Raising a better goat goal of USDA research
May 14th, 2014 by Ric Hanson
Iowa has more than 200 farms that are raising over 32,000 dairy goats. The primary product produced from goats raised in Iowa is cheese, but in many parts of the world where hunger is a major problem, goats are the primary livestock. Tad Sonstegard is a research geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Ninety percent of the world’s goats are actually in nations with developing economies where people usually don’t have enough food. So it’s a very critical meat and milk source in these nations,” Sonstegard says.
USDA scientists say one of the problems is that in many rapidly developing and undeveloped countries the best goat is eaten during celebrations or sold quickly to make money. “Thus, that opportunity to improve the genetics is lost because the animal goes into food immediately,” Sonstegard says. Sonstegard and his colleagues are studying the genetics of goats in Africa to figure out which ones to keep in the herd.
“And how they stack up against goats in countries, typically Europe, where they have done a lot of advanced breeding for dairy production,” Sonstegard explains. USDA officials believe research like that of Sonstegard is important to solving global food challenges. The world’s population is expected to grow from about 6.6 billion today to almost 9 billion by 2050.