Livestock Research for Rural Development 26 (5) 2014 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Flock structure, level of production, and marketing of three Ethiopian goat types kept under different production systems

Dereje Tadesse, Mengistu Urge*, Getachew Animut* and Yoseph Mekasha**

Department of Animal Sciences, Debre Berhan University, P.O. Box 445, Debre Berhan, Ethiopia
* School of Animal and Range Sciences, Haramaya University, P.O. Box 138, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia
** International Livestock Research Institute, P.O.Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


This study was conducted to characterize three Ethiopian indigenous goat types in terms of their composition and dynamics, productivity, and marketing. A set of semi-structured questionnaire was used to collect information from 155 goat owners based on single-visit-interviews.


The study indicates that breeding females constituted the largest average flock composition followed by weaners and kids. Goat owners in the study areas relied mainly on births and purchases to build their flock while sales and deaths were the major routes of disposal. Lower commercial offtake (28%) and higher mortality (24%) rates were estimated for all study areas but the figures were lower in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems. On average, female goats in the study area gave first birth at the age of 1.4 years, kidded every 8.6 months and stayed on production/kidding for about 5 years, giving daily milk yield of 0.37 liter. Based on the estimates given by respondents, Somali and  highland goats were characterized to have bigger age at first kidding and longer kidding life time, respectively. For other traits such as kidding interval and daily milk yield, no significant performance difference was observed among the goat types. In all study areas, goats were sold mainly at the farm gate when money is needed to buy grains and other farm inputs. Average age at sale/slaughter of male goats was about 1.4 years. Consumers, producers, traders, butchers and brokers were the major buyers of live goats in the study areas. The participation of goat producers in the market was constrained by seasonality of market, low price, and lack of market information and infrastructure.  

Keywords: flock composition, indigenous goats, marketing behavior, productivity


Goats play a vital role in the livelihoods of subsistence and small-scale farmers and pastoralists/agro-pastoralists in developing countries. They contribute to food security directly through milk and meat production and indirectly through cash income. In semi-arid areas of pastoral and agro-pastoral systems, goats have comparative advantages over large ruminants as they are more resistant to drought, utilize a wider variety of plants and have higher reproductive rate. Besides their economic role, the role of goats in relation to religious, social and cultural practices of the communities are also evidenced (Peacock 2005).


In Ethiopia, goats are among the economically important livestock species with estimated 2008-2009 output value of about 8.7 billion Ethiopian Birr (Behnke 2010). Given their number, however, the country is not getting more benefits from its goat resources. Their productivity and offtake rates particularly in the small-scale and subsistence production systems are still low (Asfaw and Jabbar 2007; Adane 2008). The body condition of goats brought to the market is poor and their supply is not constant throughout the year. This is mainly due to unimproved management systems, poor infrastructure and lack of access to market information of goat producers. Improving the production and marketing of livestock, including goat and their products offers rural producers an opportunity to market high-value products to urban consumers (Delgado et al 1999).


The first step towards improving productivity and marketing of goats and hence increasing their supply to the market is to understand the existing production levels of goats, the producers’ marketing behavior and factors affecting them. This information is useful in designing and implementing strategies to alleviate the problem of low productivity and market performance (Asfaw and Jabbar 2007). However, current knowledge on flock structure, level of productivity, and marketing of goats is inadequate particularly in the current study areas. Hence, there is a need to assess the flock dynamics, level of production, and marketing systems of selected goat types found in northern and eastern Ethiopia. The results obtained from this study will help to design a strategy so that the small-scale goat producers found in different production systems can supply adequate and quality animals to the market in the future.

Materials and methods

Description of study sites


The study was conducted in Bati, Meta, and Kebri-Beyah districts which are located in the Oromya special zone of Amhara, East Hararghe zone of Oromya, and Jijiga zone of Somali National Regional states, respectively. The average altitudes of Bati, Meta, and Kebri-Beyah districts are 1350, 2370, and 1215 meter above sea level (masl), respectively. The districts have different land-use systems. Meta has the highest proportion of crop land and Kebri-Beyah the lowest. Larger numbers of livestock are kept on rangelands by households in Kebri-Beyah as compared to the others. The average temperature and rainfall of Bati, Meta, and Kebri-Beyah are 26 and 350, 22 and 750, and 27oC and 330 mm, respectively (Office of Agriculture 2010).  


Sampling and data collection


The goat types included in this study were Bati,  highland, and short-eared Somali goat types found in Ethiopia. Bati goats are found in the northern part of Ethiopia usually classified as central highlands, whereas short-eared Somali and  highland goats in the eastern part of the country. They are respectively found in Bati, Meta, and Kebri-Beyah districts, which are represented by different production systems namely the lowland crop-livestock (LLCL), the highland cereal-livestock (HLCL), and the pastoral/agro-pastoral (P/AP) production systems, respectively. The districts were purposively selected based on their goat population and accessibility. From each district, three Kebeles (the smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia) were selected randomly. A list of the households who owned goats was obtained from agricultural development agents located in each Kebele. Fifteen to 20 households per Kebele were then selected using a systematic random sampling technique. A total of 53, 50, and 52 households were sampled from LLCL (Bati district), HLCL (Meta district) and P/AP (Kebri-Beyah district) production systems, respectively. Each of the 155 households was interviewed individually using semi-structured questionnaires.  


The questionnaire was prepared to obtain information on flock stricture, offtake, production levels, and marketing systems of goats. The reproductive parameters assessed included age at first kidding, kidding intervals, and kidding life while productive parameters were mainly age at slaughter, offtake, and milk yield. The information was gathered based on a single-visit interview of goat owners (ILCA 1990). The gross commercial offtake rate was calculated as a percentage of total sales of goats in one year to the total flock size at the beginning of the year. Net commercial offtake rate was estimated following the same procedure except that total number of goats purchased was subtracted from total number of goats sold in one year (ILCA 1990).


Data analysis


Data from the questionnaire were entered into SPSS database and checked for errors before analysis. The data were analyzed using Statistical Analysis Software (SAS 2003) package. A one-way analysis of variance was applied for quantitative dependent variables using production system as independent variable. Pearson’s Chi-square (χ2) was used for categorical variables to assess a statistical significance of a particular comparison.

Results and discussion

General household information


The average age of respondents included in this study was about 42 years (range 20-69) and about 68% of them were illiterate. The average family size of the respondents was 7, (range 3-12) relatively higher in P/AP systems. About 70% of the households kept a minimum of 5 goats, indicating the importance of goat in the study area particularly in LLCL and P/AP systems. Apart from their importance as source of regular cash income, 80% of the households reported to use goat milk for consumption. In goat breed description and management study conducted in Ethiopia, the wide use of goat milk for consumption in these areas has been documented (FARM-Africa 1996). Nonetheless, about 45% of the respondents noticed that the number of goat they owned in the past five years has either decreased or unchanged due to increasing trend of feed scarcity, drought and disease problem. 


Flock composition 


Across the three production systems, the proportion of breeding females at household level was 37.5%, which was significantly (p<0.05) higher in P/AP systems (Table 1). This figure is slightly higher than 35% reported for goat flock in Western Ethiopia lowland (Belete 2009). When all female goats were considered, they constituted three-quarter of the flock. The corresponding figure for breeding males in the present study was 10.3%. Castrates comprised the smallest proportion. According to Wilson and Durkin (1988), female goats are mostly retained for breeding purposes whilst males are sold most under communal production systems. The reason for keeping large proportion of female is to enhance a faster growth of flock as a result of increased number of births (Ahmadu and Lovelace 2002).


The ratio of breeding male to breeding female estimated in this study was in line with the ratio of 1:5 reported by Belete (2009) for local goats in western Ethiopia. Similar ratio was also reported for short-eared Somali goats around Dire Dawa of Ethiopia (Gebreyesus et al 2012) and for goats in Benin (Dossa et al 2007). However, the ratio is higher than 1:25 recommended for traditional production systems (Wilson and Durkin 1988). The higher ratio observed in this study, particularly in P/AP systems suggests that sufficient number of males for mating purposes are kept in the flock.  

Table 1. Average flock composition by age and sex group in the study areas

Animal groups

LLCL (n=53)

HLCL (n=50)

P/AP (n=52)









Breeding males






Breeding females


















Means in a row with different subscripts are significant at p<0.05; LLCL= lowland crop livestock system; HLCL= highland cereal-livestock system; P/AP= pastoral/agro-pastoral system; n=number of respondents

Flock dynamics


The flow of goats in and out of the flocks at household level during the reference period of one year is presented in Table 2. There was significant variation between production systems in average number of goats flowing in and out of the flock. The ratio of inflow to outflow across the study areas was about 1.04, implying that the rate of inflow was only 4% higher than that of outflow. The trend was negative for HLCL and P/AP systems due to low birth rate in HLCL and high mortality rate in P/AP systems. This result corresponds with the response of 45% households in these systems who noted that their goat flock size has either decreased or unchanged over the past 5 years.


Across production systems, births and purchases accounted for 64 and 15% of goat inflow while sales and deaths accounted for 43 and 24% of goat outflow, respectively. The contribution of births for flock growth in LLCL and P/AP systems was significantly higher. When animals for replacement and slaughter were unavailable, small number of goats was reported to be purchased by the households. According to Barrett (2004), poor households in pastoral system relied more heavily on purchases for restocking than the majority of households who relied on homebred animals for replacement. Pastoralists/agro-pastoralists are said to have more interest in building large flocks for socio-cultural purposes and as drought coping mechanisms than for increased commercial offtake (Barrett 2001). In the present study, the contribution of gifts for both inflow and outflow of goats at household level was minimal.


Different mortality rates were estimated for each production system, with overall average of 24%. Significantly higher mortality rate was observed in P/AP but lower in HLCL systems (Table 2). The higher mortality rate observed in P/AP systems is as expected due to feed and water scarcity, high prevalence of diseases, and limited access to veterinary services in the area. Kids and weaners were reported to be the most affected groups. Adugna and Aster (2007) reported that prolonged dry season and drought are the causes for higher goat mortality in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas. In another report (Tessama et al 2003), communal grazing and movement of animal are also noted as deriving factor for occurrence of high mortality. Similar to the result of this study, mortality rate ranging between 23 and 25% were reported for goats found in different production systems of Ethiopia (Asfaw and Jabbar 2007; Adane and Girma 2008). On the other hand, higher mortality rate of 27% was reported by Jemal (2008) for Abergelle goat and by Kassahun et al (1989) for Afar goat under similar management conditions.


The average gross and net commercial offtake rates across districts were about 35 and 24%, respectively (Table 2). Significantly higher offtakes were observed in P/AP systems as compared to the other systems. This could be due to the fact that pastoralists/agro-pastoralists are highly dependent on small ruminants for their livelihood. The gross offtake rate observed in the present study is in the range of 24 and 37% reported by Asfaw and Jabbar (2007). The maximum net commercial offtake rate reported by these authors is also in line with the present figure despite lower offtake rates were estimated from CSA data (CSA 2006). The major reasons for selling goats in the study areas were mentioned to be the need for cash.

Table 2. Average number of goats joining and leaving the flock per year at household level


LLCL (n=53)

HLCL (n=50)

P/AP (n=52)















Sells and exchanges#






Deaths and other losses












Means in a row with different subscripts are significant at p<0.05; LLCL= lowland crop livestock system; HLCL= highland cereal-livestock system; P/AP= pastoral/agro-pastoral system; n=number of respondent; *Exchange implies that goats are exchanged for other animals and goods

Level of production


The performance levels of the three goat types found in the study areas is indicated in Table 3. Except for traits such as kidding intervals and daily milk yield, there were significant differences (p<0.05) among goat types in other traits. The observed variation in production levels could be partly due to inherent genetic and due to environmental differences. In this study, Bati and Hararghe Highland goats reached age of puberty earlier and gave first births sooner than Short-eared Somali goat. Longer kidding life time was estimated for  highland does. This could be due to the reason that flock size is small in the highlands and hence rate of culling and replacement of breeding females is low. The average age at first kidding (16.8 months) obtained in this study is higher than 13 months reported for indigenous goats in Oromya Region (Workneh and Rowlands 2004) but lower than 21 months estimated for goats in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas (Adugna and Aster 2007). It also ranges between 12 and 18 months of age at first kidding reported for most indigenous African goats (Banerjee et al 2000) but similar to the average figure reported by Wilson (1989).


With regard to kidding interval, the average for the three goat types was 8.7 months, which is lower than kidding intervals (10-14 months) estimated for Small East African goats (Mtenga et al 1994). In line with the result of the current study, Getahun (2008) noted the possibility of indigenous Ethiopian goats to have kidding every 8 months. Other on-farm research works in Ethiopia also reported more or less similar kidding intervals ranging between 7.5 and 8.4 months (Adugna and Aster 2007; Jemal 2008; Assen and Aklilu 2012). Nevertheless, the figure is lower than kidding interval of 12-14 months reported for Abergelle and Begait goats in northern Ethiopia (Berhane and Eik 2006).


The daily milk yield produced from the studied goat types were estimated to be between 350 and 380 milliliters, with overall average of 370 milliliters. The milk yield reported for Somali goat (Workneh 1997; Urge et al 2007), Arsi Bale goat (Tatek et al 2004) and Afar goat (Kassahun et al 1989) are comparable with average milk yield estimated in the present study. Households managed to control the number of breeding goats by culling. Breeding males were culled at the average age of 1.4 years, with significantly older age (2 years) in P/AP systems. Similarly, in pastoral areas of Kenya, male goats were reported to be maintained in the flock for an average of 2-3 years (Kosgey et al 2008). The practice of maintaining breeding males for longer years may increase inbreeding although the risk level is lower in the traditional systems as a result of communal grazing (Jaitner et al 2001).

Table 3. Some estimated productive and reproductive traits of goats in the study area







Age at first kidding, month






Kidding interval, month






Age at sale/slaughter, month#






Kidding life, month






Daily milk yield, liter






Means in a row with different subscripts are significant at p<0.05; # refers to age at sale or slaughter of breeding males; HH= Hararghe Highland goat; SS= short-eared Somali goat

Marketing behavior


Current livestock marketing information in the tropics is largely informal (Kosgey et al 2008). In the present study, most of the goat producers often sold their goat at farm gate and local primary markets held weekly. Selling was done mainly at the time of cultural and religious festivals and during dry season when money is needed in order to buy grains and other farm and household inputs. In line with this, Budisatria (2006) reported unplanned sale of small ruminant for emergency cases in Indonesia. Pastoralists in southern Ethiopia are reported to deliberately cull their goat at lower price during the dry season as a result of poor body condition (Adugna and Aster 2007).


As reported by respondents, the major buyers of goats from producers were consumers (27%), other producers (21%), traders (19%), butchers (9%) and brokers (8%). The proportion of buyers identified in the three production systems was significantly different (Table 4; Figure 1). The involvement of export abattoirs in HLCL and P/AP production systems was lower than it was in LLCL system. This could be due to high price competition and small flock size in the highlands and poor infrastructure development in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas. On the contrary, the proportion of local traders in P/AP systems was higher probably due to lower proportion of other actors. The involvement of such buyers in marketing of small ruminant is reported elsewhere in Ethiopia (Tsedeke et al 2011; Edea et al 2012)

Table 4. Percentage of major goat buyers in the study areas


LLCL (n=53)

HLCL (n=50)

P/AP (n=52)







Other producers 

























Rural collectors





Hotel/Restaurant owners





LLCL= lowland crop livestock system; HLCL= highland cereal-livestock system; P/AP= pastoral/agro-pastoral system; n=number of respondents; P-value is a chi-square probability

Figure 1. Live goat marketing channels in the study areas

According to respondents, the purpose for which the animal was purchased significantly affected price as evidenced elsewhere in Ethiopia (Getachew et al 2012) and Nigeria (Jabbar 1998). According to these studies, goats bought for slaughter purposes fetched higher price than goats bought for other purposes such as for breeding and fattening. This is due to the fact that goats bought for slaughter have better body condition and conformation. Generally, buyers paid higher price for male goats particularly for fattened male goats in all areas (Table 5). The highest price was given for  highland goats fattened for meat purpose. These goats have better stand and conformation for meat production purpose as compared to the other goat types. On the other hand, breeding goats from Bati type fetched higher price when compared with the other goat types.


Most of the criteria used to set price of goats at the market were similar across the study area (Table 6). Price was offered and negotiated merely on the basis of size (25%), age (20%), sex (17%), body condition (16%), and coat color (14%). Brown and white colored goats gained higher prices in LLCL and P/AP systems, respectively. In addition to body size and conformation, the preferences of the market to white colored short-eared Somali goat (Gebreyesus et al 2012) and red/ brown colored Washera sheep (Mekuriaw et al 2012) have been documented in eastern and northern Ethiopia, respectively. The practice of livestock marketing based on visual assessment was also reported in southern Ethiopia (Ayele et al 2003). Polled  highland male goats were relatively more preferred. According to the respondents, they are easier for management and have better carcass yield than the horned ones.

Table 5. Average prices (Birr) of goats and their standard errors by study area

Category of animals

LLCL (n=53)

HLCL (n=50)

P/AP (n=52)



Fattened male






Breeding male






Breeding doe












Means in a row with different subscripts are significant at p<0.05; LLCL= lowland crop livestock system; HLCL= highland cereal-livestock system; P/AP= pastoral/agro-pastoral system; n=number of respondents

Table 6. Attributes used for determining selling price of goat


LLCL (n=53)

HLCL (n=50)

P/AP (n=52)












Body condition















Healthy appearance





LLCL= lowland crop livestock system; HLCL= highland cereal-livestock system; P/AP= pastoral/agro-pastoral system; n=number of respondents; P-value is a chi-square probability

Marketing constraints


Most respondents mentioned market-related constraints such as seasonality of the market (44%), lack of current market information (40%) and low prices (14%) (Table 7). About 40% of the respondents had no access to regular market information. For those who had access, traders, friends, relatives and livestock brokers were the major sources of information. As a result, most of the information they got were unreliable and outdated. An earlier study conducted in Kenya and Ethiopia indicated that only 16% of the pastoral households in Ethiopia had access to market price information at least every few days as opposed to 45% in Kenya (Barrett et al 2005). Tsedeke et al (2011) and Ayele et al (2003) also reported similar marketing constraints in Ethiopia.


Even though no significant difference between production systems was observed, low price was mentioned as the other problem of producers in P/AP systems. According to respondents, the demand of goats was higher and price was relatively attractive during the time of religious and cultural festivities. Price dropped during the other season, particularly during prolonged dry season. Andargachew and Brokken (1993) studied the spatial and seasonal variation in sheep prices in the Ethiopian highlands and found that prices and the volume of sales increased significantly immediately before major festivals. Problems related to tax and lack of incentives was considered less important as compared to other types of problems.


The current market related constraints identified in the study areas may affect the supply of quality animals to the markets by limiting the involvement of households in the market. This signifies the need to alleviating problems related to market information and infrastructures in the study areas in particular and the country in general. For example, formation of cooperatives and development of marketing facilities is suggested as a strategy to enhance access to local and export markets (Kosgey 2004).

Table 7. Major marketing constraints in the study area


LLCL (n=53)

HLCL (n=50)

P/AP (n=52)







Lack of regular information





Low market prices





Others #





LLCL= lowland crop livestock system; HLCL= highland cereal-livestock system; P/AP=pastoral/agro-pastoral system; n=number of respondents; P-value is a chi-square probability; # include tax, lack of incentives, brokers/dealer



The authors sincerely thank the Swedish International Development Association (SIDA) for funding this research project through Haramaya University and the University for providing research facilities. The support of local extension staff, farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists during the data collection period in the study districts is highly appreciated.


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Received 9 January 2014; Accepted 18 March 2014; Published 1 May 2014

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