Of all the domestic animal species raised in Mexico, the goat is, without a doubt, the one that should have a mandatory development, due to its social significance, the country's ecology, and the benefits it provides to the population. This animal has accompanied man since the dawn of civilization, having been depicted in hundreds of cave drawings in Asia and Europe. Together with the dog and sheep, it is one of the first animals that man domesticated and its development is inextricably linked to the history of mankind.
Its origin is Asia Minor, a region of cradles of civilizations and where tradition placed the myth of Noah's ark. The continuous wars and emigrations of the peoples of that region took this wonderful animal to all known regions, first in Asia (as far as India and Indonesia), then in Europe, and finally, crossing the isthmus of the Red Sea, to the African continent.
Sacred animal and worshipped in all antiquity. Famous in Greek mythology, since it was a goat, Amalthea, which suckled Zeus and in his honor, so it was called a constellation. The Bible and the sacred books of the Arabs and Hindus cite it continuously, either as a symbol of wealth or as an expressive offering to the gods. Among the Egyptians it was the object of adoration, the classics such as Aristotle, Virgil, Varro, Columella, Theocritus, Pliny, describe it and sing of it as an animal that gives so many benefits to man.
Then, in the Middle Ages, it began to fall into disgrace, it was associated with the devil and his cults and, in the modern era, during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, a "black legend" was being concocted that showed it as an eroding, desertifying and destructive of the best herbs. Nothing is more false, today the new investigations have already thrown these hoaxes to the dustbin of history.
At present, many governments and research centers are promoting and recognizing the whole goat species, which is observed from a correct point of view, that is, that of a formidable animal in its capacity to give many satisfactions to man and help him in the search for his well-being.
The countries with the greatest number of goats in the world are, Asia, India, China, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey; in Europe: France, Spain, Greece, and Italy, and in America Brazil, and Mexico. India is the first in the world. In that country, there is a real cult of the goat. Its liberator, the apostle Mahatma Gandhi, was always attached to this animal, he himself milked it, lived on its milk and cheese, and spun its hair.
Development in Mexico
As mentioned, the first conquerors introduced the domestic goat into the country; they came from the aridest regions of the Iberian Peninsula. They quickly spread throughout the country; mainly the friars and religious catechists always carried them with them. The important convents had thousands of goats, for example, Acolman had more than thirty thousand goats and as many sheep.
During the Colonial period, goats were at their peak in Mexico, then declining during the Independence period, and then becoming stagnant in number from the 1950s to the present day. Today there are about 8 million goats, located mainly in the arid and semi-arid zones of the north and center of the country.
The continuous wars of the last century, the triumph of the large landed estates of the cowboys ("latifundismo vaquero"), the long dictatorship of the Porfiriato, and finally, the great division of the land brought about by the Agrarian Reform was evicting the goats and sheep from their habitat in which they had lived since the Colony.
The lack of development plans for these two species, little or no promotion and credits, horrible organization of the product market - where the profits went (and go) to the intermediaries, leaving very little to the producer - discouraged these breedings until leaving them mostly in the hands of very poor and marginal people, who graze their animals in areas that are both poor and marginal at the same time.
The states with the largest goat populations are Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Oaxaca and Puebla. There are also important groups in Guanajuato, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas. As can be seen, most of them are in arid and semi-arid zones, with very few in the dry or humid tropics.
Why Mexico should develop goat farming
The previous not very stimulating panorama must be reverted so that the country can achieve a healthy and continuous expansion of so noble species. And this, for many reasons, which are summarized below.
The main ones. The animal that provides employment, food, serves as a piggy bank or savings to the producer. Its easy handling allows the work of women, children, and the elderly, in a word, it is a source of greater welfare for the peasant family.
Animal of cheap breeding, it does not need expensive facilities, it is easy to handle, versatile feeding, competes well and almost with advantage, with other domestic species such as poultry, pigs, sheep or cattle. The capital invested in goats is recovered quickly.
Great conservationist. Well managed, it consumes weeds and therefore cleans the pasture of these weeds Restores the ecological balance In many countries, such as the United States, New Zealand, Australia, it is bred mainly for this purpose.
Advantages of its handling
It adapts to any system from very extensive to confined or stabled. Preferred animal for nomadism and transhumance due to its great hardiness. Economical in water consumption, in nomadic systems it behaves almost the same as the camel in this sense. It eats everything, from brambles, thorns, seeds, or dry grasses, to the succulents of rich meadows, etc. In the northern desert of Zacatecas, it lives most of the year eating only nopales.
It adapts very well to agriculture, either by grazing the stubble fields after the harvests - as is the case in La Laguna with cotton, or sorghum in El Bajio - or by taking advantage of all the waste from fruit and vegetable growing, etc. Each species has its own habits and preferences different from the plants that are offered to it, which increases the yield of the pasture. But the productive aspect where the goat has an important role is the reproductive one.
Early puberty, it is not uncommon that at fourteen months of age the goat is already giving birth. Then it continues to do so at intervals of eight to twelve months (five-month gestation), always with kids or triads. Some producers manage their goats well, and they can obtain up to 200 young goats per 100 mated females per year. Good mothers, do not abandon their offspring and, unlike sheep, defend them against predators.
Going for goat products
Few animals give so many products to man. It is impossible to review them, even in summary form, in this brief writing. But if there is interest in the readers, this small series on goats would continue to deepen on the bromatological virtues of their meat and milk, and the wonders of their skins and precious hairs such as mohair and cashmere.
Mexico needs cheap and good-quality proteins such as those of animal origin. In many regions, where the population's nutrition is at its worst, the goat can fulfill these requirements. Its milk is the best of the domestic mammals, rich in digestible fat, high-quality proteins, lactose, minerals, and vitamins, which fulfill almost all the infant's requirements. With proven pharmacological properties, it is indicated for babies allergic to cow's milk, in cases of gastro-intestinal diseases in adults, such as gastric or pyloric ulcers, etc.
And as if what has been said so far was not enough, this milk is used to make the most exquisite cheeses in the world, a favorite yogurt for its softness and flavor, and who in Mexico does not know the exquisite cajeta and other sweets made with this milk? And, moving on to another area, who doesn't know one of the most sought-after meats in the world, the chivito? The most expensive and elitist meat in the country. The adult is sold without difficulty to elaborate another national dish: the birria, consuming both its meat and its viscera.
Its skins are used to make fine articles such as jackets, shoes, wallets or ladies bags, fine bindings, etc. It commands the highest prices in the world. And as noted, its fine hairs, from specialized breeds such as Angora and Cashmere, are highly valued textiles in the clothing market.
In addition to the above, they are producers of excellent manure, used as fertilizer all over the world; their hooves, horns, guts (for violin or guitar strings and in surgery) and their bones are used as fertilizer or animal feed, etc.
Finally, it should be mentioned that they are docile, intelligent, and very easy to breed. They face dangers, can reach places inaccessible to other animals, climb cliffs and steep places. They resist several diseases, for example, they are immune to tuberculosis.
Throughout history, man has been selecting the most productive animals, which stood out within a population. Thus, different breeds specialized in their productions were formed, so much so, that nowadays there are goats with very high milk yields, others are good for meat and they also produce excellent skins or hair.
In Mexico, there are the great dairy breeds, most of them of Alpine origin, Swiss-French border, such as the white Saanen, the brown Toggenburg, the French Alpine, and of British origin such as the Anglo-Nubian and finally the Spanish Murciana-Granadina. The South African meat goat, the Boer, is being introduced and, inexplicably, there is no Angora goat, that is producing mohair.
Since colonial times, goats were crossed indiscriminately, adapting to a generally inhospitable climate and poor management, different local types were formed, generically called Criollo animals, but the two most widespread breeds are the Anglo-Nubian, mostly of U.S. origin, and the Alpine, French type, also from that country. Both are very good milk and good calf producers; these two breeds are complemented by the Toggenburg and Saanen. The Spanish Granadina is widespread mainly in El Bajío.
By Santos Arbiza Aguirre