Origin of domestic goat
There are conflicting opinions about the origins of the domestic goat (Capra hircus). Many scholars believe that it was domesticated in the area today between Iran, Syria and Palestine around 8,000 BC. (Mesolithic).
The goats of West Asia, Africa and Europe seem to derive from the belegar or gozo of the bezoar (Capra aegagrus), while the Himalayan goats probably derive from the markor or goat of Falconer (Capra falconeri). Around the seventh millennium BC, the goat, following human migration, appeared in the east to the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, in the west to the Atlantic and across Africa. Already in this period it was found in Greece, from which it then entered Italy and Europe.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus, Olympian god, was allegedly suckled by the goat Amaltea when his mother Rhea took him away from his father Cronus who wanted to devour him. Out of gratitude
Zeus conceded that a horn lost by Amalthea would be filled with fruits thus becoming the "cornucopia", that is, the horn of abundance.
Initially it was used only for the production of milk and for meat later also for wool.
In Italy goat breeding saw its dark period in the 1930s when law 1080 of 3 July 1930 was issued which imposed a tax on this species; goat breeding therefore enters a crisis and the number of goat farms decreases more and more, until the early 1980s when the law was changed. Since then, her breeding has seen moderate growth: the Maltese breed is more widespread in the south of Italy, while the Saanen prevails in the north.
In choosing the breed to breed, the purpose for which we breed a goat must be taken into consideration: for milk, for wool, for meat, for reproduction, secondarily the geographical position of the farm, and finally the economic availability.
Goat feeding is mainly grazing, which is preferred by itself as it has a variety of foods to choose from, but lately breeding in the stable state is spreading. The goat tends to select the foods it has at its disposal: during the grazing hours it first grazes the most palatable plants and then the others; therefore also in the stable tends to make this selection. Goats show more interest in herbs or plants with large leaf surfaces. It is very important to study the digestibility of food so as not to run the risk of any pathologies affecting the rumen system such as meteorism or other problems due to the ingestion of certain foods. Very important is therefore the hay containing fiber which facilitates the rumination process; as far as concentrates are concerned, they should be administered in moderate quantities as they slow down the rumination process. Still excessively watery grass with low fiber content and high sugar content causes an alteration of the optimal state of the rumen, negatively affecting the level of digestion. During the course of gestation goats do not require particular energy supplies, only after the 4th month of gestation does the live weight of the goat increase. Goats still need a fair amount of minerals and vitamins mostly in the farm. During dry periods when good fodder is distributed, while concentrates can also be avoided; as the quality of the fodder deteriorates, the selective action increases and, consequently, the rejection rate. On the other hand, as regards the quantity of concentrate to be distributed, it depends on the breeding system and the production potential of the animals; concentrates are the most effective means of balancing the energy, protein, mineral and vitamin deficit due to basic nutrition. Still interesting is the use of unifeed, that is, a mixture already prepared in powder or in the form of pellets inside which all the nutritional requirements for goats are present; the use of unifeed entails less food waste, the possibility of using unpalatable foods in the mixture, a saving of time in the distribution and a better harmonization of the taste of the food.
Feeding goat kids
The feeding of the goats is very important, initially this is done by taking colostrum which is of primary importance; starting from the 20th day, solid food is obviously added to the sucking of milk, obviously in small quantities just to start the rumen; from the 20th day, moreover in intensive breeding the sucking of milk takes place by means of some buckets equipped with bottles suitable for the purpose, but be careful because early weaning still compromises the weight of the goats therefore, where possible, diet feeding is recommended from the mother. Weaning is nothing more than the total transition from milk-based feeding to solid feeding; it can represent a critical phase for young kids if this does not happen at least at 120 days (in intensive breeding it happens much earlier) as they can lose weight because they are not completely adapted to solid feeding; in any case during weaning it is good to increase the quantity of concentrates 500 grams per garment. As far as the feeding of the beaks is concerned, it does not present particularities except in the mating phase when the quantity of concentrates for energy needs must be increased. The physiological state of the goat tends to vary according to the phase it is going through: gestation, lactation, dry.
Milking can take place either manually or usually this happens in small farms or mechanically by means of the trolley milking machine or even the stable milking machine for large farms. The transformation of the milk takes place immediately which follows an organizational path that starts from the refrigeration, collection and preparation of the milk, then passes through the coagulation, the purging and the conditioning of the curd, the salting and the sale of the cheeses.
The determining condition for each breeder is that of having a healthy flock; this does not mean absence of any pathology, but it means having a flock where the "pathological constants" of the farm are controlled and treated in various ways and consequently the pathological level is low enough not to compromise the economic results of the farm.
Goats, like all animals, are subject to numerous pathologies; the probability of contracting a given disease is greater in the most selected subjects where there may in fact be cases of high consanguinity.
There are many diseases and parasites that affect goats: external parasites (lice and ticks), internal ones, abortions caused by chlamydiosis and poor nutrition, salmonellosis, enterotoxaemia. Another common problem is mastitis where the origins can be multiple (trauma to the breasts, poor hygiene of the litter box, failure to milk the milk). Yet another pathology deemed dangerous, of which there is still no vaccine is arthritis-encephalitis goat virus that mainly affects dairy breeds. But the most feared breast disease in goat breeding is contagious agalactia, a pathology frequent in the spring during the lactation course and highly pathogenic. Pneumonia is also frequent. Among the most common and most dangerous infectious diseases not only for the goat but also for humans we have brucellosis and tuberculosis. Finally, since it is a ruminant, cases of meteorism may occur affecting the ruminal system by blocking the rumination process due to or an excessive administration of concentrates or other food factors, for the goat it presents swelling in the left part of the abdomen, in these cases it is recommended to contact your veterinarian, and while waiting you can intervene by lifting the goat from the front legs and massaging the throat, in the most extreme cases, diluted water with sodium bicarbonate is administered. When goats live in close contact with poultry they risk the infection of coccidiosis; and again Clostridiosis if a high percentage of concentrate is administered.
The number of chromosomes present in all goat species is 60. In Italy the genealogical books are kept for eight breeds: Maltese, Saanen, Camosciata delle Alpi, Girgentana, Garganica, Sarda Orobica and Jonica; in the registered farms a real selection is practiced to improve the quality of the breed. Artificial insemination is very widespread and allows a more accurate selection with respect to sexual fertilization, as we can have children of the same beak in different environments, therefore in genetic improvement a very important task is that of the male who can improve the entire population.
Puberty is that period in which the male or female animal begins to express its productive potential; in fact there are three phases: a prepubertal, when the kids begin to have the first sexual impulses, a latency period follows and then around 6-7 months here is the pubertal phase and then the post-pubertal phase when the kids are ready for coupling. The ontogenesis of puberty lies in the variations in sensitivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary complex; the twins who are born smaller on average reach puberty later, while the male kid starts to show a genetic instinct around 5 months when he completes spermatogenesis. The goat is considered a species with a seasonal polyestral cycle as it has continuous extraneous cycles only in some months of the year, interspersed with a period of anaestro whose length varies according to latitude and breed. In certain climates, goats are able to reproduce all year round; Nordic or mountain breeds tend to have a reproductive cycle based on the length of the photoperiod.
The breeding season, for these animals, begins when the days begin to shorten, to end in early spring. In our latitudes the first heat usually occurs in the months of June - July. Normally, cyclicity becomes regular from August - September until mid-December. Furthermore, the contact of the goat with its beak can considerably anticipate the estrous cycle.
Gestation lasts 153-155 days; the presence of male fetuses tends to postpone childbirth while the presence of female fetuses anticipates it but can also be anticipated to physical stress, trauma pathologies, sudden thermal variations or particular diets that accelerate the growth of the fetus. During the first three months of gestation the diet remains unchanged, only from the fourth month do food rations begin to increase; the presence of the fetus can be diagnosed at 1 month by means of ultrasound performed on large farms; after three months the presence of the fetus is noted with the naked eye as a protuberance on the right side of the goat is clearly visible while the left one is occupied by the rumen. Finally, 20-30 days before the birth there is an increase in the volume of the breasts appreciable to the touch; in the last week we have instead the loss of whitish, sticky mucus that comes out of the vulva; if this mucus was greenish there could be problems for the fetus; in this case it is better to urgently contact the veterinarian; finally, also in the last week, there is a strong relaxation of the muscles of the pelvic-coccygeal area that lasts until the moment of delivery.
Childbirth is certainly a crucial moment both for the goat that has to expel the kids and for the kids that have to go from intrauterine life to extra-uterine life; childbirth sees three very important phases: labor, dilating phase and expulsion phase; during the first phase the fetus assumes its position to be expelled, the contractions are weak and irregular; the second phase, called dilator, sees the fetus anchored in the placenta which begins to push itself out according to the contractions, these become more regular and strong, and also assisted by voluntary thrusts of the goat; water breaking also occurs in this phase. Finally here is the last phase, the expulsion one. During this phase the animal generally lies down to give greater force to the thrusts; then the kid's front feet appear, the contractions increase until the moment when the fetus is completely expelled; if this happens without any problem it is better not to touch the goat in any way; this phase lasts about 30 minutes maximum; in the case of twin parts, the goat prepares for the second expulsion and so on for the multi-twin parts, the parts are completed within 2 hours. At the time of birth it is important that the kids suck the colostrum; if this does not happen, the kids run serious risks; about 2 hours after the birth the kids are already able to stand up.
Rules relating to goat breeding
All goats in Italy must be registered in the Teramo database; each company must be provided with a certification of origin of the animals present in the company, its register of loading and unloading for goats, company code issued by the competent ASL to which the breeder must go before undertaking the activity. Each goat is loaded onto the register according to the number identified with the ear tags placed in both ears; the number of the ear tags must correspond to the number of the rumen bolus; goats must be subjected to the related biomedical analyzes for the prevention of Brucellosis and Tuberculosis, a matter falling within the ASL; for the movement of a single item from one company to another, certification mod. 4 of the ASL and the relative certification is also required for slaughter; goats can move only and exclusively on authorized means suitable for the purpose.
curated by Angelo Saglimbeni
Group of Alpine common goats on display in the VCO (by Luigi ABrambilla)