Last update: April 3, 2012 08:15:56 AM E-mail Print


Angora Goat Deaths




DURING May 1977 most inclement weather conditions were experienced in the Karoo. Angora goat farmers, particularly, suffered heavy losses as the result of their goats perishing in the cold and drowning. At the request of the Mohair Growers' Association and the farmers, Agricultural Technical Services investigated the matter. Questionnaires were sent to 39 farmers who lost 50 or more goats as the result of the inclement weather.

In view of the fact that circumstances on the different farms were very dissimilar, there were a lot of different possible reasons for the deaths, and definite conclusions could not always be arrived at. Resultant on this, in some cases there were conflicting statements on the deaths. Nevertheless, the investigation showed that the biggest losses could be ascribed to management aspects.

The rainfall over the Angora goat area where the losses took place was so high throughout that difference in rainfall had no influence on variation in the Angora goat deaths. The high rainfall, accompanied by snow in some places, resulted in large numbers of goats being drowned. In some cases fallen trees covered goats after the branches had broken as a result of the snow. Such deaths therefore cannot be ascribed to having perished from the cold only. Of the total number of deaths covered by the investigation (9936) 691 were drowned and 65 were covered by snow, while apparently 9 180 died from the cold. Available data has indicated losses up to and with 20 weeks growth of hair. Losses due to death from cold only appeared up to and with 17 weeks hair growth.


Veld Types

The biggest percentage of deaths occurred in the thickly grown bushveld, and to a lesser degree in the more open bush and scrub veld. This is actually in conflict with expectation, as the thickly grown bushveld should offer more shelter. When the deaths in the heavily bushed veld are analysed, it was found that the highest percentage of deaths occurred in the hills, and to a lesser degree in mountain country. This demonstrates that the shelter provided in the hills and higher lying areas is not sufficient to protect the goats against the cold conditions. In contrast to this, the greatest percentage of deaths took place in the thinly covered bush and shrub veld in the flats.

These deaths, however, cannot only be ascribed to veld type, but in a much greater measure to the length of hair.


Length of hair

The high rate of deaths in the thickly bushed shrub veld can be ascribed to short hair length (1 to 2 weeks' growth). Where a higher death rate occurred in the other veld types with longer hair growth (8 weeks and more), these deaths can be put as being among kids and young goats.

Hilly country does not offer much shelter for goats with short hair. It would appear that most farmers in the Karoo and thinly covered bush and scrub veld did not leave their goats out in the open. Accordingly, the shorthaired goat deaths occurred mainly in the thick bush and noorsveld. Either the farmers could not get to their goats, or were satisfied that they had enough shelter.

Adult goat deaths showed a marked decline as the growth of hair increased. This shows that good hair covering gives protection to the adult goat to a great extent. In the case of young goats, especially kids, it was found that they have less resistance to the cold, even when the hair is long and although they are in good condition. As far as adult goats were concerned, it was established that goats in good condition offer better resistance to the cold. Generally, very few young goats and kids with short hair were subjected to the cold.

From the above it would appear therefore as if farmers accepted that adult goats with short hair and good shelter, and kids with long hair and good shelter were adequately protected against the cold; It is recommended therefore that adult goats with short hair and all young goats and kids (irrespective of length of hair) must have high priority in shedding during extremely cold conditions.



Most of the deaths in sheds can be ascribed to one of the following causes: The goats were exposed for too long before they came into the sheds, or the sheds did not provide adequate shelter. Only a few cases of trampling occurred, which were most probably the result of overcrowded sheds.

The sudden cold and inclement weather probably took the farmers by surprise. Although there were enough sheds to accommodate 45 385 of the total of 53 703 goats, only 8747 goats were actually brought in. In the sheds themselves only 232 died, of which 151 perished from cold and 81 were trampled. Of the 232 that died in sheds, 205 belonged to one farmer. In this case the sheds were of inadequate quality.

It would appear from the information given that the "Loss Group" did not always have strategically placed sheds available. The situation of the shed in the veld thus appears to be one of the most important factors in management planning. It must also be recognised that not only the goats, but also the farmer, should be able to reach such a shed in good time during inclement weather.


Shearing Methods

Available information was insufficient to arrive at any conclusions in regard to losses suffered in hand shorn or machine-shorn goats. Among the farmers that had losses, two had made use of machine shearing, but the hair on these goats was relatively long (12 to 16 weeks). As against this, there were severe losses among hand-shorn goats, the hair of which was short.



Although there were less deaths among the goats that had been dipped shortly before the cold weather than among the goats that had not been dipped, these deaths must be regarded in the light of the relatively shorter hair on the goats that had not been dipped.



Wind direction did not make any worthwhile difference where deaths resulted. Change in the direction of the wind led to the highest percentage of deaths, namely, 36,9% of the exposed goats. To obtain a better picture of the percentage of deaths, and the number of animals from which the deaths came, Table 1 is included. This gives the picture of the number of animals on the farm as against the hair length, as well as the percentage that died in each hair length group of that number.





Angora goat and mohair journal 20 (1)