Social hierarchy in the domestic goat: Effect on food habits and production

  • Barroso F
  • Alados C
  • Boza J
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Outside the scientific world, the effect of social behaviour on production is little taken into account, but the importance of this relationship has been sufficiently proven in some animal species. Nevertheless, there are scarce works that emphasise the importance of behaviour in the production of the goat. The main objective of this paper is to determine if there is a stable hierarchy of dominance in a flock of goats fed in pasture, and if this hierarchy influences somehow the diet selected in the pasture and in its production of milk and meat. The study was carried out in a flock of goats in semi-extensive grazing management. The interactions observed in the pasture during the supplementary feeding and during the milking were written down. This allowed us to determine the dominance rank. The diet was determined in the pasture by the direct observation method. The production of milk was measured daily. The meat production consisted on the weight of the kids in their first day of life and after a month. Among the most prominent results, the following should be indicated: (a) Within the herd, a clearly established, quite stable and linear hierarchic order exists. (b) The most aggressive animals are those that occupy the highest positions within the social hierarchy. (c) Age, large size and horns seem to be the physical factors that most favor dominance. (d) When more forage becomes available, differences appear in the diet chosen by dominant and subordinate animals, that is, they become more selective. In the months of greater shortage, these differences in feeding disappear, and they become more generalist. (e) The production of animals is affected by dominance. However, contrary to what might otherwise be thought, it is the middle range of goats that are the most productive. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Dominance
  • Feeding and nutrition
  • Goat
  • Production
  • Social behaviour

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