Last update: March 30, 2012 03:32:40 PM E-mail Print

 

Supplementary Feeding of Angora Goats

D. Wentzel - Grootfontein College of Agriculture, Middelburg, C.P.

 


ANGORA goats are kept under extensive farming conditions primarily for the production of mohair. Consequently their feeding will be centred on correct veld management in the first place, in order that nourishment required by the animal can be met by natural grazing as far as possible. Secondly, this aspect must be covered by supplementary feeding of the goats where natural grazing cannot meet the requirements of the animal. In this regard a particularly high degree of management ability is set for the farmer, as no fixed line of approach can be laid down as to how, when and how much supplementary feed must be supplied, mainly as the result of variations in the availability, feeding value and free intake of the natural grazing. Natural grazing is the cheapest source of feed for ruminants, and accordingly the cost of production will necessarily be increased through supplementary feeding. When natural grazing cannot provide for the needs of animals, a compromise between production and the degree of supplementary feed must be found, which is chiefly influenced by economic considerations.

In the light of the foregoing it is apparent that only general lines of approach can be given for the feeding of Angora goats, and that these will change progressively according to factors such as the farmer's specific circumstances on his farm (e.g. type of natural pastures, cultivated pastures available, relationship of the type of animal on the farm and flock composition), the income obtained from products delivered and expenses incurred through supplementary feeding.

The feed requirements of Angora goats will depend largely on the physiological conditions in which the animal is. The feed requirements of fully-grown kapaters will depend, for example, only on the need for maintenance and production, and consequently this is also relatively constant throughout the year. On the other hand, the needs of a dry ewe will be approximately the same as a kapater, but during pregnancy they will increase considerably to a maximum during lactation when they will be about 50% higher than the requirements for maintenance. Young growing kids also have a relatively high feed requirement.

Seen in general, it must be remembered that the Angora goat has reached the stage through breeding and selection where it must be regarded as a very highly productive animal. The degree to which this high potential may develop, will necessarily be determined by the degree in which one succeeds in providing for its feeding requirements.

The value of natural grazing as a source of feed for the Angora goat will depend necessarily on the quantity of material that can be freely consumed by the animal, as well as its quality and digestibility. It is therefore logical that if the digestibility drops too much, the feedstuffs cannot be utilised by the animal, and accordingly it will not be in a physical state to obtain enough to provide its nourishment. On the other hand an intake that is too low (even if the material has high digestibility) can have the effect of not satisfying the nourishment requirements of the animal.

A further important aspect of natural grazing is the possible occurrence of specific shortages that will necessarily lower its value considerably as a source of feed.

In the light of what has been stated it is therefore clear that the feed requirements of a specific animal versus the degree to which the natural grazing provides this, forms the basis of a supplementary feeding programme.

Angora goats graze mainly on shrubs, and in the traditional Angora goat farming areas the diet of these animals consists chiefly of material coming from shrubs and bushes. The total feeding value of this material is relatively high, and although there are seasonal fluctuations, these together with the variation in the production of edible vegetation are considerably smaller than, for example, in the case of grassveld. This relatively favourable situation, with effective grazing management, results in the natural grazing normally being able to provide nourishment for animals such as kapaters. Supplementary feeding of kapaters will only be worthwhile in exceptional circumstances, such as during droughts, or for finishing in meat production.

In the case of animals with higher feeding requirements, such as pregnant or lactating ewes and growing kids, however, this does not often apply. The periods when these animals have greater nourishment needs, often occur together with low points in the feeding value and production in the veld, and the animal is physically not in condition to consume the required quantity of this plant material. Should optimal production and reproduction be required from these animals, it is apparent that the necessary additions must be made to what the natural grazing can supply. These supplements must take place in such a manner that they do not displace the consumption of the natural grazing, but just fill the shortage. If the necessary supplementation is not made, lower production and reproduction necessarily follows, as is often the case in practice.

According to the foregoing it is clear that supplementation for Angora goats is confined mainly to ewes and growing kids.

Although information on the feed requirements of these animals and the degree in which natural grazing supplies this, is relatively limited, there is at least sufficient proof that the most important deficiency experienced by ewes and growing animals is that of energy. It is also not surprising that the greatest problems in the Angora goat industry can be traced to origins in feeding, or rather an energy deficiency. Occasional examples of this deficiency are low conception figures, high rates of abortion, high perinatal losses, poor milk production in lactating ewes, poor growth in small kids and young goats, and high losses during unfavourable weather conditions. The actual elimination of these problems on farms through the supply of the necessary energy supplementation, is sufficient proof that optimal production and reproduction in the Angora goat is possible in practice through the correction of a single deficiency.

 

With regard to supplementary feeding of the reproducing ewe, the following aspects are of importance.

Mating Time: The natural time for mating Angora goats (autumn) coincides with the time of the year when natural grazing is very good, and which normally will satisfy the feeding needs of the "dry" ewe. Although there is no real energy deficiency at this time, there is sufficient proof that the practice of stimulating feeding can raise conception figures and the eventual kidding percentage considerably. It is obvious that the effect of stimulating feed will increase with a decline in the state of the natural grazing. The considerable increase in kidding percentages to as much as 50% that has already been achieved through stimulating feeding, surely serves to indicate that its application has merit. In the case of young two-tooth ewes mated for the first time, the effect of stimulating feeding will be more dramatic as far as reproduction is concerned, and in this case, at least, should always be applied.

When stimulant feeds are supplied, it must be given two weeks before the mating season commences, and maintained for at least three weeks during the mating season. After this, the level of supplementation must be reduced gradually until it is discontinued. In this respect it is also important to note that stimulating feeding is more effective when a high level of supplementation is provided for a relatively short period of time as opposed to a low supplementation level over a relatively long period.

 

Pregnancy: During the first two months of pregnancy the nutritional requirements of the ewe are still relatively low, and the natural grazing should normally be sufficient. From this stage the needs of the ewe will increase gradually. However, what is more important is that the energy supplementation during unfavourable climatic or weather conditions is essential.

Such circumstances cause the animals to seek shelter, and therefore do not graze, which resultantly causes an indirect energy deficiency, and this in turn results in abortions.

During the last six weeks of pregnancy the nutritional requirements of the ewe are increased considerably, and energy supplementation must be increased in view of this. It is also important that the ewe should not be moved to another type of grazing during this time (e.g. to cultivated pastures or lucerne lands). When such movement takes place the ewe must first adapt to the altered diet, and the temporary deficiency created by this can lead to numbers of abortions. If possible, such a movement should rather take place at kidding time.

 

Lactation: As mentioned earlier, the feeding requirements of the goat ewe in lactation are higher than at any other time during the reproduction cycle. Should these requirements not be satisfied, milk production, and consequently the growth of the kid, will be adversely influenced. Although sufficient energy supplementation can normally give the desired results on natural grazing, it may be necessary during droughts, and in the case of ewes having twins, to give a limited protein supplementation as well.

Ewes with small kids are often kept on lucerne lands or fed green feed in order to provide for the ewe's exceptionally high nutritional needs. Although this practice gives relatively good results, it must be kept in mind that green feed contains between 70% and 80% of moisture, which means that if the ewes consume 5 kg of green fodder, they have only about 1 kg of dry material available for digestion. Therefore ewes are often not in good enough physical condition to consume sufficient quantities of green feed, and will only give the desired results when they get the necessary energy supplement.

Under these circumstances coccidiosis can also be a big problem among small kids. This can be effectively prevented or controlled through the inclusion of coccidio-static remedies in the supplementation for ewes, which is also available to the kids. Remedies such as Romensin and Bovatec are very effective for this purpose.

 

Growth Rate: The problem of unsatisfactory growth in newly weaned and young kids on natural grazing is usually also due to an energy deficiency. The dramatic improvement in growth rate in these kids when supplemented, shows the necessity for an effective supplementary feeding programme for growing animals. The results that can be obtained through this are apparent from an experiment where 12 months old kids with an average mass of 18 kg received supplementary feed for six months until 18 months of age. At this latter age their average mass was 40 kg, which is appreciably higher than the minimum mass that is necessary for reproduction at the age of two-tooth. The average hair production over this six months period was 3 kg, which is also considerably higher than is normally obtained on natural veld without supplementation. In this respect it is of especial importance to note that the cost input incurred in the supplementation of small and young kids, is ,partially recovered through increased hair production. Further, the necessary supplementary feed will ensure that animals will develop to their full potential, and will produce and reproduce more effectively for the rest of their productive lives.

 

From the foregoing discussions it is clear that supplementary feeding of Angora goats has the object primarily of securing increased reproduction and better growth in young animals.

The latter will in turn also be beneficial for increased reproduction. The importance of this aspect in the Angora goat industry cannot be stressed too much, as the great demand for fine hair can be partly met through the reduction of age in the flocks, for which a high reproduction rate is indispensable. Lastly, it must be stressed that supplementary feeding must never be regarded as a means of keeping more animals per unit of area, but only as a practice for obtaining optimal production and reproduction from the Angora goat under extensive conditions.

 

Published

Angora goat and mohair journal 24 (2)