Popularising local goat meat
By Prof Dr Mohamed Ariff Omar
Original Article Source: The Star Online
An order of lamb chops from a posh restaurant will bring you a nicely-done meat of sheep from the kitchen. Tender and succulent with the right proportion of meat and fat – undisputed characteristics of premium grade lamb chops. Alas they are flown from New Zealand or Australia, either chilled or frozen.
You may ask: “Why can’t we be served with Made in Malaysia lamb chops?” Your inquisitiveness may soon be rewarded when our goat industry starts to produce “chevon chops” from young Malaysian bred goats. Yes, chevon chops from goats as lamb chops from sheep.
Lately we have been seeing more local investment in goat farming. More goats are being reared today than in 2003. There are about 20,000 farmers currently involved in goat farming.
“By 2020 the country is envisaged to have 3.2 million goats reared for breeding,” says Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz Jamaluddin, Director-General of the Department of Veterinary Services, Malaysia. “These goats will be the production units to supply 68% of the national requirement for goat meat in 10 years’ time.”
In tandem with this development, the Government has encouraged the setting up of more specialised stock farms to generate high quality goats for breeding. Goats from these farms will supply the improver seed stock to uplift the productivity of goats in the industry.
The joint effort of Mardi and the Department of Veterinary Services has realised the setting up of several Boer goat multiplication farms. Added to that, the East Coast Economic Corridor Development Council has also supported the establishment of such a farm in Terengganu. As is crucial in the other industries, goat marketing has yet to be developed. Currently the many players in the industry have their own strategies to cater to the different market segments – breeding farms, slaughter markets, organic fertiliser processors.
A private sector driven marketing system encompassing all players in the value chain may solve some of the hiccups in the trading and production of meat goats in this country. Why meat from Boer goats and not from our own indigenous Kajang goats? As far as meat yield is concerned, no other breed has yet to surpass the productivity of Boer goats.
At a similar age of slaughter (12 months), Boer goats produce 30% more meat than Kajang. On two hectares of land, Boer goats yield 210% more kilograms of live weight than Kajang goats. Loin portion – from where chevon chops are cut – of Boer goats is 40% heavier than Kajang. Besides, there are many other plus factors when raising Boer goats – ability to breed all year round, and general adaptability to many habitats.
This is not to deny the many virtues of Kajang goats. They are hardy and thrive on poor feeding environment, among others. We need to concurrently improve the Kajang goats by getting them to produce more meat per kilogramme of feed. We could do so by upgrading the local Kajang goats with the Boer. A similar path could also be opted for Jamnapari goats.
Many more things need to be done to get the level of local production to reach the critical mass beyond the breeding phase. Good nutrition is crucial to ensure the productivity potential of Boer goats is not hindered.
Goat rearers require the right skill and knowledge in the husbandry of goats. Use of modern reproductive biotechnologies involving the manipulation and utilisation of semen, embryos and other ovarian products, needs to be explored and commercially applied.
Kajang and other Asiatic goat breeds should be exploited to add to the much needed population of breeder goats, surrogate mothers and replacements. The feeding of goats in the breeding farms and feedlots has to be intensified with more efficient use of locally available feedstuffs, including by-products from rice and oil palm.
Opportunities abound to cater to the demand of the global Halal market of which goat meat could form a substantial portion in the coming years.
Professor Mohamed Ali Rajion of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Universiti Putra Malaysia has even attempted to produce health-enhancing chevon containing increased concentration of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.
Much has been said about reinventing agriculture as a third engine of economic growth for Malaysia. Goat farming, when done systematically, can enable the smallholders in the villages to sustain a reasonable income. Going big commercially in the production of goat meat and breeding stock has its role in the national agenda to increase agricultural productivity of the country.
Perhaps this time around we could collectively realise the popular aspiration of meeting our own food needs and being less dependable on outside supplies. And chevon from local goats is surely a nutritious item on the family menu.
Prof Dr Mohamed Ariff Omar
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Universiti Putra Malaysia