gain per hectare was determined, as were the stocking rates at which maximum gain per hectare were achieved and this was determined to be 40 goats.haֿ¹ during 2001 and 29 goats.haֿ¹ for 2002. The respective ADGs at these stocking rates were 0.1168 and 0.0633 kg.dayֿ¹ and daily gains.haֿ¹ were 4.672 and 1.898 kg.haֿ¹.dayֿ¹ respectively. Herbage analyses revealed that there were extremely high levels of protein in the pasture (33.87%) even though the pasture was not excessively fertilised. Average daily gain was negatively related to NDF levels (P=0.006; R²=38.4%). ADF levels (P<0.001; R²=48.4%) and NDF levels (P<0.001; R²=60.4%) showed a quadratic relationship with pasture age. Blood serum revealed that selenium levels in all treatments were lower than the normal range, while all other minerals were within the normal range. To maximise animal performance, the highest quality pasture should be offered to producing animals, namely growing animals. The seasonal variation between years has a large effect on the performance of goats on pastures.