Towards objective measurement of reproductive performance of traditionally managed goat flocks in the drylands of Ethiopia

Reproductive performance is a key determinant for the efficiency of goat production. Regular monitoring of reproductive efficiency is essential to assess management and to avoid financial losses due to poor performance. To allow more objective measurement and comparisons over time, we propose a novel quantitative approach for defining annual reproductive performance by combining common performance indicators into a goat flock index. Commonly used reproductive performance measures were collected from 242 goat flocks in four districts in dryland of Ethiopia between July 2018 and February 2019. Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to identify biologically meaningful latent components that explain annual reproductive output (ARO) and annual reproductive wastage (ARW). Together with the remaining annual reproductive performance measures, the ARO and ARW components were included in a PCA to derive an algorithm for a goat annual reproductive performance index (G-ARPI). One component representing variation in kidding interval, PCARO1 and PCARW1 was extracted and normalized to a 10-scale value. The flocks were classified into good performing (15.63%) with index > 8.5, moderately performing (48.21%) with index values ranging from 6.5 to 8.5 and poor performing (36.16%) with index < 6.5. Good performing flocks have higher scores for reproductive output measures, lower scores for reproductive wastage and lower kidding interval. The proposed G-ARPI can be used as an objective tool to compare reproductive performance between management systems, evaluate the costs of poor reproductive management and will be useful for economic models that aim to identify the most cost-efficient intervention option and monitor the impact of interventions. We present here the index for goat production in dryland systems in Ethiopia; the approach can easily be adapted to other production systems elsewhere.