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Fernando Grasso » 12.Goats


Goat farming in Italy

The main aim of goat farming in Italy is the production of milk for conversion into cheese. It is not concentrated in any specific area and depends very much on local demand. However, there are a number of technically advanced farms in central and northern Italy, whereas traditional methods preponderate in the south and in the islands.

Camosciata delle Alpi

Origin and diffusion
The animals are well adapted to the local mountainous environment. It is the most common goat in the Alps.

Morphological and economic characteristics
It presents a large variety of sizes, of morphological characteristics (plain or pied coat, variously coloured white, black or brown; ears with different shape and bearing) and variously productive.

Height at the withers: male: 75-80 cm; female: 65-70 cm
Weight: male: 60-65 kg; female: 50-55 kg

The average milk production is 400-600 kg (fat 3.2 % and protein 2.9 %).
Milk is entirely given to kids or mixed with other kinds of milk to make typical cheese varieties. Meat production comes from kids weighing 10-12 kg alive.

Camosciata delle Alpi goat.

Camosciata delle Alpi goat.


Saanen

Origin and diffusion
It is a white or cream-colored breed, named after the Saanen valley in Switzerland. This breed is considered one of the most heavist, milkers, goats. The Saanen breed is large and big boned but graceful and refined in bone, the ears are erect, and the nose is straight or dished. Both does and bucks usually have beards and horns.

Morphological and economic characteristics
Short fine white coat, but black spots may appear on the skin of ears, nose or udder. Slender head with a dished or straight facial line, ears erect and backline straight. Legs straight and strong.

Height at the withers: male: 94 cm; female: 81 cm
Weight: male: 91 kg; female: 68 kg

The average milk production is 300-550 kg (fat 3.2 % and protein 2.9 %).

Saanen goat.

Saanen goat.


Maltese

Origin and diffusion
This breef originated in the middle-eastern Mediterranean regions. It was selected in Italy and is bred in Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria, Basilicata and Apulia. It is one of the most common breeds in Italy.

Morphological and economic characteristics
The coat is mainly white but possibly black pied. The head has some raven-black spots of different sizes. The hair is usually long and white-rosy skin.

Height at the withers: male: 87 cm; female: 55-60 cm
Weight: male: 70 kg; female: 46 kg

The average milk production is 250-400 kg (fat 4.0 % and protein 3.6 %).

Maltese goat.

Maltese goat.


Ionica

Origin and diffusion
There is no certain news about the origin of this breed which seems to come from local goat cross-breeding with the Maltese breed. It is reared in the Apulia region.

Morphological and economic characteristics
The coat is white, slightly rosy sometimes, possibly spotted with some tawny markingson the head and neck. Horns may be present horns in both sexes.

Height at the withers: male: 78 cm; female: 70 cm
Weight: male: 68 kg; female: 48 kg

The average milk production is 250-400 kg (fat 5.3 % and protein 3.9 %).

Ionica goat.

Ionica goat.


Garganica

Origin and diffusion
An autochthonous Italian breed from the Gargano promontory (Apulia) as a result of a crossbreeding with west European goats. It is reared also in other regions in the South of Italy (Basilicata, Campania, Calabria).

Morphological and economic characteristics
Black shiny coat that may have some reddish shades. Long hair all over the body and black skin. Both sexes have horns.

Height at the withers: male: 85 cm; female: 75 cm
Weight: male: 55 kg; female: 35 kg

The average milk production is 130-200 kg (fat 5.0 % and protein 3.8 %).

Garganica goat.

Garganica goat.


Girgentana

Origin and diffusion
Area of origin: Sicily, South Italy.
The mighty corkscrew-like horns (measuring 50 cm and more) show the connection to its ancestors from the high mountain area of Afghanistan.
This breed is reared in the provinces of Sicily.

Morphological and economic characteristics
The coat is longhaired and white, occasionally brown spotted face. The profile is slightly convex.

Size: medium
Height at the withers: male: 85 cm; female: 80 cm
Weight: male: 65 kg; female: 50 kg

The average milk production is 300-400 kg (fat 4.3 % and protein 3.7 %).

Girgentana goat.

Girgentana goat.


Reproductive characteristics

Main reproductive traits of goat

Polyestral seasonal species
Puberty by 5 to 7 months of age
Beginning of sexual activity: males 15-16 months; females 7-8 months
Length of oestrus cycle: 21 days

  • proestrus 3 days
  • estrus few hours metaestrus 3 days
  • diestrus 15 days

Optimal time for insemination last 18 hours after onset of heat
Optimal buck/goats ratio 1/20 – 1/30
Breeding season from August to December; most of the does are bred in September, October and November and produce offspring in February, March and April
Gestation length 150 days

Reproductive characteristics

Signs of estrus
An understanding of the signs of estrus and close observation is the best way to determine when a doe is in heat.
Signs of heat (estrus) include:

  • swelling and redness of the vulva
  • head butting
  • mucus discharge (may become white toward the end of estrus)
  • tail twitching
  • increased bleating (vocalization)
  • frequent urination

Standing or riding are not seen as heat signs in goats as in cows. The presence of a buck in or at a neighboring pen stimulates does to express signs more obviously.
The introduction of a buck can have the effect of natural synchronization of estrus in does.
Estrus (heat) lasts from 12 to 48 hours, averaging 36 hours. Ovulation occurs 24 to 36 hours after onset of heat.

Estrus is the period when the doe will receive the buck (or the time of Artificial Insemination).
A lactating doe will usually drop in her milk production.

Reproductive characteristics

Artificial Insemination
Artificial Insemination (AI) offers the opportunity for superior genetics to be used on the farm that may not be readily available in a live buck.
Two factors are key to the success of AI. One is proper technique and the second is placing the semen in the does at the correct time.
If artificial insemination is being used, it is recommended to breed twice.

Gestation period
The gestation period is the time from conception to kidding. Does producing milk at the time of breeding will be at their peak production.
The doe is usually bred at 45 to 60 days in lactation. The kidding interval should be about 12 months.

Kidding

The kidding doe (parturition)

The first stage of kidding lasts 1 to 6 hours. It is very important to ensure that the doe kids in a clean space. In fact, parturition represents exposure to common disease organisms to which the mature animal has developed resistance but are new to the kid.
Normally the fetus enters the birth canal and the doe starts an abdominal press.
Delivery of the kids usually occurs in a short time once the water bag can be viewed. Kids may be presented either with their front feet forward or in posterior presentation where their rear feet are presented first.
If labor is prolonged for more than one hour with no progress, a vaginal exam is again needed.
After parturition, the doe should begin to lick the kids and she may eat part of the fetal membranes.
Normal kids will start trying to stand up immediately and should be on their feet and nursing within a short period of time.

Care of newborn kid

At the birth of a kid the first thing to check is whether or not the airways are clear. Clean off any excess mucus.
The next two steps are critical to the future health and survival of the newborn kid. The second step in the care of the new born kid is to dip the navel cord in a solution of tincture of iodine to prevent entry of disease causing organisms through the navel cord and directly into the body of the kid.
The third critical step is the feeding of colostrum milk as soon after birth as possible. The colostrum contains antibodies, which the doe doesn’t pass to the fetal kid in utero. Consumption of colostrum must occur as early as possible and prior to 18 hours after birth as there is a rapid reduction in the permeability of the intestinal wall of the newborn to the antibodies. These large gut openings close up within 24 hours to protect the kid from foreign infection. The longer the delay for them to drink the colostrum the fewer antibodies their system will absorb and the less chance they have of fighting off infections. If a newborn does not receive colostrum, their chances of surviving beyond two weeks is minimal. The colostrum not only provides antibodies; it also provides nutrition and serves as a laxative.
The colostrum should be bottle-fed to the newborn to ensure adequate consumption. The doe should be milked as soon as possible after parturition.

Kid management

Birth to Weaning
Milk is the principal component of the diet of the preweaning kid. There are numerous ways to feed milk including the use of bottles or pails, suckling the dam or nurse does, and self-feeder units. The method chosen will depend upon such factors as the size of the herd and available labor, as well as personnel preference.
With any system, the health of the kid, sanitation and available labor are the major factors to consider.
Under natural suckling, kids consume small amounts of milk at very frequent intervals. Ideally, artificial rearing should mimic natural suckling but the constraint of available labor precludes frequent feeding. Nevertheless, kids should be fed 2 to 4 times daily for the first week or two and twice daily thereafter.
Bottle feeding is more labor intensive but kids receive more individual attention and are easier to handle post-weaning than kids that are allowed to suckle does.
For larger herds, self-feeder units such as a “lamb bar” may successfully reduce labor. The key to use of the system is the maintenance of a low temperature of the milk which will limit intake by the kid at any one time.
Small, frequent feedings increase digestibility and decrease digestive disturbances.
In raising dairy goat kids, increase in size and weight are not the only measurements of success. A well-formed skeleton and proper development of internal organs are often neglected when the emphasis is on rapid gains. An average daily gain of 250 g during the first weeks of life should be the goal.

Kid management

Raising kids artificially
It is important that newborn kids consume adequate amounts of colostrum during their first 24 hours of life. If colostrum is not available from the dam or another doe, cow colostrum can be used.
When kids are artificially reared, it is recommended that they be fed milk replacer that has been specifically formulated for kids. Calf milk replacer is generally unacceptable. Goat milk contains more fat soluble vitamins and vitamin C than either ewe or cow’s milk.
Milk replacer should be mixed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Small numbers of kids can be fed using individual bottles fitted with rubber teats. For the first few days of life, kids should be fed frequently.
For larger numbers of kids, an automatic feeding system can be set up.
In order to wean kids at an early age, it is important to get them consuming dry feed as soon as possible. By the time the kids are ten days of age, they should have access to a starter feed which is palatable and contains 18 to 20 percent crude protein. Young kids will consume more feed if it is coarsely ground, though a pelleted ration may also be fed. Green, leafy hay and a source of fresh water should also be provided.
Because milk replacer is expensive, kids should be weaned at an early age, such as 6 weeks.
Weaning should be abrupt and kids should be left in familiar surroundings at the time of weaning to minimize stress. If orphan kids are properly fed and managed, they should gain nearly as well as kids being raised on their dams.

Kid management

Weaning
The objective of raising the dairy goat kid should be to produce a lactating animal with an adequate body size as inexpensively as possible and in the shortest possible time.
Kids can be weaned as early as six weeks and ideally not more than eight weeks old. Determination of weaning is based on the amount of grain and water the kids are consuming.
The most important consideration when deciding when to wean a dairy goat kid is whether or not the average daily consumption of concentrate and forage is adequate for growth and development to continue in the absence of milk.
Fixed weaning ages are less desirable than weight goals such as 2.0 to 2.5 times birth weight.
Dry feed consumption is important in developing body capacity.

Nutritional value of the milk

Goat’s milk assumes significance as an alternative food for children and sick people in providing nutrients and has a better bio-availability when compared to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is valuable for the children with allergies to cow’s milk.
Goat’s milk contains more fat and ash than cow’s milk, but has less lactose.
Cow’s milk and goat’s milk do not differ significantly as fat as the protein percentage is concerned. However, there is a significant difference between cow and goat’s milk, with regard to the size of the casein micelle.
The casein micelle in cow’s milk is small (60-80 nm) when compared to goat’s milk casein micelle, which range between 100-200 nm. Goat’s milk protein forms a softer curd (the term given to the protein clumps that are formed by the action of your stomach acid on the protein), which makes the protein more easily and rapidly digestible. Theoretically, this more rapid transit through the stomach could be an advantage to infants and children who regurgitate cow’s milk easily.
Goat’s milk contains only trace amounts of an allergenic casein protein, alpha-s1, found in cow’s milk.
Goats milk casein is more similar to human milk, yet cow’s milk and goat’s milk contain similar levels of the other allergenic protein, beta-lactoglobulin.

Nutritional value of the milk

The average percentage of fat in goat’s milk varies with individual animals, breeds, state of lactation, and type of feed. Goat’s milk fat contains appreciable amounts of caproic, caprylic, and capric fatty acids which are thought to be responsible for the characteristic “goaty odour” of milk. Although these fatty acids are not unique to the goat, they are more abundant in goat’s milk than milk from other species. They are responsible for the characteristic flavor and odor of cheeses made from goat’s milk. The peculiar character of the fat globules of goat milk is that they are smaller in size when compared to that of cow’s milk. The number of fat globules measuring less than 5 microns is 62% in cow’s milk whereas it is approximately 83% in goat’s milk. The digestibility of the goat milk fat is comparatively higher when compared to cow milk because lipase attacks ester bonds of short or medium chain fatty acids more easily than those of longer chains. The fat globules in goats milk do not cluster together, making them easier to digest. Goat’s milk is reported to contain more of the essential fatty acids linoleic and arachidonic acids.

Minerals and vitamins
Although the mineral content of goat’s milk and cow’s milk is generally similar, goat’s milk contains 13 percent more calcium, 25 percent more vitamin B6, 47 percent more vitamin A, 134 percent more potassium, and three times more niacin. It is also four times higher in copper. Goat’s milk also contains 27 percent more of the antioxidant selenium than cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is a rich source of the trace mineral selenium. This mineral, which is often deficient in the human body, is necessary for its immune modulation and antioxidant properties. The primary difference between goat’s milk and cow’s milk is the much lower concentration of vitamin B12 in goat’s milk. It is very interesting to note that vitamin A in goat’s milk exists exclusively as vitamin A and not carotenoid pigments.

Milk composition

Differences between goat and bovine milk.

Differences between goat and bovine milk.


Milking

Goats are generally housed in group pens and should be removed from that environment to be milked.
A basic milking parlor can be set up with a series of milking stands placed side by side with space in between for the operator. They should be arranged in such a way that goats enter at one end of the room and exit at the other to provide for good animal flow. A pipeline can be mounted overhead with the goat being milked from the side or the rear.

Milking parlors

Types of milking parlors
Milking parlors are often constructed with a pit that puts the operator below the level of the goats to provide easy access to the udder. The parlor can be an elevated platform which puts the animal at about waist level, and then the goats enter and exit by way of a ramp.

Parallel parlor
In the parallel parlor, the animals are elevated above the pit and stand parallel to one another, facing away from the operator on one or both sides of the pit. Only the rear udder is accessible, which is convenient but could be a problem for goats with non-symmetrical teat placement.
The pit dimensions are similar to those outlined previously for the herringbone parlor, but the pit is sometimes deeper for easier access to the udder. With the animals standing parallel, more animals can fit in a space than a herringbone; however, additional space is needed in front of the animals so they can be exited out the front or off to the side by lifting the restraining bar. Provision needs to be made for collecting the urine and manure to deflect it from the milking area.

 Examples of parallel parlor.

Examples of parallel parlor.


Milking parlors

Herringbone Parlor
The herringbone parlor is commonly used with dairy cattle. There is a pit in the middle so the animals stand elevated to the operator at a 30 to 40o angle on both sides of the pit for easy access to the udder. With goats there could be a problem in properly positioning them and the short length of the animal might make the angle less of an advantage. The pit should be 6′ to 7′ wide, and the working height of the animal platform needs to be custom-designed to the comfort of the operator to avoid bending, but often varies between 34″ to 40″ high. The animals enter and exit as a group, which makes efficient animal handling, but a slow milker will detain the whole string. For efficient traffic flow, there should be a holding area outside the parlor to hold animals close to the entrance and a well-defined exit alley to direct the animals back to the barn.

Position of the animals in the herringbone parlor. From: Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia, Roma. L’allevamento caprino.

Position of the animals in the herringbone parlor. From: Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia, Roma. L'allevamento caprino.

The herringbone parlor.

The herringbone parlor.


Milking parlors

Rotary parlor
The rotary parlor can be more expensive and may add some more animal handling considerations to properly channel the animals onto the rotating parlor. These are set up for either the operator to be inside the pit with the animals rotating around them on a circular platform facing out, or the animals face the center of the circle and the platform rotates by the operators who work along the outside circumference. These are mechanically propelled at a slow speed to keep the animals progressing around the circle to the exit as they complete milking. The platform can be suspended on water or on a metal track so it is easily rotated with a small motor. This type of parlor is more suited for large, commercial operations.

Position of the animals in the rotary parlor.
From: Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia, Roma. L’allevamento caprino.

Position of the animals in the rotary parlor. From: Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia, Roma. L'allevamento caprino.

The rotary parlor.

The rotary parlor.


Meat quality

Kid meat compared with lamb meat
The rheological and chemical characteristics of meat vary significantly in relation to the species. The lack of superiority of one species with respect to the another is pointed out: in fact, some characteristics are superior in lambs (less hardness and chewiness, higher dry matter content and energetic value), others are superior in kids (less adhesiveness, higher water holding capacity and higher content of protein).

Meat composition

Differences between lamb and kid meat.

Differences between lamb and kid meat.


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