The Sunday News
A casual conversation with a colleague who has extensive experience in the abattoir sector, informs this submission.
He explained his reluctance to buy goats from some areas of Matabeleland North Province simply because they yield less meat after slaughter.
The position of most abattoir operators is that they are not willing to buy goats which will yield less than 15kg of meat after slaughter.
The dressing percentage, which is the weight of the hot carcass divided by the liveweight of that animal then multiplied by a hundred, varies from one country to another depending on a number of factors.
Some of the factors that influence the dressing percentage is simply the exclusion or inclusion of some components as part of the carcass.
In some countries, some internal organs and even the head is included as part of the carcass hence the dressing percentage will increase.
There are other production factors which influence the dressing percentage such as fat cover while there are also influences from the biological aspects such as sex of the animal.
However, on a general scale, using our Zimbabwean context, the dressing percentage of goats falls between 45-50 percent. This means the meat constitutes up to half of the weight of your goat.
My point is not to discuss the technical determination of the dressing percentage but to implore our farmers to respond to the market determinants so that the value chain becomes self-sustaining.
The reason why abattoir operators would be reluctant to buy goats that will dress less than 15kg of meat is because it is not economically viable to slaughter, skin and prepare an under-weight carcass. Also, they say it is difficult to then prepare an underweight carcass into cuts that are wanted by the market.
Some carcasses are simply too small to even extract a T-bone for the market! I am very much aware that there are production factors and advantages of producing these smaller framed goats from the regions where they are found.
They could be better adapted for the specific environment, maybe they are even more fertile, they have higher survival rates and all that, but at the end of the day it is what the market wants which will carry the day.
It is pointless to produce something that will be hard to sell because it is not meeting the market taste, regardless of how easy or exciting it is to produce that commodity.
In simple terms, the market must want it for it to sell, and you must sell in order to continue producing.
We can get academic and question whose standards we are using and all that, but the market speaks only two languages, that of demand and supply!
My advice, therefore, to farmers is always to find the middle ground and exploit it to your maximum benefit.
You have your hard but smaller framed goats which will not give you the required carcass weight at the market, just cross it with a bigger-framed breed and get a middle level size breed which can survive well in your environment and still give you a good carcass yield at the market.
In fact, Matabeleland South has been famed for producing larger framed goats, but it is arguably harsher climatically when compared to Matabeleland North Province.
This means the harshness of the environment may not be the determining factor but other biotic and abiotic factors which I will leave for the academics to explore and explain.
Therefore, if goat producers, especially in Matabeleland North Province, want to develop and sustain this important value chain, they need to respond to the market dictates and produce for the market or else they will be stuck with selling for rituals, weddings and funerals!
There are goat producers who are doing well and producing better framed breeds in some district of this expanse province, an indication that it is possible.
Let us, as farmers, improve the quality of our goats, specifically the frame size so that we can claim our share of the market in this growing industry.
n Mhlupheki Dube is a livestock specialist and farmer. He writes in his own capacity. Feedback [email protected]/cell 0772851275