In this fact sheet: Goat Production & Welfare, Goat Milk, Goat Hair, Disease, Slaughter, References
Goats in the United Kingdom are kept for a number of reasons; they are farmed for their milk, meat, hair (mohair/cashmere) and hide. They may also be used to graze land (1). There are around 88,000 goats in the UK, half of these are adults used for breeding purposes. In England and Wales there are 33,000 milk-producing goats. The domesticated goat ’Capra hircus’ is found throughout the world, of which there are around 770 million (2, 3). In 2010, 11,277 goats were slaughtered in the UK (4). Most goat meat comes from kids, usually males which are surplus to the dairy herd (2)
Goat Production & Welfare
Goats naturally like to browse and cover a wide range for their food/grazing. They prefer to live in social groups and appear to enjoy human contact. Their coats are made from hair and, unlike sheep, which produce an oily secretion (lanolin) into the wool, goats do not have natural waterproofing and therefore like to shelter in the wet weather (1). Goats are very inquisitive, social animals, but unlike sheep are not as flock-orientated (5, 6). Goats in the UK cover a variety of breed types, each with its own unique characteristics. Many breeds require more protection from inclement weather than cattle/sheep, all breeds however require some form of shelter. Goats housing should be dry and well-lit with sufficient ventilation which does not cause draughts and their lying area should be covered (1). Housed goats should have access to a yard/pasture. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs guidelines state that the space allowance when penned should be calculated in relation to the age, size and class of stock. This and the size of the group should be based on appropriate advice (1).
A goat under 6 months of age is known as a ‘kid’, with the act of a female goat giving birth being known as ‘kidding’. Adult female goats are called ‘does’, and the term ‘nanny’ is applied to mother goats with kids. Male goats are referred to as ‘bucks’ and when they are castrated they are known as ‘wethers’ (5). Female kids become sexually mature at around 6 months of age and are usually bred at 18 months. Their gestation period is around 5 months and they produce 1-2 kids each gestation (1, 2). The majority of goats are mated naturally (with one male serving 30-40 females). However, artificial insemination (AI) is becoming more common. The productive life of a dairy/fiber goat is 7 years (2). Goats should be kept in accommodation which is dry underfoot with close attention given to the condition of the foot and, where necessary, regular trimming should be carried out to prevent lameness from overgrowth.
Along with castration (these males are more generally accepted for meat production and also more easily managed), goats may have to endure the mutilations of being disbudded and dehorning. Both of these must be carried out by a veterinary surgeon, disbudding being done at the earliest possible age (2-3 days) but no later than 10 days. Dehorning an adult goat is a very stressful procedure and should be avoided. The codes of recommendations for the welfare of goats permit goats over the age of 6 months to be tethered, as long as it does not cause distress or injury to them but the tethering of kids is not allowed (1).
Sixty percent of goats are kept in small herds for house milk production (7). The main breeds are British Saanen, British Toggenburg, British Alpine and Anglo Nubian. British Saanen goats produce higher milk yields and are most commonly used commercially. Anglo Nubians produce a higher fat content. The average lactation length is around 9 months with average yields of 500 - 1,200 litres (7). Goats can milk through to 24 months but should be supported by adequate nutrition (1).In commercial dairy units, most kids (whether intended for meat or herd replacements) are taken from their mothers after receiving colostrum for 24 hours, then fed on milk replacer. Colostrum is the first milk that goats produce and contains essential antibodies, vitamins and minerals, and cannot be sold as regular milk for human consumption. When kids are artificially reared, they are weaned at around 6-8 weeks of age and should always have access to milk substitutes or be fed at least 2 or 3 times each day. (2). When unwanted kids are to be disposed of (slaughtered) on the farm, this must be done where possible by a person who is experienced in both the technique and the equipment used for slaughter (1).
The choice of milking depends largely on the number of goats kept. Those who keep just a few will probably milk by hand compared to those with large herds, who will use a milking machine. About 75% of British goat milk produced goes for cheese making, much of which is sold through supermarkets and specialist food outlets (7). The practice of zero grazing is becoming more common as it is more convenient for the farmer. Animals are kept permanently confined, with no access to the outside, throughout their lives.
Next> 1 | 2