Gene Pool Of The Goat Is Under Threat, Researchers Claim

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

The global genetic pool of the goat — an animal whose meat is a vital source of protein in many impoverished nations — is being threatened, and some breeds could be at risk of dying out altogether, researchers from the Regional Service of Agro-Food Research and Development (SERIDA) claim in a new report.

The study, which SERIDA said is the first monographic study of the worldwide impact of the species, “took into account the state of different breeds, the multiple implications of their conservation, the interaction with other animal species (wild and domestic) and the consequences of goat grazing from an environmental point of view,” officials from the Spanish agency said in a statement Wednesday.

“The risk of the gene pool of the goat disappearing has increased due to intensive animal husbandry systems that use a very limited number of breeds,” explained study co-author and SERIDA researcher Rocío Rosa García. “Strangely enough, the biggest loss in the genetic resources of indigenous animals has been observed in Europe, although the situation is unknown in many areas.”

The researchers said that they believe the goat has, oddly enough, garnered a bit of a bad reputation because of its ability to adapt to harsh environmental conditions that aren´t suitable for other types of livestock.

While they can cause damage to ecosystems, goats also have also become a key source of nutrition in poorer countries across the globe, including those home to deserts, mountain ranges, and other ecological features that can act as barriers to agriculture or the rearing of domestic livestock.

“In poor regions, poor communities are commonplace and often the goat is the only source of animal protein in their diet,” Rosa García said, adding that she and her colleagues “wanted to perform a global review, taking into account very different regions of the world, from the Himalayan peaks to tropical areas, and analyzing to what extent the goat competes with local fauna in each region and whether it interferes with the survival of the most sensitive species.”

The research team was led by Koldo Osoro Otaduy, manager of the Animal Production Systems Area at SERIDA, and studied the creatures in locations where they play a “very relevant” role. They report that the primary environmental damage caused by goats originates from mismanagement of grazing.

“For example, the uncontrolled growth of the cashmere goat to increase production of its prized wool has meant in some cases that the ecosystems have become overloaded. This has not only affected vegetation but also certain indigenous species in India, China and Mongolia,” SERIDA officials explained.

“To counteract this, the study also considers a large number of cases in which the species plays an important role in environmental conservation,” they added. “These include their use in the fight against fires in areas dominated by bushes and in controlling exotic vegetation plagues that could put ecosystems at risk.”

The study, entitled “Goat grazing, its interactions with other herbivores and biodiversity conservation issues,” has been published by Small Ruminant Research, the official journal of the International Goat Association.