Memories on

European Regional Conference on Goats

Debrecen, Hungary – Oradea, Romania
7-12 April, 2014

The aim of these scientific meetings were to evaluate the situation of goat breeding and farming in the Mid-, East- and South-East European countries; and  to increase the knowledge on sustainable goat breeding and goat farming, animal nutrition, environment protection and production systems, animal welfare, animal health and the methods in improving reproduction, as well as the possible relationship among the consumption of goat products and human health.

Participants and papers

There were 184 participants from 29 countries. Beside the European (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia FYR, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Moldavia, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Latvia) and other countries in the region (Armenia, Georgia),  people from other parts of the world (like USA, Mexico, Malaysia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Morocco, South Africa) were also participating the conference.

There were 92 oral and 18 poster presentations introduced during the conference, from among – because of the limited page possibilities – the papers of plenary session and the FAO Workshop (Session 1) could be read in this book along with several selected papers from the programs of other sessions, round table and the workshops on reproduction.

The scientific program of the conference and the FAO Workshop

The Plenary Session gave the most important question of the whole conference including the FAO workshop: the environment impact of goat farming and its integration in sustainable system.

In Session 1 Breeding which was acting a FAO Workshop on protection of local breeds at the same time, more important questions were discussed: using local and indigenous goat breeds to protect and conserve the environment; adaption of “international” “exotic” breeds (Alpine, Saanen, Nubian, Boer, etc.) and their effects on local populations; effects of selection on production ability of goats.

In Session 2 Nutrition the comparison of different levels of feed supply was in the target of discussions: impact of extensive versus intensive feeding systems – challenges and opportunities.

In Session 3 Environment and production systems brought several subjects concerning goat keeping and farming in relations between production and environment: from lowland to upland (mountain) – awareness of challenges for rural development; intensive versus extensive production systems (including technology) for goat farming; ensuring the welfare of goats in intensive and extensive systems.

The Session 4 Animal health had a very strong background to organise: the outbreaks of new diseases in Europe. The viral and bacterial diseases of exotic origin (like BTV, CAEV, SBV, etc.) and their effects on local goat populations were one of the main subjects of discussions. The internal and external parasites – diagnoses and treatment was the other main topic of this session.

In Session 5 Human health, two main groups of subjects were discussed: small scale /on-farm versus industrial milk processing: use of quality assurance and HACCP protocols to insure product safety as well as the functional foods from goat milk and goat meat.

In Goat Welfare Round Table – connecting to Session 3 and Session 4 – „A proposal for a new welfare assessment protocol for goatswas aimed to develop concerning goat keeping in general and to study the welfare questions during transportation.

The Poster Session covered all papers connected to the subjects of every session.

The questions of goat reproduction were discussed in three separated workshops, partly connected to Session 4. In Workshop 1 theRecent advances in reproduction management – from AI via embryo transfer to reproduction diseases” were summarised. In Workshop 2 the possibilities and results of „Non-hormonal modification of reproduction in goats” were discussed. In Workshop 3 the details of last results in “Reproduction management of intensive goat farming” were summarised.

Main conclusions of the Conference and the FAO Workshop

Providing the fact that there were several subjects discussed during the conference program the main conclusions of the conference should also cover different fields of goat farming.

  • In most of the countries goats are kept in small herds, the ratio of profitable specialised goat farms (which are dominantly dairy herds) is low.
  • The appreciation of local indigenous goat breeds is lower than necessary, and the low profitability is behind this fact.
  • Only limited part of the goats kept is involved in nucleus breeding, the production ability of most part of goats is not known.
  • In order to increase the profitability of goat farming exotic goat breeds are imported into every country, which are mainly used in improving milk production, but partly for increase the meat production ability as well.
  • The exotic breeds are used in crossbreeding systems but the pure breeding utilization of them is intensively increasing.
  • The nucleus breeding work of goats is not really profitable, and the preservation and protecting of local breeds could not be carried out without serious governmental monetary support.
  • The goat farmers should improve their feeding systems as the level of nutrition is in a very strong relationship with production ability and profitability.
  • Several feeding systems could be used, but it should follow the needs of breeds and the demands of people, as well as the available feed resources.
  • Numerous new diseases appear in West Europe and some of them also could reach East part of Europe, so, a strong animal health protection protocol should be followed in the case of importation foreign livestock.
  • Significant ratio of products lost from the farms as the consequences of internal and external parasites, however, there are good methods to diagnose and medicines to treat them.
  • The environments have impacts on production systems and the goat farming is not an enemy of environment, but the production system used could be dangerous, because of the human and not because of the goat.
  • At the same time, each environment could offer certain production systems to use, but for profitable goat farming (in the case of milk production) only the intensive system is applicable.
  • There are tools to estimate the nutritional level of goats and the values of available feeds on different environments (body condition score) which could be used for prevent the animals from malnutrition and protect the environment from over grazing.
  • In order to get healthier animals and better production animal welfare expectations should be followed.
  • Serious attention should be taken on the reproduction traits of goats, several new methods could be used (AI, embryo transfer, sperm freezing, oestrus synchronisation, etc.) on farm level, but any hormonal treatment could not replace the good management and feeding.
  • Goat products could improve the human via increasing the consumption of them, but the production of basic material and the manufactured products should be effectively controlled.
  • The milk and meat of goats could be used for functional foods, and these materials (milk and meat) could be very good basic products in order to develop the functional values of foods for people.