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As our rainfall gets less and more erratic, more of our rural farmers will turn to goats and sheep, which are currently farmed successfully by commercial and communal farmers in the driest of areas. We can make small-stock farming even more resilient by keeping smaller herds (we’ll switch to fish and veggies for our base diet) and by planting desert adapted fodder such as salt bush and cacti to help the herd over the very dry months.

Photo by Tiana: https://www.pexels.com/photo/herd-of-goat-on-grass-field-914300/

Keeping goats

Keeping goats on a farm in arid Southern Africa can be a great idea because goats are well-adapted to such environments. Here’s a simple guide on how to care for goats in this region and what to feed them:

1. Shelter and Space:

  • Provide a sturdy and shaded shelter for the goats to protect them from the scorching sun and occasional rain.
  • Make sure the shelter is well-ventilated to keep the goats comfortable.
  • Allow enough space for the goats to move around and graze freely.

2. Water Supply:

  • Access to water is crucial, especially in arid regions. Ensure a constant supply of clean and fresh water for the goats.
  • You may need to use water-saving methods like rainwater harvesting or boreholes to ensure a sufficient water source during dry spells.

3. Grazing and Foraging:

  • Goats are natural foragers and can find food in arid regions. Allow them to graze freely on shrubs, bushes, and grasses available in your area.
  • Make sure the grazing area is free from toxic plants that could harm the goats.

4. Supplemental Feeding:

  • During the dry season or when the natural grazing is limited, provide supplemental feeding to keep the goats healthy.
  • Feed them nutritious options like alfalfa hay, lucerne, or drought-resistant fodder crops.

5. Minerals and Salt:

  • Goats need minerals and salt to maintain their health. Provide a mineral block or a mineral mix specifically formulated for goats.
  • Salt licks are essential to meet their salt needs.

6. Veterinary Care:

  • Regularly check the goats for signs of illness or parasites. Seek advice from a local veterinarian if you notice any health issues.
  • Make sure they receive necessary vaccinations and deworming treatments to keep them healthy.

7. Social Interaction:

  • Goats are social animals and enjoy the company of other goats. Keep more than one goat together to prevent loneliness.

8. Protecting from Predators:

  • Protect the goats from predators like wild dogs, hyenas, and leopards. Use fences or guard dogs to keep them safe.

9. Breeding and Reproduction:

  • If you plan to breed goats, learn about their breeding cycle and how to take care of pregnant and nursing females.

Remember, goats are hardy animals and can thrive in arid environments when provided with proper care, food, and water. They can be valuable farm animals, providing milk, meat, and other products while contributing to a sustainable farming system in Southern Africa. Enjoy taking care of your goats and learning more about these fascinating creatures!

Benefits of goats

Keeping goats can be highly beneficial for various purposes. Here are some of the main benefits of keeping goats and the ways in which they can be used:

  1. Milk Production:
    • Goats are excellent milk producers, and their milk is nutritious and easier to digest than cow’s milk for some people.
    • Goat milk can be consumed directly or used to make various dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and butter.
  2. Meat Production:
    • Goat meat, also known as chevon or mutton, is a popular and lean source of protein in many cultures.
    • Raising goats for meat can provide a sustainable and relatively low-cost protein source for households.
  3. Fiber Production:
    • Some goat breeds, like Angora and Cashmere goats, produce high-quality fiber used to make luxurious wool, mohair, and cashmere products.
  4. Land Management:
    • Goats are natural browsers, meaning they eat a wide variety of plants, including weeds and brush.
    • By grazing on weeds and shrubs, goats can help control vegetation and reduce the need for chemical herbicides.
  5. Fertilizer Production:
    • Goat manure is a valuable source of organic fertilizer that can be used to improve soil fertility and enhance crop growth.
  6. Companionship and Therapy:
    • Goats can be friendly and affectionate animals, making them suitable companions for people.
    • In some cases, goat therapy is used as part of animal-assisted therapy to help people with physical, emotional, or developmental challenges.
  7. Weed Control:
    • In areas with invasive plant species or overgrown vegetation, goats can be employed to control and manage weeds effectively.
  8. Income Generation:
    • Selling surplus milk, meat, fiber, or goat kids can provide an additional source of income for smallholders or farmers.
  9. Educational Purposes:
    • Keeping goats can be an educational and interactive experience, especially for children who can learn about animal husbandry and farming practices.
  10. Sustainable Farming:
  • Goats are well-suited for small-scale and sustainable farming systems, as they can thrive on less land and eat a diverse range of vegetation.

Overall, goats are versatile and resilient animals that can contribute to food security, income generation, and sustainable land management practices in various regions around the world. However, it’s essential to provide proper care and husbandry to ensure their health and well-being while maximizing their benefits.

Goat breeds

In Southern Africa, various goat breeds are well-suited to the region’s climate and environmental conditions. The choice of the best goat breed depends on the specific needs and preferences of the farmers, as well as the intended purpose of keeping goats (e.g., milk, meat, fiber). Here are some goat breeds commonly found in Southern Africa that are known for their adaptability and productivity:

  1. Boer Goat: Originally from South Africa, the Boer goat is one of the most popular meat goat breeds worldwide. They have excellent growth rates, high fertility, and good carcass quality, making them ideal for meat production.
  2. Savanna Goat: This breed, developed in South Africa, is well-adapted to arid regions and is known for its resistance to diseases. It is a dual-purpose breed, valued for both meat and milk production.
  3. Damara Goat: Indigenous to Namibia, Damara goats are well-suited to hot and dry climates. They are hardy animals with strong resistance to diseases and pests, making them suitable for extensive grazing systems.
  4. Boergoat Crossbreeds: Many farmers in Southern Africa cross local indigenous goats with Boer goats to improve meat production and growth rates while maintaining some of the indigenous breeds’ hardiness.
  5. Nguni Goat: Originally from South Africa, the Nguni goat is well-adapted to harsh conditions and is known for its resistance to diseases. It is raised for both meat and milk production.
  6. Small East African Goat (SEA Goat): This breed is common in East and Southern Africa, including Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. It is a hardy breed, well-adapted to challenging environments.
  7. Toggenburg Goat: While not originally from Southern Africa, Toggenburg goats can thrive in cooler, mountainous regions of the region. They are known for their high milk production and are used for dairy purposes.
  8. Saanen Goat: Similar to Toggenburg goats, Saanen goats are suited to cooler regions and are popular for their high milk production and dairy qualities.

Remember that while certain breeds are more prevalent in specific regions, successful goat farming also depends on proper management, nutrition, and veterinary care. Choosing a breed that fits your farming objectives and matches the environmental conditions of your farm will greatly contribute to the success of your goat enterprise in Southern Africa. It’s essential to work with local agricultural experts and learn from experienced goat farmers in your area to make informed decisions about breed selection and husbandry practices.

Mob grazing to enhance soil

Using mob grazing with herding or mobile electric fences for goats is a great way to manage their grazing while promoting soil health and pasture regeneration. Mob grazing involves high animal density in a small area for a short period, followed by giving the area a long rest. Here’s how you can implement mob grazing with herding or mobile electric fences for goats:

1. Understand the Concept:

  • Mob grazing aims to mimic the natural movement of large herds of herbivores. This process benefits the soil, plants, and animals by promoting better forage utilization, soil aeration, and nutrient cycling.

2. Herding and Enclosure Setup:

  • Use trained herding dogs or humans to move the goats as a group to a new grazing area regularly.
  • Divide your pasture into smaller paddocks using temporary electric fences. These fences can be easily moved to create fresh grazing areas.

3. Determine Grazing Periods:

  • The length of time goats stay in each paddock depends on the size of your herd, the size of the paddock, and the growth rate of the forage.
  • Aim for a high stocking density (many goats in a small area) for a short period, typically a few hours to a day.

4. Monitor and Rotate:

  • Observe the goats and their grazing behavior. Move them to the next paddock before they have fully consumed the forage in the current one, leaving some residual plant material behind.
  • After the goats have grazed a paddock, let the area rest and recover for a considerable period. This rest period allows plants to regrow and build their root systems.

5. Fertility and Manure Management:

  • The high stocking density of mob grazing results in concentrated manure deposits. This can be beneficial for soil fertility, but it’s essential to rotate the goats to prevent over-fertilization in certain areas.
  • Manually spread or harrow the manure after grazing to ensure even distribution and avoid potential nutrient imbalances.

6. Adjust and Learn:

  • Mob grazing is a dynamic process, and you might need to adjust your approach based on the condition of the pasture, the weather, and the health of your goats.
  • Continuously monitor the pasture’s condition, soil health, and the goats’ well-being to improve your mob grazing strategy over time.

7. Benefits of Mob Grazing:

  • Improved pasture quality and diversity.
  • Enhanced soil health, including increased organic matter and water retention.
  • Reduced weed pressure as goats graze more selectively.
  • Better utilization of forage, leading to potential cost savings on supplemental feed.

Remember, successful mob grazing with herding or mobile electric fences for goats requires proper planning and attention to the needs of your goats and the land. By implementing this sustainable grazing practice, you can create a healthier and more productive environment for your goats and improve the overall health of your farm’s pasture and soil.

Planting feed

In times of drought in Southern Africa, it’s crucial to provide goats with nutritious and drought-resistant plants to supplement their diet. Here are some plants that can enhance the diet for goats during dry periods:

  1. Drought-Resistant Grasses:

    • Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris): This is a highly drought-tolerant and nutritious grass that goats find palatable.
    • Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana): Another excellent drought-resistant grass that provides good forage for goats.
  2. Legumes:

    • Lablab (Lablab purpureus): Also known as lablab bean or hyacinth bean, this legume is drought-tolerant and rich in protein, making it an ideal supplement for goats’ diet.
    • Cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata): These are drought-resistant legumes that provide a good source of protein for goats.
  3. Shrubs and Trees:

    • Leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala): A nitrogen-fixing shrub that can provide valuable forage for goats during dry spells.
    • Acacia species: Some Acacia species, like Acacia nilotica or Acacia karroo, are drought-resistant and can be used as browse for goats.
  4. Cactus and Succulents:

    • Opuntia (Prickly pear cactus): This succulent plant can thrive in arid conditions and can be a valuable source of water and nutrients for goats.
    • Aloe species: Some Aloe species can survive in dry conditions and offer supplemental nutrition for goats.
  5. Saltbush (Atriplex species):

    • Saltbushes are drought-tolerant plants that can provide goats with essential minerals during dry periods.
  6. Fodder Crops:

    • Sorghum and millet: These drought-resistant cereal crops can be grown as fodder for goats during times of scarcity.
    • Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum): Another drought-tolerant cereal crop that goats find palatable.
  7. Reseeding Annuals:

    • Consider planting quick-growing annuals like cowpeas, lablab, or Sudan grass that can reseed and provide additional forage during the dry season.

Remember to provide access to clean water and proper mineral supplementation along with the forage to maintain the goats’ health. Also, consult with local agricultural experts or extension officers to identify the most suitable and available plants for your specific location and climate in Southern Africa.

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