Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (2) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

A review of productive and reproductive characteristics of indigenous goats in Ethiopia

T Dereje, U Mengistu1, A Getachew1 and M Yoseph2

Department of Animal Sciences, Debre Berhan University, P.O. Box 445, Debre Berhan, Ethiopia
1 School of Animal and Range Sciences, Haramaya University, P.O. Box 138, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia
2 International Livestock Research Institute, P.O. Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Goat production in Ethiopia contributes significantly to national export earnings and the livelihoods of rural households. In the past, a number of research works were conducted to evaluate and improve the performance of indigenous goats. However, systematically compiled information is not available concerning the level of performance of indigenous goats in the country. In this paper, level of performance for major economic traits of indigenous goats is reviewed and discussed.

It is apparent from the information presented in this review that the performance of indigenous goat breeds of Ethiopia is highly variable between different management systems. Many of the research reports show that age at first kidding and kidding intervals appear to be shorter in the traditional systems while reproductive efficiency in terms of growth rate, carcass yield, milk yield, litter sizes and survival rate are higher under improved management systems. In terms of body weight and growth rate, lowland goats are not better than those in the other agro-ecologies. Though productivity of indigenous goats is generally considered as low, there is high potential among the indigenous Ethiopian goat breeds under improved management systems. They also produce skins suitable for production of high quality leather products.

Keywords: carcass production, growth rate, indigenous goats, meat and skin


Ethiopia, a country of diverse agro-ecology and climatic zones, inhabits the largest goat population in the world, numbering about 24.1 million heads (CSA 2013). They are kept in a wide range of production systems and different agro-climates ranging from hot arid and semiarid areas to the cold humid highlands (FARM-Africa 1996). The results of phenotypic characterization studies confirmed the presence of about 11 goat types in Ethiopia being classified into 4 major groups such as the Somali group, the Nubian group, the Rift valley group and the Small East African group (FARM-Africa 1996). In the study by Tesfaye (2004) using microsatellite marker, eight different goat breeds were identified in the country being distributed in different agro-ecologies, production systems and ethnic groups.

In Ethiopia, almost all goats are produced in mixed crop-livestock and pastoral and agro-pastoral systems. They are managed under extensive traditional systems and produced the lowest compared to other sub-Saharan African countries. Though the purpose of keeping goats vary from area to area due to economic, cultural and ecological factors (Getahun 2008), they are mainly maintained for fulfilling multiple roles, ranging from socio-cultural purposes to providing meat, milk and manure (Workneh 2003). Flock sizes are larger in the lowland mixed crop-livestock and pastoral and agro-pastoral systems (Solomon et al 2010). In the highlands, because of shrinking cultivated areas per household, reduced feed availability and land degradation, goats are kept in a small flock size.

Given their number and contribution, efforts made so far to improve the productivity of indigenous goats were very little as compared to the concerns given to other livestock species such as cattle and sheep. A number of technical, institutional and socio-economic problems have identified for low productivity (Solomon et al 2010). Available reports indicate that carcass weight produced from yearling goat in Ethiopia is only 8.5 kg (FAO 2004; Adane and Girma 2008). A number of researches were conducted in research centres and universities in the past to evaluate and improve the productivity of the indigenous goats. However, the information generated from such research works are not systematically compiled and made available to users. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to review and document the potential of indigenous Ethiopian goats for major economic traits under different management conditions and to pinpoint future research direction.

Levels of performance for major traits

Age at first kidding

The number and availability of breeding males in the flock determines the speed of genetic improvement of the flock (Wilson and Durkin 1988). In the traditional production systems of the tropics, few breeding males are maintained in the flocks for breeding purpose throughout the year. Hence, the average age at first kidding (AFK) for tropical goats is longer and ranges between 12 and 24 months (Devendra and Burns 1983). The average for indigenous African goats is 17 months (Wilson 1989).

Data on average age at first kidding (AFK) for indigenous goats in Ethiopia are summarized in Table 1. The reported AFK of most Ethiopian indigenous goats are between 12 and 14 months. Arsi-Bale goats give their first kids at age of about 12 months in the traditional management system (Tatek et al 2004). The potential of Keffa and Adilo goats to have their first kids at the age of 12.5 months have been documented in a study conducted under traditional system in southern part of Ethiopia (Belete 2007; Getahun 2008). AFK of 15 months is reported for local goats found in central Tigray (Assen and Aklilu 2012) and Dale district (Endashaw 2007). The figures are generally similar with 10-14 months estimated for goats kept under the traditional production system of sub-Saharan Africa (Lebbie and Mazini 1989) but higher than 9 months reported for Sudan Desert and Nguni goats (Wilson 1982).

AFK of about 20.1 months have been reported for local goats in Kochoro district (Tolera 1998) and in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Southern Ethiopia (Adugna and Aster 2007). The figures are higher than those figures reported for other African indigenous goats such as the Red Sokoto goat in Nigeria (14.6 months) and Malawi goats (15.6 months) under village management conditions (Karua 1989). The AFK (28 months) reported for station managed Arsi-Bale goats is exceptionally higher (Dadi et al 2008) when compared to other indigenous goats in Ethiopia. This might be the results of controlled breeding being practiced in the research station, which could possibly delay AFK. However, this figure is still within the range of 21 and 32.8 months recorded for small East African goats and their crosses (Mtenga et al 1994). The present review shows that most indigenous goat breeds of Ethiopia tend to have their first kids before they are two years old. The earliest AFK was recorded in some traditional production systems. This indicates that the existing uncontrolled breeding practice in this system is in favour of early kidding of indigenous goats than the controlled breeding practices in the improved system.

Table 1. Age at first kidding and kidding interval (month) of indigenous goats
Goat types KI AFK Sources
Keffa 7.9 12.5 Belete 2007
Abergelle 7.9 - Jemal 2008
Arsi-Bale 8.1 12.1 Tatek et al 2004; Tsedeke 2007
Goats in Metema 8.4 13.6 Tesfaye 2009
Goat in Alaba 9.1 11.9 Deribe 2009
Arsi-Bale 10.5 28.5 Dadi et al 2008; Mahlet 2008
Central highland 11.5 - Samuel 2005
Abergelle and Bagait 12 - Berhane and Eik 2006
Adilo - 12.9 Getahun 2008
AFK = age at first kidding; KI = kidding interval
Kidding interval

Available evidence shows that indigenous African goats have subsequent births at about every 10 months (Wilson 1989). Average kidding interval (KI) of 8.5 months (Wilson and Durkin 1988) and 12 months (Mtenga et al 1994) have been reported for Small East African goats. The KI for most Ethiopian indigenous goats are between the estimates for Small East African goats (Table 1). A study conducted by Getahun (2008) has revealed the possibility of indigenous Ethiopian goats to have three kidding in two years time. This has been confirmed by Tatek et al (2004), Adugna and Aster (2007), Fikre (2009) and Deribe (2009) who reported 8 months of KI for some indigenous goat breeds in Ethiopia.

In another study, relatively higher intervals (9-12 months) have been reported in the traditional production system (Markos 2000). Similarly, Samuel (2005) and Mahlet (2008) reported 12 months under traditional and on-station management systems, respectively. About 11 and 14 months of KI have been estimated for Abergelle and Begait goats (Berhane and Eik 2006; Sumye et al 2014). On the other hand, lower KI (8 months) has been recorded for Abergelle and other local goats kept under traditional systems in Tigray (Jemal 2008; Assen and Aklilu 2012). Dadi et al (2008) also reported KI of about 10 months for on-station managed Arsi-Bale goats. This is close to 9 months of KI estimated for local goats under traditional system in Oromya Region (Workneh and Rowlands 2004).

Generally, past research reports revealed variations in KI among indigenous goats of Ethiopia. The longer KI reported from some research stations are mainly due to the result of controlled breeding with the objective to achieve the best breeding season and synchronization of birth for research purpose. Shorter KI is also reported from some other research stations where good management systems are in place and breeding males are available in the herd for most period of the year.

Litter size and twining rate

Goat is the most prolific ruminant of all domesticated ruminants in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Litter size (LS) for most indigenous goats of Ethiopia are reported to be between 1.07 and 1.5 (Table 2). Most indigenous goats have twining rate below 20% varying from less than 5% for pastoral goats in arid areas to 36% for goats in the humid areas of the country. The corresponding figures estimated for Arsi-Bale goat are between 18 and 36% (Tatek et al 2004; Tsedeke 2007; Dadi et al 2008). In few cases, twining rates (TR), as high as 41 to 50%, have been reported for local goats in Awassa Zuria (Markos 2000) and in western lowlands of Ethiopia (FARM-Africa 1996).

In the central Ethiopian highlands, LS have been recorded to be 1.21, with twin births accounted for about 17% (FARM-Africa 1996). On the other hand, Dadi et al (2008) reported LS of 1.6 for Arsi-Bale goat kept under station condition. This figure is between 1.52 and 1.7 reported for Djallonke goats in Cote d Ivore (Armbruster and Peters 1993) and WAD goats (Mamabolo and Webb 2005), respectively. The average LS estimated for local goats in Alaba, Southern Ethiopia, is about 1.47 (Deribe 2009). The reported LS (1.07) and TR (2.5%) of Short-eared Somali and Afar goats kept under on-station management system (Kassahun et al 1989; FARM-Africa 1996) are relatively small. It is even lower than 1.28 recorded for Tanzanian goats in semi-arid condition (Ahmadu et al 2002).

The results of previous studies generally show that LS and TR are the most variable traits reported for indigenous goats in Ethiopia. This shows the presence of huge opportunity to improve these traits through selection and improved management focussing on breeds having better potential for the traits. It is also found that LS and TR of Somali and Afar goats are smaller than the values reported for most of the indigenous goats in Ethiopia even under traditional systems. This is consistent with the results of other studies (Cossins and Upton 1987; Dereje et al 2014) and appears to be one mechanism of adaptation to the harsh environmental conditions of the rangelands and to the seasonal scarcity of feed resources.

Mortality rate

Mortality is documented as the main factor adversely affecting goat production in the tropics. Kid losses, as high as 50%, have been recorded in Ethiopia with the highest losses occurring before weaning. The average mortality rate (MR) of most Ethiopian indigenous goats range between 12 to 26% (Table 2). The pre-weaning mortality rate recorded for Somali goats under station management at Hwassa and Haramaya Universities is about 12 % (Girma 1996; Zeleke 2007). This is close to the average mortality rate of 13.3% (Endeshaw 2007) and 14.2% (Belete 2009) but lower than 25.4% (Grum 2010) reported for different indigenous goats in Ethiopia. On the other hand, higher MR (45%) has been reported for Borena goat under traditional management system (Hailu et al., 2006). Generally the figures are closer to those reported for other African goats (Mtenga et al 1994; Ikwuegbu et al 1995; Manjeli et al 1996).

Mortality rate for Afar goat has been estimated to be 26%, which is higher than 22% estimated for their Saanen crosses in Ethiopia (Kassahun et al 1989). Similar rates of mortality have been reported for Keffa goats under on farm management system (Belete 2007). A study carried out around the Mid Rift valley of Ethiopia showed that MR for Arsi-Bale goats are 34.2 and 26.7% before and after weaning, respectively (Girma et al 2011). For the same goat breed under station management condition, 25-31% mortalities have been recorded until pre-weaning (Hailu et al 2006; Mahlet, 2008). According to a study conducted in the central part of Tigray (Assen and Aklilu 2012), average annual MR are 11.4 and 22.8% for goats in the highlands and lowlands, respectively. On the other hand, the figure is higher (26.7%) for Abergelle goat under traditional system in the lowlands (Jemal 2008).

Table 2. Average twining rate, mortality rate and litter size of indigenous goats in Ethiopia
Goat types TR MR LS Sources
Abergelle 1.3 26.7 - FARM-Africa 1996; Jemal 2008
Adilo 1.3 20.4 1.24 Getahun 2008
Afar 1.4 26 1.07 Kassahun et al 1989; FARM-Africa 1996

Short-eared Somali

2.5 11.6 1.04 FARM-Africa 1996; Girma 1996; Zeleke 2007
Central highland 17 - 1.21 FARM-Africa 1996
Arsi-Bale 18 12.2 1.2 Tatek et al 2004; Tsedeke 2007
Arsi-Bale 20.2 25 1.34

FARM-Africa 1996; Hailu et al 2006; Mahlet 2008

Keffa 22 22.6 1.7 Belete 2007; FARM-Africa 1996
Western lowland 41 - - FARM-Africa 1996
LS = litter size; TR = twining rate; MR = mortality rate

Previous research reports showed that MR recorded in the lowland to be relatively higher than that of other agro-ecologies indicating the need for different strategy for different agro-ecologies to halt the high mortality rate existing among indigenous goat breeds. The practice of communal grazing and movement of animals from place to place in the lowlands is probably one reason for relatively high disease and parasite infestation of animals (Tessema et al 2003). Adugna and Aster (2007) noted prolonged dry season and drought to be another causes for higher goat mortality in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas.

Milk production

The majorities of the goat breeds found in the tropics are raised primarily for meat production. However, there are few goats breeds like the Nubian goats in North East Africa and the Indian goat breeds (Jamunapari, Barbari and Beetal) that are known to produce, on average, 4.2 kg milk per day (Devendra and Burns 1983). The lactation length (LL) of most tropical indigenous goats is reported to be short (80-200 days) with lactation milk yield ranging from 24 kg for Afar goats in Ethiopia to 480 kg for Alpine goats in Burundi (Banergee et al 2000).

The milk production potential of Ethiopian indigenous goats has not been adequately studied in the past and most of the studies are done on-station. Results from some of the studies are presented in Table 3. Research results indicated that the daily milk yield (DMY) of indigenous goats range between 0.3 and 0.45 kg (Galal and Getachew 1977). There is also report confirming that DMY of most indigenous goats in their natural habitat is about half a kg (MOA 1999). Somali goats in their early lactation, for example, are described to produce between 0.3 to 0.5 litres of milk per day under grazing condition (Workneh 1997; Mengistu et al 2007). Under concentrate feeding, daily MY of Somali goat is reported to increase by 15% (Mengistu et al 2007). Workneh (1997) and Getenet et al (2000) reported DMY of Somali goats under concentrate supplementation to be in the range of 0.38 and 1 kg. Mid-rift valley goats are reported to have lower LL (35 days) and DMY (0.42 kg) under on-station condition (Tesfaye et al 2000).

The average milk yield estimated for Afar goats are 24 kg per lactation and 0.28 kg per day under station management system (Kassahun et al 1989). A study conducted to evaluate the milk production potential of Abergelle and Bagait goats showed that Begait goats are capable of producing 0.55 kg of milk daily without supplementation but 0.7 kg with supplementation (Berhane and Eik 2006). The corresponding figure recorded for Abergelle goats are 0.37 and 0.54 kg, indicating that the milk production of this goat breed is lower than that of Begait breed. Lemma et al. (2003) estimated the DMY of Borena goats to be 0.37 kg.

A relatively lower DMY (0.29 kg) has been estimated for Arsi-Bale goats under traditional management system in Arsi-Negelle district (Tatek et al 2004). However, the milk yield reported by Mestawet et al (2012) is about 1.13 kg for the same breed kept under improved management condition, which is among the highest DMY recorded for Ethiopian indigenous goats. The authors also reported 0.85 kg DMY for Somali goats. Another study by Mestawet et al (2014) revealed that milk produced from Ethiopian goats (particularly from Arsi-Bale and Somali goats) has higher casein contents compared with that of exotic goats. This indicates the suitability of the milk produced from this goat breed for production of cheese.

Table 3. Daily milk yield (kg) and lactation length (days) of indigenous goats in Ethiopia
Goat types DMY LL Sources
Afar 0.28 - Kassahun et al 1989
Long-eared Somali 0.33 - Degen 2007
Short-eared Somali 0.39 84

Workneh 1997; Mengistu et al 2007

Hararghe highland 0.40 108 Dereje 2011
Arsi-Bale 0.40 -

FARM-Africa 1996; Tatek et al 2004

Mid-rift valley goats 0.42 35 Tesfaye et al 2000
Short-eared Somali 0.45 108 Farm-Africa 1995
Borena 0.45 108 Lemma et al 2003
Abergalle 0.46 62.5 Berhane and Eirk 2006
Begait 0.63 61.5 Berhane and Eirk 2006
Somali 0.84 - Girma1996; Mestawet et al 2012
Arsi-Bale 1.13 - Mestawet et al 2012
DMY = daily milk yield; LL = lactation length

Generally, past research works conducted to evaluate the milk production potential of indigenous goats clearly show that milk production is very low. However, there is a good potential to increase the DMY to about 1 kg through improved management system. A relatively higher DMY is produced from the lowland goats as compared to the highland goats. Therefore, future research should give more emphasis to lowland goats to improve their milk production potential and for dairy goat breed development.

Fertility in male goats

Productivity of goats in the tropics is influenced not only as a result of low fertility of does but also due to fertility problem of male goats. Nonetheless, most of the research works proposed in the past were targeted to improve the fertility of females than males. Except few research work conducted on five goat breeds (Mekasha et al 2008) and on central highland goats (Kaitho et al 1998), little information is available in relation to the level of fertility of male goats in Ethiopia.

It is well established that testicular traits and sperm characteristics are important indicators of the reproductive potential of an animal because of their close association with fertility (Chacon et al 1999). For these traits, wide variation is reported to exist among the five indigenous goat breeds of Ethiopia (Mekasha et al 2008). According to the author, Borena goats have the biggest scrotal circumference whereas Afar goats have the lightest testicular weight. This difference is attributed to the variation in body size or weight of the goat breeds as described by Mekasha et al (2008). In terms of sperm characteristics, lowland bucks (Afar, Borena and Woito-Guji goat breeds) are reported to have more proportion of abnormal sperm cells than highland bucks (Arsi-Bale and central highland goats) (Mekasha et al 2008).

As documented in literature (Pinto et al 2001; Nichi et al 2006; Mekasha et al 2008) the higher proportion of sperm cell abnormalities observed among the lowland goats could be due to the high ambient temperature of the areas, which can possibly affect the scrotal skin temperature of the bucks. Apart from breed effect, the effect of nutrition on scrotal traits, and sperm concentration and motility in indigenous goats of Ethiopia has been documented (Tegegne et al 1994; Kaitho et al 1998; Mekasha et al 2007). The sensitivity of testicular tissue to nutrition has been highlighted by Masters and Fels (1984). The existing serious lack of information with regard to male reproduction traits in Ethiopian indigenous goats should be addressed in future research works. Selection of breeding males should be done, particularly for lowland goats, based on tests for breeding soundness in order to improve reproduction capacity and enhance genetic improvement.

Early body weight and growth rates

Similar to reproductive performance, body weight and growth rate of tropical goats are described to be low when compared with other temperate breeds. Birth weights (BW) of kids from indigenous goats of Ethiopia range between 2.2 and 2.9 kg (Table 4). Birth weight between 3 and 3.5 kg is recorded for Begait and Abergelle goats (Berhane and Eik 2006) and Somali goats (Girma 1996; Zeleke 2007) under improved management conditions. Average weaning weights (WW) of Abergelle and Begait goats at the age of three months are found to be in the range of 9 and 10 kg. Under traditional management system in Sokota district, lower BW (2.3 kg) and WW (7.9 kg) have been recorded for Abergelle and Begait goats, respectively with pre-weaning daily growth rate (PWGR) of 62.6 g/day (Muluken 2006). According to Tesfaye et al (2000), the BW of Borana and Somali kids averaged 2.3 kg. This is similar to BW of kids from central highland goats (Tesfaye et al 2006). Tesfaye et al (2006) also reported that the average WW and pre-PWGR for central highland goats are 6.7 kg and 62.6 g/day, respectively. The PWGR reported by the authors is lower than that reported for other goat types (Tatek et al 2004; Zeleke 2007; Getahun 2008; Mahlet 2008).

For Arsi-Bale goats kept under station management system, average WW between 7 and 8 kg has been recorded (Dadi et al 2008), which is lower than 9.2 kg reported for the same breed (Mahlet 2008). The average PWGR (76 g/day) reported for Begait goat is higher (Birhane and Eirk 2006). On the other hand, a lower growth rate of 45g/day between birth and 150 days has been reported for Afar goat breed under pastoral free ranging condition (DAGRIS 2007). The lower growth rate is probably due to the harsh environmental conditions prevailing in the area. Goats in the mixed production system generally are heavier than goats in pastoral areas, where meat and milk, respectively are given priority by the farmers and pastoralists.

Table 4. Early body weights (kg) and growth rate (g/day) of indigenous goats in Ethiopia
Goat types BW WW PWGR Sources
Adilo 2.2 8.4 69.4 Getahun 2008
Central highland 2.3 6.7 62.6 Tesfaye et al 2006
Arsi-Bale 2.3 8.4 72.2 Tatek et al 2004
Arsi-Bale 2.5 9.2 71.8 Mahlet 2008
Keffa 2.8 9 - Belete 2007
Abergelle 2.9 9.2 39 Birhane and Eirk 2006
Somali 3.1 11.7 68.7 Girma 1996; Zeleke 2007
Bagait 3.4 9.7 76 Birhane and Eirk 2006
BW = birth weight; WW = weaning weight; PWGR = pre weaning growth rate

Response to supplementation

Growth response

The growth response of goat to supplementary feeding is affected by the quality of feed, age, sex and breed. In Central Highland of Ethiopia, goats supplemented with 200 or 400 g/day of Leucaena and Sesbania  to teff straw basal diet had reported gains  between 12 and 32 g/day (Kaitho et al 1998). This is lower than the value reported in other studies. A relatively higher weight gain of 37-44 g/day has been found in a study conducted by Ameha et al (2007) using Long-eared Somali, Central Highland, and Afar goat breeds supplemented with low and high proportion of concentrate. When supplemented with similar but different proportion of concentrate, Rift Valley goats are reported to grow at the rate of 72 g/day (Abule et al 1998). The effect of mixture of 49% noug seed cake and 50% wheat middling supplemented at the rate of 2.5% body weight has also been investigated using castrated and entire Arsi Bale male goats (Tesfaye et al 2008). In the study, average daily body weight gain between 63 and 68 g/day are recorded with no significant benefit of castration on growth rate.

A study by Solomon and Simret (2008) revealed that Somali goats under supplementation with graded levels of peanut cake (75%) and wheat bran (25%) mixture gain in the range of 40 to 45 g/day. Mesfin (2007) noted that feedlot performance of Arsi-Bale goat with 900 g/day concentrate supplementation is not attractive compared with that of goats on grazing. According to the author, Arsi-Bale goats are not suitable for feedlot but may perform better if they are allowed to graze at day and supplemented with concentrate at night. Similarly, Getahun et al (2005) have suggested grazing to be the viable option for Arsi-Bale goats due to negative marginal rate of return from intensive feeding. The high growth rate (100-134 g/day) recorded form grazing-based concentrate feeding experiment supported this conclusion (Mieso et al 2008). According to the authors, supplementing 50% wheat bran, 1% salt, and 49% linseed meal given at 2.5% BW has resulted in greater daily gain by intact male Arsi-Bale goats than supplements with 49% noug cake or formaldehyde-treated noug cake. In a study conducted by Seid et al (2012), the average daily gain observed in Arsi-Bale goats supplemented with either 150, 300 or 450 g/day of concentrate is 16 g lower than that of Boer x Arsi-Bale crossbred goats (20.8 vs 36.6 g).

The growth rate of Abergelle goats supplemented with foliages of indigenous browse tree ranges from 12 to 24 g/day (Bruh 2008). Relatively similar growth rate of 14 to 34 g/day was reported for other local goats supplemented with acacia tortilis to Rhodes grass hay (Abdurazak cited in Bruh 2008). On the other hand, growth rate between 42-65 g/day have been estimated for local goats fed cotton seed meal in Sidama district (Matiwos et al 2008). For Somali goats fed grass hay and supplemented with 200 g/d concentrate mix, daily body weight gain of 36-53 g/day has been recorded (Mengistu et al 2007). The use of Casava leaf meal and brewery dried grain as supplement can support growth rate of 30 g/day (Sahilu et al 2013). On the other hand, Hararghe Highland goats supplemented with khat leftover gained 42-56 g/day under grazing and (33-49 g/day under confinement (Wallie et al 2012). This finding supports the fact that semi-intensive system is more suitable for goat than intensive management system (Getahun et al 2005; Mesfin 2007).

The results generated so far from feeding trials confirmed that the average daily weight gain range between 35 and 72 g/day under supplementation, with most indigenous goats having less than 50 g growth rate. The variation in growth rate could be due to the response of the goat breeds to various feeding systems and partly because of the differences in nutrient concentration and characteristics of the supplements used. With lower growth rate (<50 g/day), most of the goats in the traditional system may not attain the final weight of about 25 kg required by export abattoirs. However, there is much potential for indigenous goats to attain this weight with better feeding and health care (Ameha et al 2007).

Carcass production

The average carcass production potential of indigenous goat in the tropics is about 12 kg with a maximum of 75% total edible portion (Banerjee et al 2000). Carcass weight and dressing percentage (DP) of Small East African goats is reported to increase with increasing concentrate supplement (Hango et al 2007). The DP estimated for most of the indigenous goats in Ethiopia are between 42 and 45% on slaughter body weight basis and 53 and 55% on empty body weight basis. For Sidama goat, higher (51.6%) dressing percentage has been reported (Wondwosen et al 2010). The figures are within the range of 38 to 56% for other goat breeds in the tropics (Hag and Shargi 1996; Dhanda et al 1999a).

Ameha et al (2007) studied the effect of breed and concentrate level on some carcass and non-carcass components of three indigenous goats of Ethiopia namely Long-eared Somali, Afar and Central Highland goats. According to the authors, long-eared Somali goats have heavier slaughter and carcass weights than Afar and central highland goats (Table 5). LES goats are reported to lay more fat than the other breeds. In another study, DP (on empty weight basis) ranging between 44 and 46% have been recorded for Long-ear Somali, Afar, Arsi-Bale and Woyito-Guji goats (Addisu 2002). Lower figures than this have been reported for local goats supplemented with a mixture of Casava leaf meal and brewery dried grains (Sahilu et al 2013). The total edible carcass proportion of 76-79% indicated in this report is closer to 70 to 75% reported for tropical goat breeds (Banergee et al 2000). On the other hand, total edible offals ranging between 50 and 62% (on the basis of total offal weight) have been reported for Hararghe highland goats supplemented with different proportion of hay and concentrate diets (Asnakew and Berhan 2007). When expressed as percentage of slaughter weight, total edible offal ranging between 14 and 17.1% have been reported for different indigenous goat types in Ethiopia (Addisu et al 2002; Solomon and Simret 2008).

Table 5. Slaughter and carcass weights (kg), and dressing percentage (%) of indigenous goats
Goat types Not Supplemented With supplement

Afar 18.6 8.5 45.5 - - - Addisu 2002
Afar 13.8 5.9 43.1 17.9 8.0 44.6

Ameha et al 2007

Arsi-Bale 28.9 12.8 44.2 25.3 10.7 42.3 Mesfin 2007
Arsi-Bale 21.0 9.5 45.4 - - - Addisu 2002
Woyito-Guji 19.4 8.8 45.2 - - - Addisu 2002
Borana - - - 27.3 12.1 44.5

Hailu et al 2005

Long-eared Somali 13.9 5.9 42.9 20.0 8.8 43.7

Ameha et al 2007

Central highland 13.9 5.9 42.5 18.4 7.8 42.5

Ameha et al 2007

Short-eared Somali 16.6 6.9 41.7 24.2 11.7 48.2

Solomon and Simret 2008

Sidama 16.0 5.7 35.8 20.3 8.5 51.6

Wondwosen et al 2010

SW = slaughter weight; HCW = hot carcass weight; DP = dressing percentage

A comparative study conducted between Borena and Arsi-Bale goat under different duration of feedlot management regimes indicated that Borena goats have heavier carcass weight (11-14 kg) and carcass length (73-78 cm) than Arsi-Bale goats (6-8 kg and 65-69 cm) due to their superior growth rate (Hailu et al 2005). On the contrary, Arsi-Bale goats have higher fat percentage than Borana goats fed for 150 days. The authors explained that this difference is an indication that Arsi-Bale goat is early maturing than Borena goat. A study conducted by Getahun and Girma (2008) showed that Somali and Arsi-Bale goats can give higher edible carcass proportion when reared under semi-intensive (63%) than extensive (58%) management systems. The effect of castration on carcass characteristics of Arsi-Bale goats supplemented with concentrate has been investigated (Tesfaye et al 2008). According to the study, both entire and castrated goats have average DP (% slaughter weight) of about 48.5%. A study on feedlot performance of yearling Arsi-Bale (Mesfin 2007) also shows that goats on the range/ grazing have better DP (44%) than those on feedlot (42%).

Meat quality characteristics

With regard to quality characteristics of goat meat, there is little information in Ethiopia except one notable research work conducted by Ameha et al (2007). The study confirms the presence of potential among Ethiopian indigenous goat for production of meat with specific quality characteristics. According to the authors, Ethiopian indigenous goats have less total non-carcass fat with pH ranging between 5.61 and 5.67. Total non-carcass fat is reported to be small in central highland goat but with relatively higher pH. This is attributed to be due to inadequate nutrition before slaughter. Regardless of genotype, the pH of the carcass of indigenous goats is between 5.49 and 5.86 and is considered normal (Arguello et al 2005; Ameha et al 2007).

The content of moisture (67%), protein (20.1%) and ash (1.2%) in meat from Ethiopian indigenous goats is also reported to be optimum and within the range estimated for other goat breeds found elsewhere (Ameha et al 2007). The study further demonstrated the potential of Ethiopian goat breeds to produce high quality meat due to high content of unsaturated (desirable) fatty acids (61-80%) and low content of saturated (undesirable) fatty acids. According to the authors, the meat produced from Ethiopian goats is juicier and has better shelf life.

Skin and leather quality characteristics

In Ethiopia, the causes and extents of skin quality problems occurring before and after slaughter have been to some extent investigated in the past (Akloweg and Workneh 2004; Ahmed 200). Research reports show that there are other biological factors affecting skin and leather quality which include nutrition, genetic, sex, age and live weight (Stosic 1994; Costa et al 1998). In Africa, quality skins are reported to be produced from Red Sokoto breed in Nigeria and Niger and Mubende breed in Uganda (Banerjee et al 2000) and Bati goat in Ethiopia (FARM-Africa 1996).

The skin produced in Ethiopia from central highland goats (e.g. Bati goat) is thicker, highly flexible and with clean inner surfaces, and excellent for producing high quality leather products (Ahmed 2000). However, there is no empirical information on the physical and chemical quality of leathers produced from different indigenous Ethiopian goats except one notable research done by Seid et al (2011). According to the authors, leathers made from skins of local goats (Arsi-Bale) tend to have higher strength, tear resistance and extensibility compared with that of crossbred goats (Boer x Arsi-Bale) despite this difference is insignificant. This indicates the need to consider the skin and leather quality parameters along with other major production traits in any goat improvement programmes to be implemented in Ethiopia in the future.



The authors are grateful to the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (Sida) through Haramaya University for funding this research as part of a PhD study program for the first author.


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Received 16 November 2014; Accepted 4 January 2015; Published 4 February 2015

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