ISSN: 2276-7770                  ICV: 6.15

Submission Date: 27/07/2015

Accepted: 01/08/2015

Published: 21/07/2015

Subject Area: Animal Genetics and Breeding



Research Article (DOI http://doi.org/10.15580/GJAS.2015.5.072715105)


Breeding Objective, Selection Criteria and Breeding Practice of Indigenous Goats in Western Ethiopia: Implications for Sustainable Genetic Improvement


Ahmed Seid 1*, Kefelegne Kebede 2, Kefena Effa 3


1Jimma University, Department of Animal Science, P.O. Box 307, Jimma, Tel. +251936917755,

E-mail: seidahmad5@ gmail. com

2Haramaya University, Department of Animal Science, P.O. Box 138, Drei Dawa, Tel: +251924226707,

E-mail: kebede123@ yahoo. de

3Holeta Agricultural Research Center, Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding (Molecular and Populations Genetics/Genomics), P.O. Box 31, Holeta, Ethiopia Tel: +251911748381,

E-mail: kefenaol@ yahoo. com


*Corresponding Author’s E-mail: seidahmad5@ gmail. com




The study was conducted to identify breeding objectives, existed breeding strategies and selection criteria of goat owners in mixed crop-livestock production systems in Horro Guduru Wollega Zone, western Ethiopia. Data were collected from 306 households through semi structured and structured questionnaires, focal group discussions and secondary sources. The data were analyzed using SAS version 9.2 (2008). General linear model procedure (PROC GLM) of SAS was used for goat flock size and structure. An index was calculated to provide overall ranking for categorical variables. The overall average goat flock size in the study area was 7.6±0.2. Income generation (0.48), meat for home consumption (0.34), saving (0.10), ceremony (0.05) and manure (0.03) were the reasons of goat rearing in the study area. Most (72.22%) of  farmers practiced uncontrolled mating system. About 32.35% of farmers in the study area had their own breeding buck while 67.65% of farmers shared breeding bucks with their neighbors. Liter size (0.26), growth rate (0.22) and age at first kidding (0.14) were the farmer’s selection criteria for breeding doe in the order indicated while growth rate (0.38), appearance (0.34) and coat colour type (0.16) were the farmers selection criteria for breeding bucks. When designing sustainable breed improvement strategies in this production system, mechanisms to include all categories of traits should be considered.


Keywords: culling, flock structure, mating system.





Livestock production is an important enterprise in eastern Africa where about 56 % of Africa’s livestock wealth is maintained (DeLeeuw and Rey, 1995). Small ruminants make a substantial contribution to the well being of the people in the region and Sub-Saharan Africa (De Leeuw and Rey, 1995). Goats have a unique role in smallholder agriculture from the fact that they require small investments; have broad feeding habits, short reproductive cycle and good adaptation to unfavorable environmental conditions and suit the circumstances of especially resource poor livestock keepers (Alemayehu, 1993; Silanikove, 2000; Misra and Singh, 2002; Degen, 2007). They are important protein sources in the diets of the poor and help to provide extra income and support (Notter, 2012).

In Ethiopia, goats are one of the most important livestock species with eight genetically diverse breeds (Tesfaye, 2004) which have become adapted to a range of environments from the arid lowlands (the pastoral and agro-pastoral production system) to the humid highlands (mixed farming systems) (Workneh, 1992, ESGPIP, 2008). In these different production systems, goats provide their owners with a vast range of products and services such as meat, milk, skin, hair, horns, bones, manure, security, gifts, religious rituals and medicine. According to CSA (2013) there are about 24.06 million goats in Ethiopia, of which about 71.06 percent are females and 28.94 percent are males. With respect to breed, almost all of the goats are indigenous breeds, which account about 99.99 % (CSA, 2013).

            There is also a growing export market for goat meat in the Middle Eastern Gulf States and some African countries. At optimum off take rates, Ethiopia can export 2 million goats annually, and at the same time supply 1,128,000 goats for the domestic market. The current annual off take rate of goats is, however, only 35%. The average carcass weight of Ethiopian goats is 10 kg, which is the second lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (FAO, 2009). The demand from both domestic and export markets for product from small ruminants, especially mutton, is increasing in Ethiopia (SPS-LMM, 2010). The productivity of indigenous goats is currently too low to meet this demand (Sebsibe, 2008). 

There have been a few attempts of genetic improvement program of goats through upgrading the exotic genetic blood levels by FARM-Africa dairy goat development project in south and eastern part of the country (Gebremeskel, 2000). However it was reported that crossbred goats did not perform better than indigenous goats if both groups were kept in similar management levels (Ayalew et al., 2003). In general, many small ruminants cross breeding programs in tropical country were not successful because of the incompatibility of the genotype with the farmers breeding objectives, management methods, absence of involvement of all stakeholders in the designing of breeding strategies and the prevailing environment of the tropical low input production systems (Ayalew et al., 2003; Wollny, 2003; Kosgey et al., 2006). Thus, selective pure breeding of the adapted indigenous breeds is necessary to increase and sustain the productivity of goats in the country so as to meet the demands of the human population. However, development of genetic improvement programs will only be successful when accompanied by a good understanding of the different farming systems and when simultaneously addressing several constraints (Baker and Gray, 2003). While previous studies have identified breeding objectives, selection criteria and breeding practices associated with the rearing of indigenous goats in Ethiopia (Alemayehu, 1993; Belete, 2009; Mahilet, 2012; Dhaba et al, 2013), the diversity of production systems and genetic resources is still not well-represented. In particular, there is limited information on breeding objective and practices, trait preferences, and selection criteria of breeding stock used by owners of goats in western parts of the country where indigenous breeds have special merit in Middle Eastern export markets. Therefore, this study was initiated with the aim of identifying breeding objectives, existed breeding strategies and selection criteria of goat owners in western part of Ethiopia.





Description of study area


This study was conducted in three districts (Guduru, Horro and Amuru) of Horro Guduru Wollega Zone, western Ethiopia (Figure 1). Horro-Guduru Wollega zone is found in the Western part of Ethiopia, 310 km west of Addis Ababa, the capital city of the country and the capital of the zone found 64km to the North West of the main road from Addis to Nekemte. Horro Guduru Wollega zone is located between 09º29´N and 37º26´E, at an altitude of approximately 2296 m.a.s.l, with a uni-modal rainfall ranging between 1200mm-1800mm (Olana, 2006). The rainy season occurs from April to mid-October where maximum rain is received in months of June, July and August. Maximum temperature of 23-270C are reached from January to March, and minimum temperature of 7-150C are normal from October to November.



Figure 1: Map of the study area



Site selection and sampling techniques


Before deciding on the survey areas, discussions were held with Horro Guduru Wollega Zone Office of Agriculture and Rural Development experts to know in which districts much of goat population was concentrated. Discussions were also made with experts of the rural and agricultural development office of high goat populated districts. These discussions were used to obtain appropriate information about goat distribution, their origin and traditional classification before commencement of the actual survey.  Purposive sampling was employed to select districts and rural localities (Kebeles) from each zone based on distribution of goat population and accessibility. Thus, three sample districts and nine rural Kebeles (3 from each district) were selected for the study. Simple random sampling was used to select 306 (102 from each district and 34 from rural kebeles) goat owning respondents.


Methods of data collection


The overall survey data were collected from primary and secondary data sources. Primary data were generated through two approaches namely semi structured and structured questionnaire and group discussions. The questionnaire were translated to local language (Oromic) to make easily understandable and pre-tested before administration and some re-arrangement, reframing and correction were made in accordance with respondent perception. The questionnaires were administered to households by enumerators recruited and trained for the purpose, with close supervision by the researcher. Based on the questionnaire, purpose of keeping goat, goat flock size and structure, reason of culling goats from the flock, breeding practices and selection criteria used for breeding bucks and does were collected by trained enumerators. In addition, information was collected from group discussions. The group was composed of extension workers, developmental agents (DA’s), model farmers and village leaders. Discussions were focused on the history of goats, utility pattern of goats, status and major constraints


of goat production, special distinguishing features of goat production system, social laws like availability of communal land and its utilization. Secondary data like climatic data (temperature and rainfall), geographical location, and human and livestock demography were collected from the respective district offices of Agricultural and Rural Development.


Data management and statistical techniques


All data gathered during the study period were coded and recorded in Microsoft Excel 97-2003. Data from focus group discussion were checked for their completeness before the end of each session. Information compiled from focus group discussions were summarized and synthesized and used to better understand the household survey results. The data were analyzed by SAS version 9.2 (2008). General linear model procedure (PROC GLM) of SAS was used for goat flock size and structure. Tukey’s comparison test was used to compare the sub factor brought significant difference.  Descriptive statistics were used to describe the results as percentages for all districts. Microsoft Excel was used for ranking of data on reasons for keeping goat, reason of culling goats from the flock, the ranking being expressed as an Index = Sum of (3 x ranked first + 2 x ranked second + 1 x ranked third) given for an individual reason divided by the sum of (3 x ranked first + 2 x ranked second + 1 x ranked third) for all reasons (Kosgey, 2004). Similar indices were calculated for ranking selection criteria associated with both breeding females and males.





Goat flock size and structure


The flock owner determined the composition of the flock on the basis of economic and management considerations. The overall average goat flock size in the study area was 7.6. Breeding does and doe kids in Amuru district were significantly higher in number (P< 0.05) in the flock than in Horro district. However, there was no significant difference (P> 0.05) among the three districts in flock structure/size, for the number of breeding bucks, castrated males, buck kids and kids less than five months.

Breeding does more than one year old constituted almost half (47.4% ) of the whole population in the study area while breeding bucks of the same age accounted only 3.9% of the population (Table 1). According to the group discussion made with the farmers, males were commonly castrated at early age for fattening and simple management purpose. Moreover, they are sold at early age than females even if high quality bucks are waited for breeding only. The ratio between breeding bucks of more than one year of age and their female counterparts was accordingly 1:12. This is different from reported results in other parts of Ethiopia (1:19; Nigatu, 1994; 1:5; Belete, 2009 and Gebreyesus et al., 2013), Mali (1:25; Wilson and Durkin,1988) and Benin (1:5; Dossa et al., 2007).The ratio observed in this study suggests that small numbers of breeding bucks are kept in the flock.

The lower proportion of young buck kids (6.6%) as compared to young doe kids (15.8%) in the study area was due to the tradition of marketing young buck kids at early age. However, according to the key informants report, in rare circumstances, high quality bucks (bucks that fulfill the selection criteria of farmers) are waited for breeding only.





Purpose of keeping goats


The use of indigenous goats as multipurpose animals was common to all study districts and related to the farmers’ need in the long or short term. The results of this study showed that most of the farmers in all districts primarily reared goats for generating income (0.48) which is used for emergency cases, educational fees and for other household expenses. This result is in line with the report of Mahilet (2012) in eastern Hararghe and Belete (2009) in Goma district of western Ethiopia. The result is also similar to the reported findings of different authors in many parts of the country (Tsedeke Kocho, 2007; Getahun legesse, 2008). Having goats for meat for home consumption (0.34) was ranked second in all the study districts. Saving (using goats as “village bank”) was the third purpose of rearing goats in the study area (Table 2). Unlike in the case of some pastoral communities (pastoral and agro-pastoral production system) in Ethiopia, goat is not milked in all districts and goat milk is not among the different purposes of keeping goats in the study area. In all districts, farmers not reared goats to produce skin as a primary reason but used as byproduct from meat for home consumption and ceremony.




Breeding management


Breeding bucks ownership and mating system


About 32.35% of farmers in the study area had their own breeding bucks while 67.65% of farmers shared breeding bucks with their neighbors. Specifically, half (52.94% in Amuru) and majority (80.39% in Horro and 69.61% in Guduru) of goat keepers used breeding bucks from their neighbors (had not their own bucks). The result of this study agreed with the findings of Dhaba et al (2013) who reported that 26% of farmers in Ilu Abba Bora zone of western Ethiopia had their own breeding bucks. The result also in lined with the findings of Belete (2009) who reported that 20-29% of the farmers in Goma district of Jimma zone of western Ethiopia had their own breeding bucks. However, this result was not in lined with the result of Demissie et al (2014) who reported that 49.3% of farmers in East Gojjam Zone of Ethiopia had their own breeding buck from their flock.  Most (73.86%) of farmers allowed does to be served by any buck when the does show signs of heat. Similarly, from farmers which have breeding buck, most (87.25%) of them allowed their bucks to mate does other than their own flock (Table 3). The primary reason for this was bucks run with does throughout the year and the flock was mixed with neighboring household’s flock during communal grazing and watering. However, farmers in the study area did not practice special management for breeding bucks. 

In the study area, most of the farmers (72.22%) practiced uncontrolled mating system and the majority of them (68.33%) could not identify the sire of a kid. Similarly, Workneh and Rownalds (2004) reported that 77.3% of the farmers in Oromia region practiced uncontrolled mating system. Farmers also allowed the breeding buck to mate his own mother, daughter and sister but, the practice was not deliberately performed rather they grazed/browsed together in communal grazing land. In addition, farmers across the study districts housed their goats together during the night. On the other hand, about, 31.67% of farmers practiced partially controlled mating and could identify the sire of a kid only by its conformation and color.





Source and purpose of bucks


From the farmers which have breeding buck, almost half (56.57%) of them in the study area were used bucks born in the flock while the remaining farmers were used bucks purchased from private and partner. Half (49.49%) of the respondents kept bucks for both mating and fattening while 33.33% of the farmers reserved bucks for mating only. The rest (17.17%) of them kept buck for fattening purpose only (Table 4). According to the key informants report during group discussion, all of the farmers in the study area had no cross or exotic breed.





Breeding does selection criteria


All farmers in the study area practiced selection and had different selection criteria to use female goats as breeding doe.  The first criterion to select breeding doe was liter size (0.26) followed by growth rate (0.22) and age at first kidding (0.14) (Table 5). The overall average number of kids that does give per kidding in the study area was 1.77.  This demonstrates the fact that female goats in this particular production system are highly prolific.  Despite its importance, farmers in Amuru and Horro reported that some goats produce four kids per kidding but kids need additional labour that facilitate suckling to grow.  As a result, it is surprising that farmers were not interested in rearing such types of female goats. This result was not in lined with the result of Mahilet (2012) who reported that appearance (0.50) was considered as the first reasons for doe selection in East Hararghe zone of Ethiopia. Breeding programs should be geared towards top ranked traits and management practices such as better feeding and health should go in line with genetic improvement programs.





Breeding bucks selection criteria


Selection of buck for the next generation was very common in the study area.  Unlike breeding doe, growth rate (0.38), appearance (0.34) and coat colour type (0.16) were the first, second and third criteria to select breeding buck, respectively (Table 6).  This result was not in lined with the result of Mahilet (2012) who reported that appearance (0.49) was the first criterion for buck selection in East Hararghe zone of Ethiopia. Bucks that can grow at faster rate, have large body size and grey or white coat color are the most preferred bucks by most of the farmers in the study area. This study further confirmed the importance of considering traits like appearance and coat color type besides production traits in designing sustainable breeding improvement strategies. This study also showed that adaptive traits such as tolerance to diseases, draught resistance and resistance to water shortage were given low emphasis in selecting replacement stocks in this farming system. This might be due to the fact that farmers from mixed crop-livestock system are not coping with more challenging production environments as compared to pastoral and agro-pastoral production systems.

Generally the utilization of physical and performance traits as selection criteria by the farmers revealed that the selection decision made by them followed stepwise mode i.e. the first screening is based on physical appraisal in early stage and further selections are based on production and reproduction characteristics at matured stage.








Reason of culling from the flock


All farmers in the study area practice culling of goats from the flock due to various reasons. Reproductive problem (0.39), old age (0.33), sickness (0.17), unwanted physical characteristics (0.06) and physical defect (0.04) were the reasons to cull goats from the flock (production) in the indicated order (Table 7). This result was different from the finding of Demissie et al (2014) who reported that health problem was the primary reason of the farmers for culling of goats in East Gojjam Zone of Ethiopia.







Indigenous goats in this mixed crop-livestock production system played multi-functional roles. Increasing income, meat production through improving growth rate, number of kids per kidding, size/appearance and age at first kidding were found to be the breeding objectives of farmers. Using buck born from own farm and allowing to mate his own mother, daughter and sister may increase inbreeding depression and action is needed to minimize this risk. Farmers preferred many traits like production traits (growth rate), fitness traits (disease resistance, liter size, and fertility) and type traits (coat colour, appearance). Therefore, when designing sustainable breed improvement strategies in this production system, mechanisms to include all categories of traits should be considered.




The Authors greatly acknowledge the Haramaya University for financial support. Special thanks to the farmers in peasant associations surveyed for actively participating in this study.





The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest involved in this study.





Alemayehu Reda (1993). Phenotypic characterization of indigenous goats and goat husbandry practices in East and South East Ethiopia. An M.Sc Thesis presented to Alemaya University, Alemaya, Ethiopia. pp.135.

Baker RL and Gray GD (2003). Appropriate breeds and breeding schemes for sheep and goats in the tropics: The importance of characterization and utilizing disease resistance adaptation to tropical stress. In: Sani, R., G.D Gray., R.L. Baker (Eds.), Better worm control for Small Ruminant in Tropical Asia, Australian Centre for international Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Belete Shenkute (2009). Production and marketing systems of small ruminants in Goma district of Jimma zone, western Ethiopia. Msc. Thesis, Hawassa University, April, 2009, Awassa, Ethiopia. pp. 38-54. 

CSA (2013). Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Central Statistical Agency (CSA) Agricultural sample survey,Volume II, report on livestock and livestock characteristics (private peasant holdings). Statistical bulletin, 570, April 2013, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

DeLeeuw PN and Rey B (1995). Analysis of current trends in the distribution patterns of ruminant livestock in tropical Africa. World Animal Review. 83: 47-59.

Degen A (2007). Sheep and goat milk in pastoral society. Small Ruminant Research 68, 7-19.

Dhaba Urgessa, Belay Duguma, Solomon Demeke and Taye Tolamariam (2013). Breeding Practices and Reproductive Performance of Traditionally Managed Indigenous Sheep and Goat in Ilu Abba Bora Zone of Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia. Global Veterinaria 10 (6): 676-680, 2013.

Dossa L H, Wollny C and Gauly M (2007). Smallholders’ perceptions of goat farming in southern Benin and opportunities for improvement. Tropical Animal Health Production, 39: 49-57. 

Chanie D, Mekuriaw Z and Taye M (2014). Husbandry practices of Western highland goats in Enebse Sar Midir district, East Gojjam Zone, Ethiopia. Livestock Research for Rural Development. Volume 26, Article #137. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd26/7/chan26137.html

ESGPIP (2008). Genetic improvement of sheep and goat. Ethiopia Sheep and Goat Productivity Improvement Program. Sheep and goat production handbook for Ethiopia. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia pp. 99-101.

Gebremeskel T (2000). The experience of Farm-Africa in Goat Development Project in Ethiopia. In: Merkel, R .C., Abebe, G. & Goetsch, A. L. (eds) The Opportunities and Challenges of Enhancing Goat Production in East Africa. Proceedings of a conference held at Debub University, Awassa, Ethiopia, November 10 - 12, 2000. E (Kika) de la Garza Institute for Goat Research, Langston University, Langston.

Gebreyesus G, Haile A and Dessie T (2013). Breeding scheme based on community-based participatory analysis of local breeding practices, objectives and constraints for goats around Dire Dawa,Ethiopia. livest.Res.Rural Dev.,Vol.25. 

Getahun Legesse (2008). Productive and economic performance of small ruminant production in production system of the highlands of Ethiopia. PhD Thesis, University of Hohenheim, Germany, 156 pp.

Kosegey I S (2004). Breeding objectives and breeding strategies for small ruminants in the Tropics. Ph.D. Thesis, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

Kosgey IS, Baker RL, Udo HMJ and van Arendonk JAM (2006). Successes and failures of small ruminant breeding programs in the tropics: A review. Small Ruminant Research 61:13–28

Mahilet Dawit (2012). Characterization of Hararghe Highland Goat and Their Production System in Eastern Hararghe. An M.Sc. Thesis presented to Haramaya University. Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. 

Misra A  K and Singh K (2002). Effect of water deprivation on dry matter intake, nutrient utilization and metabolic water production in goats under semi-arid zone of India. Small Ruminant Research 46, 159-165.

Nigatu Alemayehu (1994). Characterization of Indigenous Goat Types & husbandry Practices in Northern Ethiopia. An M.Sc.Thesis presented to Alemaya University of Agriculture. Alemaya, Ethiopia.pp86.

Nottor D R (2012). Genetic Improvement of reproductive efficiency of sheep and goat. Animal Reproduction Science 130:147-151

Olana B T (2006). Environmental and socio- economic changes induced by a reservoir in Finca’a water shade Western Ethiopia. PhD Thesis, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

SAS (2008). Statistical Analysis System for windows, Release 9.2 SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC, USA.

Sebsibe A (2008). Sheep and goat meat characteristics and quality. In Yami A, Merkel RC(eds), Sheep and goat production handbook for Ethiopia. Ethiopian Sheep and Goat Productivity Improvement Program (ESGPIP), 297-324.

Silanikove N (2000). The physiological basis of adaptation in goats to harsh environments. Small Ruminant Research 35, 181-193.

SPS- LMM (Ethiopia Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards and Livestock Meat Marketing Program) (2010). Focus on Ethiopia’s meat and live animal export. Trade Bulletin 2, September, 2010

Tesfaye Alemu (2004). Genetic characterization of indigenous goat population of Ethiopia using microsatellite DNA markers. A Thesis submitted to the National Dairy Research Institute (Deemed University) Karnal (Haryana), India.258pp.

Tsedeke Kocho (2007). Production and marketing systems of sheep and goats in Alaba, Southern Ethiopia. Msc thesis, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. pp.42-105.

Wilson R T and Durkin J W (1988). Small ruminant production in central Mali: reproductive performance in traditionally managed goats and sheep. Livestock Production Science, 19: 523-529. 

Wollny C.B.A (2003). The need to conserve farm animal genetic resources in Africa: should policy makers be concerned? Ecol. Econ 45: 341–351.

Workneh A (1992). Preliminary survey of indigenous goat types and goat husbandry practices in Southern Ethiopia. An M.Sc. Thesis presented to Alemaya University of Agriculture. Alemaya, Ethiopia.

Workneh A and Rowlands J (2004). Design, execution and analysis of the livestock breed survey in Oromiya Regional State, Ethiopia. OADB (Oromiya Agricultural Development Bureau), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya.

Workneh A, Getahun E, Tibbo M, Mamo Y and Rege JEO (2003). Current state of knowledge on characterization of farm animal genetic resources in Ethiopia. Farm animal biodiversity in Ethiopia: Status and prospects. In: Asfaw Yimegnuhal and Tamrat Degefa (eds), Proceedings of the 11th annual conference of the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production (ESAP) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 28–30 August 2003. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: ESAP. p441.


Ahmed S, Kefelegne K, Kefena E (2015). Breeding Objective, Selection Criteria and Breeding Practice of Indigenous Goats in Western Ethiopia: Implications for Sustainable Genetic Improvement. Greener Journal of Agricultural Sciences. 5(5): 167-176, http://doi.org/10.15580/GJAS.2015.5.072715105.