Reducing goat kid mortality: Another UFH project benefits local communities

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The commitment of researchers from the University of Fort Hare to use their knowledge for the benefit of local communities was demonstrated once again in a project led by Dr Mhlangabezi Slayi of the Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre (RVSC) in the Faculty of Science and Agriculture.
Goats are owned by many small-scale farmers in South Africa, with more than 50% of the total goat population of the country being raised in rural areas of the Eastern Cape. 
For many families, rearing goats provides enormous socioeconomic benefits, so high mortality rates amongst kid goats prevent them from optimising what should be a major source of income and well-being.
The two-year project led by Dr Slayi aimed not only to confirm the identification of the major causes of goat mortality in community flocks (identified by farmers themselves in a project conducted in 2014), but also to work with community members to find ways of improving the survival rates of kids.
Interventions included fortnightly dipping to control parasites, supplying food to pregnant and lactating does, providing shelters and improving hygiene. Traditionally, community members had relied on indigenous remedies to cure sickness. The project made veterinary assistance and medication available when needed.
In the first year of the project, 132 of the 235 (56.17%) kids born in the villages studied died. By year two, however, the impact of the project was such that the mortality rate was reduced to 22.38%, with only 62 of the 277 kids born in the year dying.
The reduction in the mortality rate was particularly significant in kids aged younger than 45 days. In their paper published in the prestigious international journal, Tropical Animal Health and Production, Dr Slayi and fellow team members Dr Leocadia Zhou, Dr Thobela Tyasi and Dr Ishmael Jaja identify the project as having enjoyed ‘moderate success’ in reducing kid mortality. 
Outsiders would probably consider the success as more than moderate, however, especially as the project also provided major insights into the impact of major diseases and climate related events on goat production, which will serve both researchers and farmers into the future.
Support from the government and private research institutions for the establishment and facilitation of control programmes, as well as for the funding of research on the effects of disease and climate on goat production, is inadequate.
However, Fort Hare researchers have once again shown how scholarship and commitment can be of benefit to local communities as well as to science more generally.