Les tiques dans un monde en évolution - Ticks in a changing world - Las garrapatas en un mundo en evolución - 74/75 - 1993/1-2. (FAO, 1993, 32 p.)
close this bookLes tiques dans un monde en évolution - Ticks in a changing world - Las garrapatas en un mundo en evolución - 74/75 - 1993/1-2. (FAO, 1993, 32 p.)
close this folderThe local Malawi goat
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOrigin and ecological distribution of the breed
View the documentPhysical characteristics
View the documentReproduction and breeding efficiency
View the documentFeeding and feeding systems
View the documentProduction characteristics
View the documentDiseases and parasites
View the documentFinal remarks
View the documentBibliography

The local Malawi goats, like many other goats, are inquisitive animals and they can quickly cover long distances in search of food. Browse is preferred by the Malawi goats and they are able to select the types of trees, shrubs and also grasses they prefer (Table 5).

Three feeding systems are normally observed in Malawi. The first is the village system, where the goats are tethered during the rainy season to prevent crop destruction in fields and then released during the dry season into harvested fields. The goats lose weight during the rainy season since, tethered, their grazing is restricted. In the dry season, they gain weight as they are free to graze on the crop residues and grain remnants available in the harvested fields.

In the second system, which is a modification of the first, the goats are tethered in the morning hours and then herded by young boys after school.

The third system is the extensive system, where goats browse, graze and scavenge on the feeds available in areas where there are no crops. The goats kept under this system are usually managed by young boys who either belong to the household or are employed.

Seasonal fluctuations in feed supply and quality and infestations with internal parasites (helminths) affect body weight changes and mortality, especially of kids. In all systems, crop residues are sometimes utilized when crops have been harvested.

Water and dry-matter intakes

At the educational and research institutions where the goats are kept, attempts have been made to determine both the dry-matter and the water intakes of the local Malawi goats.

In studies conducted at the Bunda College of Agriculture, it was found that the water intake (water from the feed + drinking-water) of the local goat ranged between 1.8 and 5.9 kg per kilogram of dry-matter intake per day (Ayoade, 1982, 1984; Ayoade and Njewa, 1984; Ayoade and Tambala, 1984). These figures are comparable to those reported for other tropical breeds (Devendra and McLeroy, 1982). Goats' need for water is highly variable as it depends on the climatic conditions, feed intake level, production level and type of feed (Devendra and Burns, 1970). The dry-matter intake ranged from 1 to 3.7 kg per 100 kg of body weight depending on the type of feed and age of the animals used (Ayoade, 1982, 1984; Ayoade and Njewa, 1984; Ayoade and Tambala, 1984). The daily maintenance requirement for nitrogen is 0.67 g N per kg W0,75 per day (Reynolds, 1981).

Utilization of crop residues

Natural pasture and crop residues such as maize stover, groundnut haulms, bean haulms and pigeon pea pods constitute the principal feeds for ruminants during the dry season in Malawi. Ayoade, Makhambera and Bodzalekani (1983) reported that groundnut and bean haulms are adequate maintenance feeds for goats provided that sufficient amounts of both feeds are available. Supplementation with high protein forages such as Leucaena leucocephala has been shown to increase the efficiency of utilization of maize stover by goats (Banda and Ayoade, 1985).

4 Weights and weight gains of kids from birth to 280 days according to genotype - Poids et gain de poids des chevreaux entre 0 et 280 jours selon le génotype - Peso y aumento de peso de los cabritos desde el nacimiento hasta los 280 días, según los genotipos


Pure local

Boer x local







Birth weight (B) (kg)




Weaning weighta (W) (kg)

8.3 ± 2.4

8.2 ± 2.5


Weight day 280 (kg)

12.2 ± 2.4



Weight gain B - D 280 (g/day)


44.0 ± 10.0








Birth weight (B) (kg)


2.6 ± 0.1

3.1 ± 0.2

Weaning weightb (W) (kg)


17.0 ± 0.4

15.6 ± 0.8

Weight day 180 (kg)

25.0 ± 0.6



Weight gain B - W (kg)

115.0 ± 4.1



Weight gain W - D 180 (g/day)


20.0 ± 3.9

135.0 ± 7.5

a Weaning was carried out at constant weight and not age and kidding took place throughout the year.
b Weaning was carried out at 17 weeks (4 months) and kidding took place during the dry season (May to July).
Source: I. Kasowanjete, Stotz and Zerfas, 1987; II. Banda, 1992b.

5 Common browse trees, shrubs and grasses eaten by local Malawi goats - Arbres et arbustes fourragers et graminées consommés par les chèvres du Malawi - Arboles de ramoneo, arbustos y gramíneas consumidos habitualmente por las cabras

Plant type

Common name


Trees and shrubs

Acacia (Mnyungo)

Acacia polycantha

Amaranthus (Bonongwe)

Amaranthus spinosus

Banana (Nthochi)

Musa spp.

Cassava (Chinangwa)

Manihot esculenta


Leucaena leococephala

Pigeon pea (Nandalo)

Cajunas cajan




Hypperrhenia (Tsekela)

Hypperrhenia rufas

Local buffel grass (Chankhalamu)

Cenchrus spp.

Star grass (Katunga)

Cynodon spp.

Napier grass (Senjele)

Pennisetum purpureum

Young local female - Chevrette de race locale - Hembra joven de raza local

Mature local female - Chèvre adulte de race locale - Hembra adulta de raza local

Cross-bred female (50 percent) with kid (backcross to a local) - Chèvre croisée 50 pour cent avec un chevreau (croisement en retour avec race locale) - Hembra cruzada al 50 por ciento con cabrito (producto de retrocruza con macho de raza local)

Seasonal forage supply in Malawi

The diets and grazing behaviour of sheep, goats and cattle are different. Since the goats' diet is composed of vegetation, the botanical composition of which is diverse, it has been difficult to estimate the forage supply for this species in Malawi. As a result, no studies have been conducted to estimate the primary productivity of the grass, shrub and herbaceous layers within reach of goats. However, a study conducted by Lohrmann (1987) on the feed selection and nutrient intake of goats at the Lifidzi Goat Breeding Centre revealed that goats grazed on the leaves of Friesodielsia obovata, Bauhinia petersiana, Combretum collinum, Hoslundia opposita, C. apiculatum, Diplorhynchus condylocarpon and C. fragans. During the dry season, dry browse comprises 25.3 percent and dry grass 15.1 percent of the cover, with only traces of herbs. The most preferred feed at this time is browse. In the wet season, 61.9 percent of the cover is fresh grass, 12.6 percent fresh browse, 4.7 percent fresh herbs and the remaining proportion consists of other vegetation (Table 6). Preference is highest for grass and browse.

Crude protein (14.1 percent), organic matter digestibility (49.2 percent) and ME content (6.6 MJ/kg DM) of leaves were-higher in the wet season than they were in the dry season (9.5 percent, 44.5 percent, 5.5 MJ/kg DM). Cellulose content was 17.4 percent in the wet season and 23.1 percent in the dry season (Table 7). During the dry season, it was observed that blossoms of Cordyla africana and Lonchocarpus bussei and fruits (called "goat biscuits" by herders) of Acacia polyacantha and Baobab spp. were eaten by goats and sheep as energy supplements. The authors estimated that the intake of dry matter during grazing at the end of the wet season is 1.08 kg/day for a 22 to 28 kg non-lactating goat (4.3 percent of body weight). According to Lohrmann (1987), the intake of browse supplies sufficient nutrients and energy for the requirements of goats.