Goat Production in Eastern Africa: Practices, Breed Characteristics, and Opportunities for Their Sustainability

  • Anne W. T. Muigai
  • Ally M. Okeyo
  • Julie M. K. Ojango


It is estimated that 14% of the livestock in Eastern Africa are comprised of 146 million goats. The goats are in varying agroecological zones under farming systems ranging from small-scale mixed crop–livestock systems with a few animals raised on limited land resources, to extensive pastoral systems where large numbers of animals are raised on large tracts of land. The goats are raised primarily for meat, with milk treated as a secondary trait. Use of goat products at rural household levels in the region is not well documented. The goat populations have been developed over time through selection processes resulting in diverse goat breeds, with some adapted to harsh environmental conditions. In recent years, a strong drive to increase the productivity of goats has resulted in changes in breeding and management strategies and practices, including introduction of foreign breeds, mainly from temperate environments for use in crossbreeding programs, and a narrowing of the range and diversity of indigenous breed types. This, in addition to a lack of detailed information on the characteristics of the indigenous breeds, threatens the existing diversity of goat populations. This chapter presents an overview of the present-day indigenous goat breeds and the production systems under which they are raised in Eastern Africa. The chapter also highlights key constraints to improving goat productivity and outlines opportunities and changes to mitigate threats within the farming systems. The growing populations of goats and their potential for improving the livelihood of different communities call for innovative strategies to reduce their environmental footprint in the existing ecosystems.



The authors acknowledge support for this study through the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the African Union-Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).


  1. ADB (2010) African Development Bank Regional. Study on the Sustainable Livestock Development in the Greater Horn of Africa. Retreived from https://www.afdb.org/
  2. Ahuya CO, Okeyo AM, Peacock C (2005) Developmental challenges and opportunities in the goat industry: The Kenyan experience. Small Rumin Res 60:197–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ayalew W, Rischkowsky B, King JM et al (2003) Crossbreds did not generate more net benefits than indigenous goats in Ethiopian smallholdings. Agric Syst 76(3):1137–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banerjee AK, Animut G, Ermias E (2000) Selection and breeding strategies for increased productivity of goats in Ethiopia. In: Merkel RC, Abebe G, Goetsch AL (eds) The opportunities and challenges of enhancing goat production in East Africa. Proceedings of a conference held at Debub University, Awassa, Ethiopia from November 10 to 12, pp 70–79Google Scholar
  5. Banskalieva V, Sahlu T, Goetsch AL (2000) Fatty acid composition of goat muscles and fat depots: a review. Small Rumin Res 37:255–268CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bett RC, Kosgey IS, Bebe BO et al (2007) Genetic improvement of the Kenya dual purpose goat: influence of economic values and prospects for a practical breeding programme. Trop Sci 47(3):105–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bett RC, Kosgey IS, Kahi AK et al (2009) Analysis of production objectives and breeding practices of dairy goats in Kenya. Trop Anim Health Prod 41:307–320CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradford GE (1981) Potential of dairy goats as a source of milk on small- holder farms in Kenya. In: Proceedings of the animal production society of Kenya, pp 48–54Google Scholar
  9. Chenyambuga SW, Hanotte O, Hirbo J et al (2004) Genetic characterization of indigenous goats of Sub-saharan Africa using microsatellite DNA markers. Asian-Australian J Anim Sci 17:445–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chenyambuga SW, Komwihangilo DM, Jackson M (2012) Production performance and desirable traits of small East African goats in semi-arid areas of Central Tanzania. Livest Res Rural Dev 24(7):118. Retrivied from http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd24/7/chen24118.htm
  11. Clutton-Brock J (2000) Cattle, sheep, and goats south of the Sahara: an archaezoological perspective. In: Blench RM, MacDonald KC (eds) The origins and development of African livestock: archaeology, genetics, linguistics and ethnography. UCL Press, London, UK, pp 30–37Google Scholar
  12. Das SM, Rege JEO, Shibre M (1996) Phenotypic and genetic parameters of growth traits of blended goats at Malya, Tanzania. Third Biennial conference of the African small ruminant research network. ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya, UICC, Kampala, Uganda, pp 63–70Google Scholar
  13. Davis SJM (1993) The zooarchaeology of sheep and goat in Mesopotamia. In: Postgate N (ed) Domestic animals of Mesopotamia part I, Bulletin on Sumerian Agriculture 7. Sumerian Agriculture Group, pp 1–7Google Scholar
  14. Degen AA (2007) Sheep and goat milk in pastoral societies. Small Rumin Res 68:7–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Epstein H (1971) The origin of the domestic animals of Africa. Africana Publishing Corporation, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  16. ESGPIP (2009) Ethiopia sheep and goat productivity improvement program. Goat breeds of Ethiopia: a guide for identification and utilization. Technical bulletin 27, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Retrieved from: http://www.esgpip.org/PDF/Technical%20bulletin%20No.27.pdf
  17. Fantahun T, Alemayehu A, Abegaz S (2016) Characterization of goat production systems and trait preferences of goat keepers in Bench Maji zone, south western Ethiopia. African J Agric Res 11:2768–2774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. FAO (2007) The state of the world’s animal genetic resources for food and agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy. Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a1250e/a1250e00.htm
  19. FAO (2011) State of food and agriculture on women and agriculture. FAO, Rome, Italy. Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i2050e/i2050e00.htm
  20. FAO (2015) The second report on the state of the world’s animal genetic resources for food and agriculture. Rome, Italy. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4787e/index.html
  21. FAOSTATS (2014) FAOSTATS. Rome, Italy. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/faostat/. Access date 25 Jan 2017
  22. FAOSTATS (2015) FAOSTATS. Rome, Italy. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/faostat/. Access date 26 May 2017
  23. FARM-Africa (1996) Goat types of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Physical description and management systems. Farm-Africa, London, UK. Retrieved from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnacm256.pdf
  24. Gifford-Gonzalez D, Hanotte O (2011) Domesticating animals in Africa: ımplications of genetic and archaeological findings. J World Prehist 24(1):1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Haile A, Wurzinger M, Mueller J et al (2011) Guidelines for setting up community-based sheep breeding programs in Ethiopia. ICARDA—tools and guidelines No. 1, Aleppo, SyriaGoogle Scholar
  26. Hassan FA (2000) Climate and Cattle in North Africa: a first approximation. In: Blench RM, MacDonald KC (eds) The origins and development of African livestock: archaeology, genetics, linguistics and ethnography. UCL Press, London, UK, pp 61–86Google Scholar
  27. Jaitner J, Sowe J, Secka-Njie E et al (2001) Ownership pattern and management practices of small ruminants in The Gambia-implications for a breeding programme. Small Rumin Res 40:101–108CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Jandal JM (1996) Comparative aspects of goat and sheep milk. Small Rumin Res 22:177–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kebede T, Haile A, Dadi H (2012) Smallholder goat breeding and flock management practices in the central rift valley of Ethiopia. Trop Anim Health Prod 44:999–1006CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kosgey IS (2004) Breeding objectives and breeding strategies for small ruminants in the tropics. Thesis, Wageningen University, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  31. Kosgey IS, Okeyo AM (2007) Genetic improvement of small ruminants in low-input, smallholder production systems: technical and infrastructural issues. Small Rumin Res 70:76–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kosgey IS, Rowlands GJ, van Arendonk JAM et al (2008) Small ruminant production in smallholder and pastoral/extensive farming systems in Kenya. Small Rumin Res 77:11–24Google Scholar
  33. Krause AN (2005) Breeding programmes for small ruminants in the tropics with special reference to the crossbreeding programme of the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya (DGAK). PhD Thesis, Humboldt University, Berlin, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  34. Lebbie SHB (2004) Goats under household conditions. Small Rumin Res 51:131–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lebbie SHB, Manzini AT (1989) The productivity of indigenous goats under traditional management in Swaziland. In: Wilson RT, Azeb M (eds) African small ruminant research and developmet. ILCA, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaGoogle Scholar
  36. Luikart G, Gielly L, Excoffier L et al (2001) Multiple maternal origins and weak phylogeographic structure in domestic goats. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:5927–5932Google Scholar
  37. Marshall K, Mtimet N, Wanyoike F et al (2014) The complex and gender differentiated objectives of livestock keeping for somali pastoralists. In: Proceedings of 10th world congress of genetics applied to livestock production, 17–24 Aug, Vancouver, CanadamGoogle Scholar
  38. Mason IL (1984) Goat. In: Mason IL (ed) Evolution of domesticated animals. Longman, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  39. Mason IL, Maule JP (1960) The indigenous livestock of Eastern and Southern Africa. Farnham Royal, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Farnham Royal, Bucks, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  40. Mueller JP (2006) Breeding and conservation programs with local communities. In: FAO-WAAP expert meeting “sustainable utilization of animal genetic resources”, 2–4 July 2006, Ferentillo, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  41. Mueller JP, Rischkowsky B, Haile A et al (2015) Community-based livestock breeding programmes: essentials and examples. J Anim Breed Genet 132:155–168CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Mugambi JN, Wakhungu JW, Inyangala BO et al (2007) Evaluation of the performance of the Kenya dual purpose goat composites: additive and non-additive genetic parameters. Small Rumin Res 72:149–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Muigai A, Matete G, Aden HH et al (2016) The indigenous farm genetic resources of Somalia: preliminary phenotypic and genotypic characterization of cattle, sheep and goats. ILRI Project Report, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  44. Mwacharo JM, Ojango JMK., Baltenweck I et al (2009) Livestock productivity constraints and opportunities for investment in science and technology. Output 6, BMGF-ILRI Project Report on Livestock Knowledge GenerationGoogle Scholar
  45. Mwai O, Hanotte O, Kwon Y-J et al (2015) Indigenous cattle: unique genetic resources in a rapidly changing world. Australas J Anim Sci 28(7):911–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Newman JL (1995) The peopling of Africa: a geographic interpretation. Yale University Press, UKGoogle Scholar
  47. Ojango JMK, Audho J, Oyieng E et al (2016) System characteristics and management practices for small ruminant production in “climate smart villages” of Kenya. Anim Genet Resour 58:101–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Olivier JJ, Cloete SWP, Schoeman SJ et al (2005) Performance testing and recording in meat and dairy goats. Small Rumin Res 60(1–2):83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Omore A, Cheng’ole-Mulindo J, Fakhrul-Islam SM, et al. (2004) Employment generation through small-scale dairy marketing and processing: experiences from Kenya, Bangladesh and Ghana. A joint study by the ILRI Market-Oriented Smallholder Dairy Project and FAO Ani-mal Production and Health Division. FAO Animal Production and Health, Food Agriculture: Paper 158, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  50. Peacock C (2005a) Goats: a pathway out of poverty. Small Rumin Res 60:179–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Peacock C (2005b) Working papers series 2. Goats : Unlocking their potential for Africa’s farmers, 31 Oct–4 Nov 2005, Kigali, RwandaGoogle Scholar
  52. Peacock C (2008) Dairy goat development in East Africa: a replicable model for smallholders? Small Rumin Res 77:225–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pereira F, Queiro S, Gusma L et al (2008) Tracing the history of goat Pastoralism: new clues from mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA in North Africa. Mol Biol Evol 26(12):2765–2773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rege JEO (1994) Indigenous African small ruminants: a case for characterization and improvement. In: Lebbie SHB, Rey B, Irungu S (eds) Proceedings of the second Biennial conference of the African small ruminants research network, AICC, Arusha, Tanzania, pp 205–211Google Scholar
  55. Rege JEO, Marshall K, Notenbaert A et al (2011) Pro-poor animal improvement and breeding—what can science do? Livest Sci 136(1):15–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ruvuna F, Taylor JF, Okeyo M et al (1992) Effects of breed and castration on slaughter weight and carcass composition of goats. Small Rumin Res 7:175–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sacker GD, Trail JCM (1966) Production characteristics of a herd of East African Mubende goats. Trop Agric 43:43–51Google Scholar
  58. Semakula J, Mutetikka D, Kugonza DR, Mpairwe D (2010) Smallholder goat breeding systems in Humid, Sub-Humid and Semi Arid Agro-Ecological Zones of Uganda. Glob Vet 4:283–291Google Scholar
  59. Shirima EJM (2005) Benefits from dual purpose goats for crop and livestock production under small-scale peasant systems in Kondoa eroded areas, Tanzania. Livest Res Rural Dev 17:Article #138. Retrieved, March 16, 2017, from http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd17/12/shir17138.htm
  60. Shrestha JNB, Fahmy MH (2007) Breeding goats for meat production. 2. Crossbreeding and formation of composite population. Small Rumin Res 67:93–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sinn R, Ketzis J, Chen T (1999) The role of woman in the sheep and goat sector. Small Rumin Res 34:259–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. SLCCIA (2013) Somaliland Chamber of commerce I and A. Yearly report for the period 01/01/2012–31/12/2012. Hargeisa, Somaliland: SLCCIAGoogle Scholar
  63. Smith AB (1992) Origins and spread of pastoralism in Africa. Annu Rev Anthropol 21:125–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tesfaye AT (2004) Genetic characterization of indigenous gota populations of Ethiopia using microsatellite DNA markers. PhD thesis, Haryana, National Dairy Research Institute, Deemed University, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  65. Verbeek E, Kanis E, Bett RC et al (2007) Socio-economic factors influencing small ruminant breeding in Kenya. Livest Res Rural Dev 19(6):ARticle #77. Retrieved from http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd19/6/verb19077.htm
  66. Wanyoike F, Mtimet N, Ndiwa N, et al (2014) Knowledge of livestock grading and market participation among small ruminant producers in Northern Somalia. In: 6th All Africa conference on animal agriculture 27–30 Oct 2014, SomaliaGoogle Scholar
  67. Wilson RT (1991) Small ruminant production and the small ruminant genetic resource in tropical Africa. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper, paper no. 88, FAO, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  68. Wilson RT, Murayi T (1989) Indigenous African small ruminant strains with potentially high reproductive performance. Small Ruminant Res 2:107–117Google Scholar
  69. World Bank (2017) World Bank Population Data. Data retrieved 08 May 2017. Retrieved from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL
  70. Zeder MA (2011) The origins of agriculture in the near East. Curr Anthropol 52(Suppl 4):221–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zeder MA, Hesse B (2000) The initial domestication of goats (Capra hircus) in the Zagros mountains 10,000 years ago. Science 287(5461):2254–2257CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Zeuner FE (1963) A history of domesticated animals. London: Hutchinson, 1963, UKGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne W. T. Muigai
    • 1
  • Ally M. Okeyo
    • 2
  • Julie M. K. Ojango
    • 2
  1. 1.Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JujaNairobiKenya
  2. 2.International Livestock Research Institute, NairobiNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations