Evaluation of nutritional, chemotherapeutic and educational approaches to manage gastrointestinal nematodes and improve small-scale goat farming.
Vatta, Adriano Francis.
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Small-scale goat farmers from south-western KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, identified gastrointestinal helminths, dry-season feed scarcity and poor reproductive performance as major production constraints and highlighted the paucity of information on goat health and management. The research and extension processes adopted to address these problems comprised on-station experimentation, followed by on-farm validation combined with the participatory dissemination of both study findings and relevant information on goat health care. The approach included the use of the FAMACHA© system to assess anaemia, a characteristic symptom of infection with the gastrointestinal nematode, Haemonchus contortus (Rudolphi, 1803). On-station experimentation indicated that urea-molasses block supplementation during the dry, winter season was a cost-effective option. Unfortunately, when tested on-farm, the value of such supplementation proved inconclusive, possibly due to low block consumption and further research into alternative and palatable protein supplements for goats is suggested. However, tactical anthelmintic treatment with ivermectin effectively reduced faecal egg counts and is recommended, as is concurrent symptomatic anthelmintic treatment, as determined by the FAMACHA© system, since this practice appeared to improve reproductive capacity. Investigations to better adapt the FAMACHA© system to goats is, however, recommended. A flexible training framework was developed with the collaboration of the farmers, providing them with advice on goat health and management. This ‘hands-on’ approach encompassed regular meetings geared to the farmers’ current expertise and exploited the on-farm experimentation as a training vehicle. The process nurtured local farmer ‘champions’, strengthened the extension skills of researchers and technicians and incorporated the development of a Goatkeepers’ animal health care manual. Indications are that the use of such an approach has considerable potential for the development of goat farming. Moreover this process, which is relatively novel for South Africa, is equally applicable to other similar agro-ecological zones. Access to veterinary and agricultural inputs in areas where communal grazing is practised could be vastly improved and a case is made for universities, researchers, extensionists and farmers to collaborate to encourage the long-term sustainable development of these communities.
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