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MANAGEMENT OF BRUSH GOATS
1 Many brush goats may be feral goats which were originally domestic goats that escaped or were released by early settlers. Their number is unknown, but they may represent a natural resource in some areas and play a role in today's agriculture, when managed effectively.

2 Current interest in brush or bush goats is centered on their browsing behavior and dietary preferences in scrub and weed control. However, this diet alone does not produce sufficient monetary gains from goats; their by-products of meat, skin and fiber are of special economic interest.

3 Breeding The ''type'' of goat upon which to base this kind of ''wild'' breeding program is not yet understood. Obviously the selection of a specific ''type'' will be affected by the by-products envisaged and the role of the goat itself.

4 Feral goat flocks that have evolved over years consist of long and short-haired goats, a mixture of colors and a variety of conformation. Short-haired goats are thought to be better but research suggests that long-haired goats lose less weight under nutritional stress. However, goat deaths in winter indicate that long-haired goats with little down are cold sensitive and less viable. For meat production it is easy to suggest the selection for twin progeny with high yearling weights, regardless of lengths of hair and color.

5 The improved Boer goat of South Africa is valued in various parts of the world for good meat characteristics and its skin. Boer goat breeders select a white, short-haired animal but evidence is lacking on aspects of skin quality. The following breeds of goats are recognized as having good quality skins: Maradi, small East African Goat, Boer goat, Somali, Black Bengal, Moxoto, Marota, and Sahil. Fiber color appears to be unimportant but the above breeds are short, fine haired goats. An example is the Sahil of Africa which has long-haired and short-haired types. Only the short-haired goats have acceptable skins with no information on the diameter of fiber.

6 For cashmere (down) goats exist selection criteria. A difficulty is to determine whether the associated coarse fiber should be long or short. This may be dependent on the method of harvesting. Fortunately, it appears that selection for cashmere does not conflict with selection for growth rate.

7 Products The products of brush goats are skin, meat and fiber. Skins may be from kids up to six weeks or from older goats. Goat skins are a valuable product in some countries. Processors identify the following problems:
Coarse grain -- notably from males with ridge-back hair lines but also in the majority of brush goats and probably associated with broad diameter fibers of low density.
Scars -- presumably from fighting, scrub, fences
Excessive odor -- from aged males
Excessive fat -- corium connective tissue ''left- over''layers
Meat -- may be kid meat, yearling meat or from older cull goats. Goat meat is valued throughout the world. Australia exports live goats to the middle East and Singapore; bone-in and boned carcases to the Pacific Islands, West Indies, Great Britain, Americas, Japan. The latter two markets are essentially as manufacturing meat, e.g. for pet food. A small quantity of carcases are exported dehaired with skin on primarily to Hong Kong. Consumption of goat meat is restricted because of marketing problems and the need for all meat to be slaughtered i ++++MISSING DATA++++

8 Cashmere can be white, brown, grey or black in color with a price differential in favor of white fiber. Commercial processes are available to separate small amounts of coarse hair from a predominantly cashmere mixture. Combing produces a relatively pure sample but obviously shearing includes coarse hair. There is now an economical, commercial procedure available for separation of mixtures that include much coarse hair.

9 Shedding of cashmere occurs annually in spring. Combing after shedding has begun, is successful but any delay leads to loss of much of the cashmere. The operation of combing is physically demanding and tedious and its economic utilization will probably depend on mechanization. Traditionally, hand combers have preferred a long guard hair to minimize tangling of the cashmere and to modify its rate of loss.

10 Nutrition All grazing animals have preferences for some forages and dislikes for others. This determines the order in which forage plants are eaten and influences management decisions. Growth and survival of some plants - those that are readily eaten and those that are never eaten - may be altered over periods of time. This order of preference identifies goats as browsing animals. Preference is always in relation to what kind of plants are available, how much is available, the relative succulence of different kinds and the individual habit of eating. Rarely is the diet made up of one plant species. In weed and scrub control it must be expected that there is a maintenance cost in terms of desirable plants eaten by goats.

11 Brush goats in a weed or scrub control program should not be expected to receive supplementary feeding. Normal stocking rate management should be such, that the goats enter the winter in good condition. There are two possible exceptions. In a difficult, cold winter it may be necessary to feed hay to ensure survival of the goats. In all areas, there may be periods where phosphorus may have to be provided as a supplement. There have been instances of a form of rickets and slow growth rates under rangeland and browse conditions probably due to an imbalanced P:Ca ratio.

12 Following is a list of plants and scrubs observed to be eaten by goats. It is not complete and tends to identify problem species. Stage of maturity of plants and scrub influence selection by goats and produce a marked seasonal variation in the composition of their diet. Management has to recognize these factors.

13 Highly preferred plants and scrubs: Orange bush (Capparis mitchellii), supplejack (Ventilago viminalis), Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneum), gruie colane (Owenia acidula), emu bush (Eremophila longifolia), mature mulga (Acacia aneura), rosewood (Heterodendrum oleifolium), belah (Casuarina cristata), current bush warrior (Apophyllum anomalum), white wood (Atalaya hemiglauca), lignum (Muehlenbeckia cunninghamii), sucker leaves of boxes, gums and mallees, blackberry (Rubus spp.), sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa), lucerne tree (Chamaecytisus proliferus), flower lucerne - alfalfa (Medicago falcata), turnip weed (Brassica tournefortii), rye grass (Lolium spp.), pine (Pinus, Picea, Abies spp.), maple (Acer spp.), grape (Vitis spp.), oak (Quercus spp.).

14 Moderately preferred: Punty bush (Cassia eremophilia), hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa attenuata), young pine (Callitris spp.), young mulga (Acacia aneura), ironwood (Acacia excelsa) and other acacias, yarran (Acacia homalphylla), canegrass (Eragrostis australasica), some box and gum trees, hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), poa tussock (Poa labillardieri), serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma).

15 Eaten occasionally: Budda (Eremophilia mitchellii), wilga (Geijera parviflora), mature poplar box bimble (E. populnea), horse nettle (Solanum carolinense), common nettle tall (Urtica dioica), kangaroo thorn (Acacia armata), galvanized burr (Bassia birchii).

16 Readily eaten but dependent on stage of growth-(frequently associated with the flowering stage): Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium), variegated thistle (Silybum marianum), inkweed (Phytolacca octandra), nodding thistle (Carduus nutans), black thistle (Cirsium vulgare), rushes (Juncus spp.), sucker regrowth of yellow box (E. melliodora), white box (E. albens), and red box (E. polyanthemos), black wattle (Acacia mearnaii), horehound (Marrubium vulgare), St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), curled dock (Rumex crispus), purple top (Verbena bonariensis), skelton weed (Chondrilla juncea), mustard weed (Sisymbrium spp.), patterson's curse (Echium plantagineum), barley grass (Hordeum leporinum), spear grass (Stipa spp.), lucerne - alfalfa (Medicago sativa).

17 Mechanical damage only: Bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum).

18 Isolated plants eaten - (yet to be tested adequately): Sifton bush biddy (Cassinia arcuata), mature cotton bush (Asclepias fruticosa).

19 Not eaten or harmful: Slender thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), peppermint (Mentha spp.), yew (Taxus spp.), rhododendron, solanaceae.

20 Reproduction The seasonal breeding activity of brush goat is not unlike Merino sheep with fall being the most favorable period for breeding. Under feral conditions, breeding activity is affected greatly by nutrition and in good seasons it is possible to have two kid crops in one year. The length of estrus cycle averages between 19 and 20 days. The presence of bucks acts as an exteroceptive factor in stimulating the onset of estrus at the beginning of the breeding season.

21 Estrus could be successfully synchronized during the regular breeding season by the use of intravaginal progestagen pessaries, subcutaneous progestagen implants or with prostaglandin. Sexual maturity is closely related to growth rate with well grown bucks reaching puberty at 6-9 months (4 months even in some cases) and does at 7-8 months (even 5 months). Gestation length is approximately 147 days. Parturition is usually uneventful with dystocia a rare problem.

22 Slaughter and experimental data indicate that kidding percent in brush goats is usually 150-180 Twins are common but surprisingly, there are few triplets. For the first 3-4 days the kids rarely move from the kidding site but thereafter will rejoin the mob with their dam. Birthweight of kids is approximately 6.5 lbs. Kid losses result from stillbirth, predation and starvation. Starvation is usually the result of faulty udders. Abortion does not appear to be a real problem in brush goats except as a result of severe stress. In that event, aborted kids are usually in the third trimester. Abortion can be readily induced artifically using synthetic prostaglandin.

23 At kidding and for the next four days, the does often ''plant'' their kids. This appears to be largely dependent on the availability of feed. With ample feed available, the doe remains near her kids - when feed is limited she tends to plant the kids and forages at a distance.

24 Management Goats are alert and observant and are easily moved in yards and through gateways. However, they may balk and do not flow as evenly as sheep do when being counted through a gateway. Goats tend to rush more or not go at all.

25 When being forced in confined areas, such as the approach to a drafting race or drenching in the working race, goats will go down very readily. Although surprisingly little damage results from this packing down, it is best kept to a minimum. Dogs are rarely necessary once goats have been yarded and movement in larger yards with big mobs is best done as quietly as possible. When working in forcing areas or races, trampling can be minimized by having only 12 or 15 animals at a time in the area.

26 Brush goats are susceptible to the same diseases and parasites that commonly affect sheep (e.g. footrot) with the notable exception of fly strike. Medication is essentially the same with due cognizance of liveweight. Samples of feral goats have been studied for Brucellosis (melitensis, abortus and ovis) but were found to be free of that disease.

27 Most harvested feral goats are lice infested and the particular lice involved are Damalinia caprae and Linognathus stenopsis. The most common sheep louse is Damalinia ovis. Experiments have been conducted to investigate louse transfer between sheep and goats. Though some transfer did take place under pen conditions, the transferred lice did not survive longer than 12 days and there was no hatching of eggs that may have been laid.

28 All feral goats should be assumed to be lice infested and dipped immediately on arrival at the property. This has to be followed up with a second dip two weeks later. It is convenient to initially vaccinate also at one of these times.

29 Working races should have panels inserted to shorten exisiting sheep race to approximately ten feet. Height should be a minimum of four feet; width not to be greater than 2.5 feet, which will prevent trampling. Working goat yards use funnel and pie-shape designs and depend in size on the number of animals to be handled. Drafting races are shorter and narrower than sheep races.

30 Fencelines at five feet height should be clear of obstacles that may facilitate goats jumping the fence e.g. stumps, trees, logs, stays, rocks, banks. The agility of the brush goat poses special problems with fencing. However, in most cases the goat prefers to go under/or through fences rather than over. Two low-strand electric fences are effective.

31 Horns on brush goats have been assessed as a means of restraint and self protection. They can cause accidents in the working area, inhibit drafting, and scar skins sufficient to reduce quality. Electric calf dehorners or modified soldering irons are used for dehorning. This is not practical in a large flock. Other methods include calf scoop dehorners up to sixteen weeks of age or rubber bands or, if the goats are older, a hacksaw. Polled brush goats are considered undesirable because of the problem of intersexes in polled goats.

32 To move a mob of goats, it is best to lead the way and have a dog at the rear of the mob. In practice, most goats can be worked as one works sheep.

33 Disappointing kid survival levels have been associated with the presence of coyotes, wild dogs, foxes, wild pigs and other predators. Where they are a problem, the basic tactic is to kid at the same time as lambing when food for predators is more plentiful and diversified. Control by poisoning or trapping may also be necesary in some circumstances.

34 Attached tables give some indication of the magnitudes of husbandry of brush goats as measured by imports and exports.