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Ethiopia goats are some of the most highly treasured ruminants in the country. Globally, the horn of Africa features in the top ten list of the largest goat rearing countries. Ethiopia has over the years managed to availed high-quality goats to both the local and external markets.
Constant glaring climate change is among Ethiopia’s biggest challenges, but the adaptability of goats to wide agro-ecological zones has made them one of the most reared animals across the country. Ethiopia goat population is approximately 30 million with that of the females estimated to stand at 71.57% and 28.43% for the males.
The country exported over 232,228 live animals with 149,595 of the animals representing both sheep and goats in 2017. The export of goats and sheep was estimated to have generated revenue in the region of 9.6 million USD for Ethiopia.
The origin of goats (Capra hircus) dates back 11,000 years ago where they were first domesticated in the mountains and plains of Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. They were a part of the first animals’ humankind herded as he tried to transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture-livestock farming.
Ethiopia goats play an essential role in the livelihoods of rural families as well as smallholder farmers.
Goats are extensively kept in the lowlands. These regions are known to be arid and semi-arid thus presenting residents with unfriendly climatic conditions for any form of farming. The lowlands are mainly home to pastoralist communities who are the predominant herders of goats. Little or no farming at all takes place in this regions; thus goats are relied upon as the primary source of livelihood for households. Although the lion share of goat population is found in the lowlands, the highlands also domesticate these animals where subsistence farming is extensively practiced.
Indigenous goats are still the predominant breeds in Ethiopia. The state believes much more can be done in the sector which would result in a tremendous increase in the number of live animals and subsequent goat products availed for local and international markets. Some of the measures put in place to address issues curtailing progress of the sector such as the introduction of improved breeds that are suited to the different climate changes of the country. Another problem being looked into is the constraints faced by herders including adverse weather conditions leading to lack of water and pastures as well as inefficient veterinary services.
Ethiopia goats are exported in various forms. One of them is as live animals.
Another form of export is the one that entails processed or unprocessed goat products.
The Middle East is the largest market for Ethiopia goat meat. All this meat is certified by the independent Islamic Affairs Council which ensures it meets international standards. The council also ensures proper Islamic criteria are met while slaughtering the animals because the majority of those residing in the Middle East are Muslims. Other products include hides, mohair, and milk.
Availability and uses
Goat production is done on a consistent basis. The country avails goats all year round as well as their by-products locally and internationally. However, the primary season is Arafa (Haj season) when the demand for goats is usually very high in the export markets. Ethiopia goats serve multiple purposes. Owners sell live animals to get instant cash and finance their daily needs. Goat milk, on the other hand, is consumed in by the herding families while the surplus is sold out. Other non-food products that have the value such as the skins are channeled to the cottage industries which use them as raw materials. Goat milk processes butter and curd. In short, goats offer food security to herding communities.
Feeding, handling, and housing
The system of feeding goats depends on the seasons. The dominant goat rearing highland regions keep the ruminants away from their farms during the rainy season because they are all covered with crops. They include mixed farmers from Menz, Horro, and Doyogena areas. They tether the animals in small plots and feed them with green fodder obtained from the farms.
During the dry seasons, the animals are left to graze freely on the fields and browse the residue of the crops. The herders also graze the animals in the lowlands where no cultivation takes place especially when it becomes scorched. The goats also feed on the shrubs and bushes.
Pastoral communities such as those located in the Shinelle and Yabello regions have a different system of feeding their animals which is determined by the availability of water and pasture. They move around with their animals in search of adequate pastures.
Open-top fences or barns are used to house the animals during the dry seasons. A majority of the herders use tree branches to fence because they are a cheaper alternative. When it is wet and rainy, they resort to roofed barns and sheds. This not only shields the goats from unfriendly weather conditions but also predators and thieves. Herders seek veterinary services to control pests and parasites, improve yields and avoid losses that could be a result of diseases.
There so many breeds of goats domesticated in Ethiopia. A majority of them are indigenous breeds.
They include Nubian, Woyto-Guji, Arsi-Bale, Central Highland, Afar, Keffa, Barka, Worre, Abergelle, Short-eared Somali and the Long-eared Somali.
The primary sources of Ethiopia goats are the pastoralists’ districts of Yabello and Shinelle. Yabello is famous for supplying goats purposely for meat while Shinelle provides live goats for export.
The demand in the export markets tends to be influenced by certain factors including religious occasions such as Ramadhan. During the Arefa season, export demand for live goats in Saudi Arabia increases due to the sacrifices conducted at the Haj ceremony.
Export of live goats is conducted either by airlifting or through the sea. The only limitation that comes with the use of air is the costs that are relatively high.
Therefore, the mode of transport differs from one client to the other. Ethiopia goats are sourced directly from the producers or pastoralists, and no middlemen are involved. It helps to come up with fair and competitive prices for the export markets because there are no added fees imposed in the course of obtaining the animals, especially by the intermediaries.
Ethiopia goats; either live goats, food or non-food products are of the highest quality. Close attention is paid during rearing of the goats, and when they are ready for sale or export, they are appropriately inspected to make sure they are healthy and meet all certifications.
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