Last update: September 2, 2011 09:38:23 AM E-mail Print


Angora Goat Losses - Ignorance or Innocence

EM van Tonder 


THERE are good reasons to believe that Angora goat losses sharply increased over the past few years, and that losses on account of abortion, stillbirths and early neonatal deaths have gained prominence. The possibility must be conceded to that this increase in losses might be of an apparent nature. Due to the surging prices of mohair and breeding stock, losses were reported or became known which otherwise would not have been the case. If, however, the other side of the situation is considered, and the nature and extent of the disease problems and accompanying deaths reported and investigated or came to attention in other ways, is closely studied, it can be concluded that direct and indirect losses in Angora goats did indeed claim a higher toll.


Geographical distribution

Although the Angora industry, on account of favourable prospects, has in the past already tended to extend beyond the borders of the natural habitat of the goat, this, during the past few years, attained unpredicted proportions. This extraordinary horizontal extension mainly resulted in three complicating aspects, namely:

In all, it amounts to the fact that in these new areas, there was no real understanding for specific singular aspects attached to Angora goat farming and the vulnerability of the goat in certain respects. Proper and timely nutritional adjustments and provision of sheltering were therefore neglected, particularly during certain critical periods, which inevitably resulted in losses. The same applies to other management aspects such as disease prevention, which generally were inadequate or erroneously applied.



Problems mainly associated with these practices were adaptation problems, temporary energy deficiency as a result of dietary changes, stray kids, acidosis, internal parasites, mainly coccidiosis and gastro-intestinal infections such as colibacillosis. Intensification inevitably requires more frequent handling. During kidding, this causes problems through enstrangement of mother and kid and interference with the formation of a firm mother-kid bond shortly after birth. Inadequate knowledge and precautionary measures.

This situation was not only applicable to newcomers to the trade, but also too many established goat farmers who embarked on the terrain of intensification. Aspects, which were mainly, involved included nutrition, climatic conditions and sheltering.



Nutritional disturbances, either directly caused or brought about by climatic conditions or intensification, constituted the most common cause of Angora goat losses. With regard to the nutritional aspect of Angora goat farming, various contributing factors are concerned:


* Metabolic sensitivity

On account of its genetic background the Angora goat has an extremely sensitive metabolic balance, particularly in respect of its energy metabolism. The slightest nutritional disturbance culminates in a sudden drop in the blood sugar levels, which then manifests in a variety of disease conditions.


* Varying nutritional requirements

The nutritional requirement of the ewe is largely dependent upon its physiological phase. Due to the fact that the pregnant animal is entirely responsible for the nutrition of the unborn kid, her requirements increase considerably. It has been established that a pregnant animal carrying a single foetus, during the final month of pregnancy, requires approximately twice the amount of energy needed for normal maintenance.


* Type of feeding

Here the emphasis should be placed on quality instead of quantity. The daily consumption of usable energy and protein, as measured against the animals' needs, will be the requirement.


* Nutritional adaptation

All ruminants, on account of the constitution of the population of rumen bacteria, are susceptible to sudden dietary changes. For the reasons already mentioned the Angora goat is even more susceptible, especially during pregnancy. Dietary changes are accompanied by reduced feed intake and inefficient digestion, and consequently less available energy, which then causes a drop in the blood-glucose concentration and ultimate abortion in the pregnant goat.


* Temporary interruption of intake

Handling of goats associated with procedures such as shearing, dipping, dosing, vaccination, etc, inevitably requires concentration and kraaling of the animals for a full day or part of a day. This interruption of food intake could be sufficient to induce abortion in heavily pregnant Angora ewes.


Climatic conditions

Unfavourable climatic conditions such as sudden spells of rain, cold weather or wind, constitute an important factor in the cause of losses over the entire range of deaths due to exposure, abortion, stillbirths and starvation. Not only does it cause temporary interruption of feed intake, as the animals are inclined to find shelter or remain standing without feeding, but exposure, especially to cold conditions, results in an increased demand for energy. A vicious circle is therefore formed which usually results in death and abortion.

In the long-term, climatic conditions, notably rain, play an essential part in animal feeding, particularly natural pasture provision. During the past three years ample rains fell over large areas during the summer season, but suddenly stopped at the onset of autumn. The good growth of grass which followed, created the impression with many people that the nutritional requirements of their goats were provided for at least for some time to come. As additional precaution was not taken, or implemented too late, abortions and stillbirths were fairly common features.



Inadequate sheltering also acts in two ways. On the one hand it results in losses due to exposure, or put the other way round, when available, it could afford protection against unfavourable conditions. On the other hand, and then mostly under intensive conditions, the lack of adequate sheltering deprives ewes of the opportunity to isolate themselves at the time of kidding, as they are naturally inclined to do. This results in interference by other ewes shortly after kidding, enstrangement of the ewe and kid and prevention of the formation of a sound maternal relationship with the kid. This in all, prevents the kid from feeding shortly after birth while the inherent suckling reflex is still functional, resulting in starvation and death.


Precautionary methods

In this respect it will suffice to say that counter measures against the causative and predisposing factors are the obvious mode of action, and should be given constant attention and be timeously implemented. This entails adequate provision for the nutritional requirements of the animal especially during pregnancy, erection of suitable sheltering and protection against unfavourable climatic conditions and for isolation of the ewe at kidding, and effective disease prevention programmes, particularly under intensive conditions. 



Angora goat and mohair journal 30 (1)