Dr. David Fernandez, agricultural extension livestock specialist and interim dean of graduate studies and continuing education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently volunteered with Winrock International as part of the USAID Farmer to Farmer program in southwestern Nepal. There, he helped local goat farmers optimize their production practices.
“Goat farming is an important source of income in many communities in the Surkhet District of Nepal, especially among women,” Fernandez said. “The popularity of the business has led small goat farmers to produce more goats.”
Despite increases in production, the farmers haven’t always been able to earn more money, he said. Many of them did not know how to breed goats appropriately for hardiness.
“Random breeding in the goat herd meant that many goats that went to market were of inferior quality,” Fernandez said. “The farmers also lacked an efficient parasite management plan to further ensure the overall health of the herd.”
Over the course of the program, Fernandez emphasized the importance of developing a good record-keeping system and implementing a rotational breeding system. These measures will help reduce inbreeding and ensure larger, healthier offspring for sale.
“I encouraged the farmers to pool their funds to purchase superior breeding bucks that will help guarantee more valuable kids,” he said. “They will be able to reduce feed needs by selecting moderate-sized replacement females that can be crossed with larger bucks to produce larger offspring for sale.”
Fernandez said goats in Nepal are susceptible to many of the same parasites found in Arkansas. He recommended the farmers use the FAMACHA method (which relies on selecting only certain goats for treatment based on the degree of anemia in their mucous membranes) to detect internal parasites such as barber pole worms for more effective treatment and to select goats that are resistant to these parasites.
Because barber pole worms are increasingly resistant to dewormers, he also recommended that the farmers plant Sericea lespedeza — a flowering plant native to Nepal — in their pastures. The plant will repair the highly eroded ground on the farms and provide a nutritious feed that can help reduce the prevalence of barber pole worms.
“Despite the low literacy rate in southwestern Nepal, the farmers quickly grasped the importance of keeping records and using them in the selection of breeding animals,” Dr. Fernandez said. “The farmers are doing a good job raising goats and it’s clear they have put practices in place, which they learned during previous trainings.”
Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. A version of this article was originally published on the UAPB website.