EFFECT OF AN ORDER OF DOMINANCE ON PRODUCTION AND REPRODUCTION IN ANGORA GOATS

G. Marincowitz 

 

The habits and behaviour of animals has been the subject of numerous studies, but they have largely dealt with their particular and sometimes eccentric behaviour especially during the mating season. Less attention has been paid to their normal conduct and temperament not directly related to sexual activity. This is not confined to a definite season and must of necessity have a greater influence on production and breeding ability.

A feature of behaviour especially apparent among wild animals is the establishment of an order of dominance, which is primarily determined by their relative physical aggressiveness or sexual precedence. An established ranking order may well be an advantageous and stabilising influence among wild animals in so far that serious fighting and disorder are avoided. Among domestic animals an aggressive conduct or attitude is undesirable, and to avoid its consequent injurious results, improved management methods should constantly be applied. Among Angora goats aggressiveness is a general and disquieting feature, nevertheless its harmful effects are apparently not fully realised and the best managerial practices not applied.

At the Agricultural Research Institute, Karoo Region, Middelburg, a group of Angoras with good and poor breeding records has been kept under observation in feedlots and provided with good rations. It soon became obvious that the behaviour peculiar to this particular type of animal could be closely correlated with the productive and reproductive ability of individuals.

 

Table 1 The effect of an order of dominance on production and reproduction in Angora goat does within age groups

Order

Bodyweight

lb.

Clean mohair/annum

lb.

Fineness of hair/u

No.

Oestrous cycles/annum

Does kidded

%

Fecundity

%

1

2

3

4

5

6

74

65

61

57

58

46

7.3

5.9

6.2

5.6

5.1

4.3

39

35

35

34

33

31

(4)

(5)

(5)

(5)

(5)

(6)

5.8

6.0

5.6

4.3

4.2

2.0

67

75

50

83

58

46

117

92

58

83

58

46

 

Angoras are exceptionally aggressive and pugnacious, especially on reaching the age of puberty. Other goats in the vicinity are viciously attacked and butted, till eventually, on acquiring ascendancy, the bullies will occupy the most favoured sleeping spots and strategic positions at the feeding racks.

The subordinate and subdued members are now continually driven or kept away until after many injuries they may become hesitant and afraid to compete at the feed racks. Such animals practically remain underfed and must of necessity expose themselves to inclement weather in spite of the fact that sufficient feed and shelter are available. Careful observation of the competitive ability and aggressiveness of undernourished goats at the feed troughs make it a comparatively simple matter to determine the order of dominance subjectively and to tabulate this with their respective production and breeding performances. Animals lower in the order of dominance are visibly lighter in body-weight and considerable differences between the most aggressive and most subordinate goats can be observed. The underlings produce appreciably less and hunger-fine, dull, weathered-looking hair. Furthermore, over a period of one year, non-pregnant does have shown less or no oestrous cycles when running with teasers. Fewer of these does kidded normally, and had fewer twins, when mated to fertile rams during the following year. The conclusion can be drawn that serious losses can be expected among pregnant does when brought in from the veld and fed in special pens. The subordinate ones will not only be injured, but also kept away from the feeding trough, resulting in under-nourishment, pregnancy toxaemia and abortion.

Experiments recently initiated show that the harmful results of aggressive behaviour can to some extent be avoided by dehorning, a practice generally applied most successfully with cattle. Dehorned goats still compete with each other but fewer are injured or kept away from the feed racks. Preliminary results indicate smaller differences in body-weights and fewer ante- and post-natal losses.

Under veld conditions it can be expected that the effect of aggressiveness or temperament will be less severe. It is well known however that Angora goats show a highly developed herd instinct and will mostly graze and sleep together in appointed places. Competition and the formation of an order of dominance thus still remain a reality under natural conditions.

 

Published

Angora goat and mohair journal 10 (2)

Article source: Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute - http://gadi.agric.za/articles/Agric/order.php