Livestock Research for Rural Development 26 (6) 2014 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Breed preference and breeding practices for goats in agro-pastoral communities of semi-arid and sub-humid areas in Tanzania

S W Chenyambuga and F P Lekule

Department of Animal Science and Production, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P.O. Box 3004, Morogoro, Tanzania.


A study was carried out to determine farmers’ preferences for goat breeds, desired traits, management and breeding practices in agro-pastoral communities of central and eastern Tanzania. A total of 552 goat keepers from semi-arid and sub-humid areas were involved. Information on goat flock size, breed preferences, breeding practices, traits preferred and husbandry practices was collected using a well structured questionnaire.

Out of the 552 household heads, only 21.3% were women. Most of the farmers kept indigenous goats belonging to the Small East African breed and the mean number of goats per household was 8.9 ± 1.0. The majority of the farmers (53.4%) preferred to keep the Small East African goat breed rather than the exotic breeds. The Small East African breed was preferred to exotic breeds because the animals are easier to feed, prolific, tolerant to drought and endemic diseases. Most farmers (70.8%) practiced uncontrolled mating using bucks from either their own flock (66.7%) or neighbours’ flocks (33.3%).Uncontrolled mating was preferred because it is easier to practice (41.2%) and cheaper (41.2%). The buck to doe ratio was 1:3 in semi-arid and 1:2 in sub-humid areas. Breeding males were selected based on body size by the majority (85%) of the goat farmers. It is concluded that livestock keepers in semi-arid and sub-humid areas in Tanzania prefer the Small East Africa goats because the animals are abundantly available and well adapted to the local environmental conditions.

Keywords: desired traits, mating practices, Small East African goat breed, Tanzania


Tanzania has 15.6 million goats and over 98% of them are indigenous goats belonging to the Small East African (SEA) breed. The SEA goats are widely distributed in all agro-ecological zones of the country and are kept mainly by agro-pastoralists, pastoralists and farmers engaged in mixed farming. In terms of importance goats rank second to cattle (URT 2012). According to Chenyambuga et al (2012) the most important purpose for keeping goats in agro-pastoral communities is provision of cash income obtained from sales of live animals and meat. Moreover, goats serve as savings to be drawn upon in the time of need. They make important contributions to livestock keepers’ abilities to manage risk and help maintain social networks within the community. Goats are also important for production of meat for home consumption. They are also used for payment of dowry, to cater for traditional/cultural ceremonies and to provide skins, milk and manure. They are particularly important for rural poor people who cannot afford to keep cattle. The advantages of goats over other livestock species in traditional farming systems is associated with small size, low initial costs, rapid turnover and efficient conversion of feed resources not directly eaten by man (Braker et al 2002).

Historically, it has been known that the production potential of the SEA goats kept by agro-pastoralists and pastoralists in rural areas is low. This is due to long kidding interval of 12 months (NEI 1999), advanced age at first kidding of 18-24 months (MAFS 2002), small mature size of 24 – 28 kg (Chenyambuga et al 2012), small carcass weight of 12 kg (MAFS 2002), longer age at slaughter of 3 - 5 years (Mushi et al 2004) and low milk production that is only enough for their kids. Attempts to improve the productivity of indigenous breed in Tanzania have involved three approaches. The first approach involved introduction of exotic breeds, principally from temperate countries, to be used directly for production. Dairy goat breeds, namely, Saanen, Alpine, Anglo-Nubian and Toggenburg were introduced in the country in early 1960s (Das and Sendalo 1991). The direct use of these breeds was faced with problems of lack of adaptability and resistance to various diseases and parasites, and hence, little success was achieved. After the failure of the direct use of exotic breeds, crossbreeding was promoted by using the SEA goats as the dams and the exotic breeds as sires. Improvement of meat production traits was undertaken through crossing the SEA with the Boer from South Africa. Similarly, improvement of milk production was attempted by crossing the SEA goats with exotic dairy breeds such as the Toggenburg, Saanen, British Alpine, Anglo-Nubian and Norwegian. The crossbred goats were found to have higher production potential for milk (Eik et al 2008), high growth rate and better reproductive performance (Das and Sendalo 1991) compared to the indigenous breeds. However, it was observed that upgrading beyond the F1 level did not achieve the higher production expected, in fact the crossbreds with 75 % exotic blood and higher grades were less economical than the better SEA (Das and Sendalo 1991). The third approach attempted was development of a synthetic breed. Crossing of SEA goats with Boer and Kamorai breeds were undertaken and resulted in a three-way dual purpose goat breed, known as the ‘Blended goat’. However, this breed has remained as an on-station breed kept in livestock research centres. At the moment the SEA breed is the dominant breed in the country. Several purebred and crossbred goats, notably Toggenburg, Anglo-Nubian, Saanen, Norwegian and Boer exist in the country. However, their numbers are small and distribution is limited to high potential highland areas.

Previous goat breeding programmes did not take into consideration the preferences of the traditional livestock keepers. Sustainability of genetic improvement programmes depends on interest of producers which is also influenced by socio-cultural, economic and geographical factors (Ilatsia et al 2012). For successive breeding programme, it is important that the target communities be involved early in the process of breed improvement in order to ensure that their breeding goals and perceptions are taken into account in designing the breeding programme and they provide the support needed for the programme to work. An understanding of producers’ desired traits or breed preferences and selection criteria is needed to enable breeders in the country to effectively design sustainable genetic improvement programmes that would make possible the development and promotion of appropriate goat genotypes that match with the prevailing socio-economic and cultural environments (Gwaze et al 2009; Bett et al 2011). More importantly, an understanding of selection criteria of pastoral goat keepers would provide information for deciding how to approach small ruminant herders in order to establish community-based breeding programmes (Mbuku et al 2006). This study was, therefore, carried out to determine farmers’ preferences for goat breeds, desired traits, breeding practices and production constraints.

Materials and Methods


The study was carried out in two districts; Kongwa (Dodoma region) and Mvomero (Morogoro region). Mvomero district is located in sub-humid agro-ecological zone and lies between latitudes 8° and 10° south of equator and longitudes 28° and 37° east of the Greenwich Meridian. The district receives an annual rainfall of 600 - 2000 mm and has temperatures that range from 18 to 30°C. Kongwa district is located between latitude 5°30’ and 6°0’ south and longitude 36° 15’ and 36° east. The district is located in semi-arid areas and has annual rainfall ranging from 400 to 800 mm. The temperature varies from mean minimum of 18°C to a maximum of 34°C.

Data collection

Four villages were purposefully selected in each district with the help of District Agriculture and Livestock Development Officers. The selection of the villages was based on accessibility, existence of large number of goats and willingness to participate in genetic improvement programme after the survey. Within a village the list of all households keeping goats was taken as a sampling frame from which respondents were picked randomly using a table of random numbers. A household survey was conducted in each village and data were collected using a well structured questionnaire which was administered to household heads. In Kongwa districts 279 households from four purposely selected villages were involved in the study and the villages were as follows:- Ihanda (120), Masinyeti (117), Mautya (20) and Masingisa (22). In Mvomero district a total of 273 households were surveyed in the four villages (Kunke (119), Wami-Luhindo (115), Mlumbilo (20), Milama (19). Thus, the sample size was 552 respondents from the eight villages. During the household survey, the respondents were heads of households or spouses or adult members of the family (in the very rare cases when the household head was not at home). The questionnaire was designed to collect information on households’ socio-economic characteristics, livestock kept, goat flock size, goat breed preferences, breeding practices, goat feeds and feeding system, diseases and disease control measures. Farmers were asked to rank the first three important traits they prefer and a ranking index was computed according to Kosgey (2004).

Data analysis

Data from the questionnaires were coded and recorded into the spreadsheets for statistical analysis. The Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS 2007) computer software was used to generate means, standard error, frequencies and percentages. The significance of the difference between means was tested using a T-test while the difference between proportions was tested using a chi-square test and the differences were declared significant at P ≤ 0.05.

Results and Discussion

Socio-economic characteristics of the respondents

The results for the characteristics of the respondents revealed that in both districts most of the household heads were men (78.7%) and only few households were headed by women (21.3%). This is because local customs and cultural practices in agro-pastoral and pastoral production systems in Tanzania make it impossible for a woman to own assets and livestock are acquired mainly through inheritance which favours men to women. This observation is in agreement with the findings of Bitende et al (2001) and Chenyambuga et al (2012) who reported that livestock in agro-pastoral communities are owned by men, often the household heads. There were few women who were the household heads and owned livestock and most of these were widowed, divorced or unmarried women. The main economic activity in the study areas was crop farming, both in Kongwa (97.5%) and Mvomero districts (82.0%). Most of the respondents ranked crop farming as the first important source of income and food in their households while livestock keeping was ranked second to crop farming. The livestock kept by most households were indigenous cattle, goats, sheep, chicken and pigs. The practice of keeping several types of livestock observed in the present study is common in most smallholder holdings of developing countries where farmers keep different types of livestock species mainly for socio-economic and socio-cultural reasons (Bebe et al 2003).

The age of the respondents ranged from 20 to 97 years, implying that both young and old people are involved in livestock keeping. But the mean age of the respondents was 44.8 years. This indicates that most of the people involved in livestock keeping are of medium age and in the active working group. Most of the people interviewed had formal education at the level of primary school (63.4%) and very few had either secondary school education (1.4%) or tertiary education (1.3%). Generally, the literacy level in the study areas was relatively high as the majority of the farmers had the minimum education level that enables them to read and write. This is appealing because most of the farmers can read technology packages on improved livestock production.

Goat flock structure

Table 1 shows the goat breeds kept, average flock size and structure per household. The mean number of goats kept per household was higher (P ≤ 0.01) in Mvomero than in Kongwa. However, the flock structure was almost the same in both districts. In Kongwa and Mvomero 36.8 and 32.6% of the flock were comprised of does, respectively, while 12.3% in Kongwa and 14.0% in Mvomero were adult males. Young males made up 14.0 and 20.2% of the flock in Kongwa and Mvomero, respectively, while young females comprised 19.3% in Kongwa and 14.0% in Mvomero. Kids comprised 17.5 and 19.4% of the flock in Kongwa and Mvomero, respectively. The results indicate that the number of adult females was higher than that of adult males in both districts.

The lower proportion of adult males in the farmers' flocks is due to the fact that livestock keepers prefer to sell males rather than females because males have relatively bigger body size, hence, fetch higher price compared to females. Furthermore, the higher percentage of females arise because farmers maintain females for reproduction purpose in order to increase the flock size (Nsoso et al 2004).

Table 1. Goat breeds kept and flock structure per household
Variable Kongwa Mvomero Overall
Breed kept
SEA (%) 98.0 97.0 97.6
Norwegian (%) 2.0 3.0 2.4
Number of goats (mean ± SE)
Bucks 0.7 ± 0.2 1.8 ± 0.4 1.2 ± 0.2
Young males 0.8 ± 0.2 2.6 ± 0.8 1.5 ± 0.4
Does 2.1 ± 0.4 4.2 ± 0.8 3.0 ± 0.4
Young females 1.1 ± 0.3 1.8 ± 0.8 1.4 ± 0.4
Kids 1.0 ± 0.2 2.5 ± 0.6 1.6 ± 0.3
Total 5.7 ± 0.7 12.9 ± 2.0 8.9 ± 1.0
Feeds and feeding system

All farmers practiced extensive production system whereby local goats were grazed in communal land continuously during the dry and wet seasons. The type of feeds and the sources of the feeds used for feeding goats were not different between the two districts (P = 0.41). The results in Table 2 show that the majority of farmers in both districts relied upon natural pastures available in communal grazing lands for feeding their goats. This feeding system is disadvantageous because under communal grazing system, livestock owners are not obliged to improve the grazing areas and the natural pastures. Some few farmers had their own grazing areas which they were using for feeding goats. This practice should be promoted as it is possible to involve individual households in planning and implementing proper land use and rangeland improvement strategies such as over sowing of legumes, rotational grazing and rehabilitation of overgrazed areas.

With regard to supplementation, most farmers reported that they do not provide supplementary feeds to their goats. Only few farmers were supplementing maize bran. Sorghum and maize stovers were used for feeding goats during the dry season after crop harvest. Tree and shrub leaves were also used to feed goats, especially during the dry season. This should be promoted as tree and shrub leaves have high protein and mineral contents, even in the dry season when the quality of natural pastures declines. Komwihangilo et al (2005) have shown that indigenous tree and shrub leaves promote higher growth rate when fed to goats and could be used to replace conventional protein supplements like sunflower seed cake and cotton seed cake. Thus, farmers need to be trained on formulating good quality diets using tree and shrubs leaves as sources of proteins.

Table 2 shows that the main problems facing goat feeding in both semi-arid and sub-humid areas were feed shortage during the dry season, shortage of grazing land and high cost of concentrate feeds. However, the feeding problems differed (P ≤ 0.03) between the districts, shortage of feeds during the dry season was more pronounced in Kongwa than in Mvomero while shortage of grazing area and high price of concentrate feeds were more experienced in Mvomero than in Kongwa. This is because Kongwa district is found in semi-arid areas where there is long period of dry season (about eight months), hence, the period for pasture growth is limited. Mvomero district receives more rainfall and the dry season is relatively short (five months), hence, there are adequate pastures for the most part of the year. On the other hand, the grazing areas in Mvomero are limited since most of the land is used for crop farming because of the good climate which allows crop growing for the most part of the year.

Table 2. Feeding practices for goats kept by agro-pastoralists in Kongwa and Mvomero districts
Variable Kongwa
Source feed
Communal grazing areas 75.0 41.4 55.1
Own grazing areas 10.0 27.6 20.4
Crop residues 15.0 17.2 16.3
Neighbour fields 0 10.3 6.1
Purchased from local markets 0 3.4 2.0
Type of supplementary feeds
Maize bran 8.3 5.9 6.9
Sorghum and maize stovers 25.0 44.1 36.2
Tree and shrub leaves 70.9 44.1 55.1
Main feeding constraints
Lack of adequate feeds 57.1 15.4 30.0
Shortage of grazing area 0 23.1 15.0
High price of concentrate feeds 0 11.1 6.7
Diseases and disease control

Animal health-related problems were reported to be not the major concern of the goat keepers. Only few farmers said that livestock diseases are the major constraints to goat production (Table 3). This may be due to the fact that the local goats kept by the agro-pastoralists are well adapted to the endemic diseases. There were no differences (P = 0.20) in terms of goat diseases mentioned by the farmers in the two districts. In both districts skin diseases (pox and mange) were reported to be a major problem, followed by pneumonia and helminthosis. This is in agreement with the observation by Madubi (1997) who reported that mange, helminthosis, pneumonia/coughing and foot rot are the main disease problems of local goats kept by agro-pastoralists in Tanzania. In addition, a study by Chenyambuga et al (2012) found that contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), pneumonia, helminthosis, foot and mouth disease (FMD), foot rot and mange are the major constraints to goat production in central Tanzania.

With regard to disease control measures, only few respondents said that they practice routine disease control. This could be attributed to the fact that most farmers believe that their goats are tolerant to the endemic diseases in their locality. Table 3 shows that there were more farmers (P = 0.004) in Mvomero compared to Kongwa who were vaccinating against CCPP, deworming to control endoparasites and dipping/spraying to control ectoparasites.

Table 3. Most important diseases and disease control practices of agro-pastoralists in Kongwa and Mvomero districts
Variable Kongwa
Anthrax 1.1 4.5 2.6
Foot and mouth disease 2.3 6.0 3.9
Pneumonia 18.2 11.9 15.5
CCPP 8.0 6.0 7.1
Dysentry 3.4 6.0 4.5
Helminthosis 9.1 17.9 12.9
Skin diseases 20.5 11.9 16.8
Foot rot 5.7 4.5 5.2
Disease control measures
Vaccination 11.4 22.4 16.1
Deworming 1.1 11.9 5.8
Dipping/spraying 3.4 6.0 4.5
Traditional medicine 8.0 7.5 7.7
Breed preferences

Breed preferences of the communities in the two districts were not different (P = 0.10). Most farmers reported that they still prefer to keep the SEA goats (Table 4) rather than the improved breeds (exotic dairy breeds). The farmers argued that the exotic breeds cannot survive better in their area because they need special care (good house, frequent use of veterinary drugs for prophylactic and treatment, indoor feeding and watering) which makes goat keeping to be labour intensive and expensive for them. Moreover, the improved breeds are not readily available in rural areas and sold at exorbitant price which poor farmers cannot afford. On the other hand, the SEA breed was preferred to exotic breeds and their crosses because of its adaptive characteristics manifested by their ability to tolerate drought, feed shortage, poor quality forages and endemic diseases. Furthermore, the farmers reported that the SEA goats are abundantly available and well adapted to the local environmental conditions. This is in agreement with Kosgey et al (2009) who reported that the Small East African goats are rated poor for traits like growth rate, body size and fertility, but are considered good for drought tolerance, disease tolerance and heat tolerance by farmers in extensive farming systems of Central and Western Kenya. According to Chenyambuga et al (2012) the indigenous goats are valued by their owners because of being good tolerant to diseases, drought and heat. Generally, this study has revealed that indigenous goats are important to the livelihood of rural people and possess survival traits which enable them to live and produce under low level of management. Some few farmers (17.7% in Kongwa and 25.2% in Mvomero) preferred to keep exotic dairy goats rather than the SEA goats. The farmers who preferred to keep dairy breeds said that the dairy breeds grow faster, have big mature body size and produce large quantity of milk compared to the indigenous breed.

Table 4. Breed preferences by agro-pastoralists of semi-arid and sub-humid areas
Breed Kongwa
SEA 59.3 46.9 53.4
Toggenburg 2.8 3.1 3.0
Norwegian 8.9 8.0 8.2
Anglo-Nubian 1.2 4.4 2.7
Saanen 4.0 0 2.1
Kamorai 0 0.9 0.4
Boer 0.4 1.3 0.8
Any exotic dairy breed 0.8 9.7 5.1
Does not know the different breeds 5.2 4.4 4.6
Traits preferred by agro-pastoralists

In the present study most farmers when asked about their breeding objectives said that they prefer to keep animals which are easy to feed, prolific, grow fast, tolerant to drought and diseases and do not need special care (Table 5). The ranking of the traits preferred by farmers differed (P = 0.031) between districts. In Kongwa easiness of feeding the animals was ranked first while tolerance to drought, fast growth and disease tolerance were ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. In Mvomero district easiness of feeding and prolificacy were given the first rank while fast growth and easiness of selling the animal were given the second rank and disease tolerance ranked third. The farmers in Kongwa district gave higher values to easiness of feeding and drought tolerance than those in Mvomero because Kongwa is located in a semi-arid area where feed and water availabilities are the major problems. Farmers in Mvomero gave higher values to prolificacy, fast growth and easier marketing because they live in a sub-humid area with relatively adequate amount of rainfall and thus, feed and water availabilities are not the major problems. Generally farmers in both districts preferred animals that have multi-functions and low feed requirement. This is contrary to the government livestock development programme policies (MLFD 2011) which emphasises on improvement of one or two traits (milk and/or meat production) in order to meet demand in the domestic and external markets. Often it is said that the indigenous goats have low genetic potential for traits of economic importance and genetic improvement plans are based on replacement of indigenous breeds with exotic breeds or crossing them with temperate breeds, especially dairy breeds. This study has shown that the agro-pastoralists in semi-arid and sub-humid areas prefer to keep indigenous breeds probably because of coping with more challenging production environments. They prefer animals with good adaptive traits and ability to produce and reproduce with minimum care. Given the anticipated increase in stress due to decrease of pasture quantity and quality and increase in the incidence of diseases caused by climate change, indigenous breeds that are adapted to prevalent droughts and disease will be essential in the future. Hence, within breed selection of the adapted indigenous breeds should be promoted as strategy for efficient on-farm sustainable conservation and utilization of these indigenous breeds.

Table 5. Reasons for preference of the Small East African breed by agro-pastoralists in Kongwa and Mvomero districts
Traits Kongwa
Ranking index
Ranking index
Ranking index
Easy to feed 0.25 0.18 0.22
Prolificacy 0.11 0.18 0.15
Fast growth 0.13 0.15 0.14
Drought tolerance 0.15 0.09 0.12
Disease tolerance 0.12 0.12 0.12
Not labour intensive 0.13 0.10 0.12
Easy to market 0.08 0.15 0.11
Does not require special housing 0.03 0.01 0.02
Suitable for cultural uses 0 0.01 0.01

The ranking index was computed as Sum of (3 for rank 1 + 2 for rank 2 + 1 for rank 3) given for an individual reason divided by the sum of (3 for rank 1 + 2 for rank 2 + 1 for rank 3) for all reasons (Kosgey 2004).

Breeding practices

The results in Table 6 show that the breeding methods were not different (P = 0.53) in the two districts. The breeding method used by farmers in both districts was natural mating. Most farmers practiced uncontrolled mating whereby they mated their does randomly with bucks from either their own flock or neighbours’ flocks. This can be attributed to the fact that the majority of the farmers (Table 6) did not have any breeding plan. This concurs with the observation made by Berhanu et al (2012) who found that the main source of breeding bucks for agro-pastoralists and pastoralists is their own herd. Similarly Kosgey et al (2009) reported that in pastoral communities the majority of farmers use their own males for breeding purpose. In the present study when farmers were asked why do they practice uncontrolled mating they responded that the method is easier to practice (41.2%) and cheaper (41.2%). The extensive system of grazing practiced in the study areas and the practice of keeping male and female animals together throughout the year led the farmers to adopt uncontrolled mating as a breeding method. According to Chenyambuga et al (2008) random mating is advantageous for the smallholder farmers as it minimizes the problem of inbreeding, particularly for small herds, and it removes the cost of keeping males, especially to resource poor farmers. However, random mating may have disadvantage because of the high risk of inbreeding and spread of diseases. Furthermore, under random mating it is difficult to implement genetic improvement strategy and the practice may lead to genetic erosion of distinct populations through interbreeding with other populations. Thus, if genetic improvement programmes are to be established for village flocks random mating should be avoided in order to enable the selection of individuals with better performance to be parents of the next generation.

The ratio of breeding males to females in Kongwa was 1:3 while in Mvomero was 1:2. These ratios portray existence of a proportionately larger number of breeding bucks in the flocks of rural goat keepers. This is probably due to the small flock size owned by the farmers. The recommended ratio is one buck to 25 does. The buck to doe ratio observed in the present study is comparable to the buck:doe ratio of 1:3 reported by Akpa et al (2010) in flocks with less than 20 goats in Kano, Nigeria. There was no difference (P = 0.24) between the two districts in terms of criteria for selecting breeding males. In both districts the majority of the farmers reported that they select breeding males based on body size of the animals. This is in agreement with Berhanu et al (2012) who reported that the most important criterion for selecting breeding bucks in agro-pastoral and pastoral communities of Ethiopia is large body size. Mbuku et al (2006) found that big body size and milk yield of the buck’s dam and offspring quality are the most important criteria for selecting breeding bucks in pastoral communities of Northern Kenya.

Table 6. Breeding practices among agro-pastoralists of semi-arid and sub-humid areas
Practice planned breeding
Yes 19.1 26.2 23.1
No 80.9 73.8 76.9
Person responsible for making breeding decision
Husband 44.4 75.0 64.0
Wife 0 6.2 4.0
Both husband and wife 55.6 18.8 32.0
Mating system
Uncontrolled 62.5 75.0 70.8
Controlled 37.5 25.0 29.2
Main source of breeding buck
Own flock 50.0 75.0 66.7
Neighbours’ flocks 50.0 25.0 33.3
Criteria for choosing breeding bucks
Size 87.5 83.3 85.0
Prolificacy 0 16.7 10.0



We are grateful for the financial support provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Government of Canada through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD). We thank the extension officers and farmers for participating in this study.


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Received 20 April 2014; Accepted 5 May 2014; Published 1 June 2014

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