Introductory Chapter: Is There a Future for Goat Pastoral Systems?
Raising goats is associated with poverty and economical calculations show that intensification increases the profitability of goat pastoral systems in a wide array of ecological conditions. A goat pastoral system is analogous to a pearl necklace where one tries to replace several pearls without letting the remaining pearls fall around. Goat adaptation to harsh pastoral conditions is based on specific behaviors, including feeding behaviors, response to predators, and possibly self-medication behaviors transmitted from mothers to offspring that we term collectively “goat culture”. Introduction of managerial changes should be designed in ways that will not disrupt goat culture. The new genomics technologies could be instrumental in identifying genes associated with anatomical and physiological adaptations to harsh environments. Pastoral systems are associated with an intimate knowledge of ethno-veterinary and medical practices and there is a risk that this knowledge is lost in the intensification process. Finally, evidence accumulates that goat pastoral systems, when well managed, provide a wide array of ecological services: fire prevention in brushland and woodland, landscape enhancement, and increased biodiversity. Simplistic economic evaluations have overlooked these societal contributions which should be quantified and paid for explicitly.
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