Pygmy goats are small goats of African origin also known as the dwarf goats. They are usually an average height of 38cm to 50cm at the shoulder and as such, they weigh less than the average sized goat. Their smaller size make them greatly advantageous show pets but can also be reared to produce milk or meat. Their small stature mean that they require relatively less forage and so an increased number of livestock can be well accommodated using limited forage. Nonetheless, stocking density should be carefully calculated so that animals are provided with enough forage to meet their daily rations. A common mistake made by farmers is underestimating how many pygmy goats per acre resulting in less than adequate provision of feed. For this reason, there is need for farmers to acquire knowledge on the number of pygmy goats per acre.
Stoking Density Based on the Rule of Thumb
The rule of thumb is basically a broadly accurate guide based on practise rather than theory. It has been used by the agricultural community for many years. The upside of using the rule of thumb when determining how many pygmy goats per acre is that it requires less complicated mathematical calculations and is based on well proven stocking methods. Since the pygmy goats are smaller than the other species of goats, they take up less space for rearing whether for their meat, milk, fibre and/ or skin. A good rule of thumb is to have 8 to 10 pygmy goats browsing in one acre of pasture land for about two months. An important point to note is that although the rule of thumb is a common practise, it is not always accurate. This is because it is based on generalised algorithms that do not take into account variations in the landscape. As such, it is advisable for farmers to gain knowledge and skill on other means of determining how many pygmy goats per acre. This will allow them to effectively meet the dietary needs of livestock therefore increasing productivity and profitability.
Stocking Density Based on the Available Resources
The size and quality of the feeding land also plays a major role in the determination of how many pygmy goats per acre. The amount of forage available, browsing production season and the daily intake should also be incorporated in the feeding acres planning for the pygmy goats. Poor quality pasture lands mean that stocking density has to be reduced to keep enough goats that can be sustained by the nutrients in that area. For this reason, it is advisable to increase stocking density in areas with good quality forages as the dietary requirement of pygmy goats can be met. Increasing the number of the pygmy goats on good pasture land mean more land is cleared while the goats get their much needed nutrients for production. Keep in mind that this should be done without overgrazing the pasture lands. Poor quality grazing lands should accommodate 2 to 6 pygmy goats per acre while the better quality grazing lands may be able to support 8 to 10 goats per acre. Increasing the stocking density for the poor quality pastures needs extra supplements for the goats. Overgrazing the lands reduces plant regrowth periods, thereby limiting the forage productivity in the next grazing season. As a consequence, goats tend to suffer from poor nutrition reducing their productivity as well as profitability. On the other hand, stocking the goats in the pasture lands for less than the required time limits their nutrient intake, at the same time leading to under grazing for the pastures.
Stocking Density Based on Livestock Maturity
The number of pygmy goats per acre also depends on the maturity of livestock as well as objectives of the agricultural venture. As earlier stated, pygmy goats are bred for various purposes. As such, non-productive goats kept for shows need a quantity of nutrients that merely sustain its bodily functions and so heavy stocking can be practised. The opposite applies for productive livestock bred for milk and meat. These require stocking densities of approximately 6 to 8 goats depending on animal’s maturity. Some farmers place about 10 pygmy goats per acre, provided the forage is of superior quality. Lactating goats, kid goats and the female does should be given the better quality shrubs and pastures as they require much forage and pastures for milk production and growth for the kid goats. These animals require slightly more land in comparison to other goats. Pygmy goats kept for dairy production should be given supplement hay if the pasture lands are failing to sustain them. Goats can survive poorest lands and shrubby areas were other animals find it hard to survive but they tend to produce poor quantities of milk, and so the grazing pastures should be well suited for the type of breed goat and the production stage they are in. This generally means that the number of pygmy goats per acre is limited for dry areas of lands as animals have to graze a larger area of land to get their daily rations.
Stocking Density in Rotational Grazing
The type of grazing techniques also plays a vital role in determining how many pygmy goats per acre. A popular grazing system among farmers is rotational grazing. This method allows farmers to stock an increased number of livestock per acre while maintaining forage quality. Rotational grazing is the utilization of a single portion of land while the rest is left idle to allow growth and development. The land is divided into paddocks and animals are allowed to graze one paddock for a specific period of time before being moved to the next grazing area. Since paddocks are usually characterised by good quality forages, the number of pygmy goats per acre can be approximately 10 or even slightly more. Although rotational grazing is characterised by superior quality forages, the national value of the land varies according to the type of grass available. For this reason, when determining how many pygmy goats per acre it is important to take into account the type of forage.
Goats are browsers not grazers. They tend to eat in areas with lots of weeds, brush, leaves and a great variety of vegetation. Pygmy goats like all the other goats do not generally like eating in areas that are mostly grassy, although they may do a great job in clearing overgrown pasture. Rich pasture for pygmy goats, especially clover should be avoided when choosing the pasture lands for the goats. These rich plants can cause bloating in the goat’s rumen and more so, lead to respiratory failure. Alfalfa hay is also popular for feeding goats and has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than grass hays. It can be a good choice for feeding milking goats as it has more protein, energy and calcium. Legumes on the other hand, if consumed in excess can cause thick fibres for the skin goats lowering the quality of fleece to be produced from the skin. As such, the amount of grazing land provided to goats should take into account the type of forage.