But we needed to produce more milk to improve childhood nutrition, so worked towards developing a controlled and structured Breeding Programme.
Locating goat stock to improve our milk yield has proved difficult. We decided to aim towards saanen bloodlines (a breed renowned for high milk production) , but there are apparently no pedigrees in the country. Eventually, in contact with the veterinary authorities, we located saanen crosses, and bought in 4 allegedly 75% saanen does.
“Local” pygmy goats wander freely
around the rural areas, but are not
suitable for milking. So, if we were to
build a dairy herd we had to look further
The best goats available initially were half a dozen hybrids of indecipherable origin. Pedigrees were unheard of - children in Malawi don’t have birth certificates, so why would goats have pedigree paperwork? So we started with these 6, mated them to the best males we could find, and kept the best female offspring.
In October 2008, we moved to our current site and constructed brick-built kholas (livestock housing) having learned a lot about the design, requirements and management of dairy goats - much by painful experience!
Our first goat khola complex built in traditional style.
Mulanje - the only saanen-type buck for hundreds of miles became our first rental stud.
In 2010 we ordered pure pedigree saanens from South Africa - one buck stud and two mated does. However, they were mistakenly issued by quarantine officials to farmers hundreds of miles away, and it took many months to locate and bring two of them onto site. The third was never found. Apparently simple arrangements can be complex in Malawi.
So, every year, we slim down the flock, keeping those that fit most readily into our breeding plan, passing others into the hands of those we’ve trained in the community, to enhance nutrition of the vulnerable, and even form a small business.
A major challenge to goat health is good feeding. Malawi’s climate swings between flooding and drought, so adequate supplies of quality foodstuff are hard to find.
Water shortages and lack of veterinary drugs, equipment, and expertise in the area also cause concern, but we’re encouraged by the hundreds of vulnerable babies that have thrived after receiving our milk over the years.....
Our current female goat accommodation - consists of a khola to house 20+ does, milking parlour, storeroom, office and birthing unit.
Additionally there are individual kholas for bucks, admin, yard and isolation unit.