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Why a new breed is needed

At present none of the types of goat available in Uganda are ideal. Local goats are slow growing and give little milk. The existing milk breeds are adapted to temperate climates; they have only moderate tolerance for high temperatures and have limited resistance to local diseases. A 50% dairy x local crossSimilarly the best meat goat - the Boer goat - does poorly in wet areas and is prone to pneumonia, worms etc. For the ordinary farmer, with limited access to veterinary services and technical support, 50% cross-breeds have been the best option. They are more productive than local goats, and nearly as hardy. However, productivity is well below the improved breeds. For dairy crosses, the the milk yield reduces markedly a few months after delivery.

For this reason we want to develop a new breed which combines the persistent milking character of European dairy breeds with the hardiness of local Ugandan goats. We are focusing on milk because it is economically favoured in much of Uganda. We are not considering a dual purpose breed, because a female that maintains a high body weight will necessarily need higher feed requirements than a thinner goat. However a dual purpose breeding system is feasible.

Milk yield

Most of the milk produced will be for home consumption, which means that there will be no money available for buying feeds, and consequently the goats will largely be fed on green roughage. The result of this is that the diet will support a maximum of 2½ litres of milk a day. So we are not looking for a very big peak production. However, a typical 50% cross peaks at only 1½ litres per day and drops to only ½ litre per day 6 months after delivery. So some improvement in peak yield and a substantial improvement in in the persistence of the lactation is needed. We are looking for around 2½ litres at peak (1 month after delivery) and 1½ litres per day at 6 months. (We do not need to consider much beyond this, because under tropical conditions the does can come on heat at any time of year and the resulting short kidding intervals mean short lactations.)

Factors related to meat production

Goats for meat have a ready market, so farmers will want goats with high fertility and fast-growing kids.

A high incidence of twins and triplets would be desirable, but this is difficult to select for because of low heritability. Something which may be easier to select for is a short kidding interval.

As far as meaty conformation goes, it has been explained above that we cannot simultaneously select for that and for that and for efficiency of milk production (which is critical on a roughage-only diet). What can be readily selected for is fast growth rate. This will mean that if the does are mated to meaty males then the kids will be suitable for rearing for meat.

Disease resistance

It is difficult to select explicitly for disease resistance. But, survival selects for itself, and high productivity and fast growth are good indicators of health. So implicit selection for disease resistance will occur. If an open herd book is maintained, then there will be a steady influx of disease resistance genes over time.

Other factors

The long term breeding will be in the hands of farmers groups, and they will select according to what is important to them. This may include skin quality (for leather), temperament, appearance (colour, large or small horns etc.)

The new breed: what we are selecting for