Rural Laos: Goat farming

Who doesn't love goats? They are the most versatile of animals, being relatively small and docile, and producing both milk and meat. They are a perfect venture for small village farms in rural Laos.

In this relatively poor country, not everyone can afford to invest in animal husbandry. There's the initial cost of the animals, possible medicine, shelter, and food. For the latter, at least there's the local forest. But those who can afford it have a sustainable and profitable business.

It's simple really: the farmers raise a few goats, both male and female, and when they produce baby goats (kids), the adult goats are sent to market and the process begins over. The villagers work together to care for the animals, reducing the labour costs.

This is a typical goat shelter, constructed from tree branches and bamboo, with a tin or thatched roof

This is a typical goat shelter, constructed from tree branches and bamboo, with a tin or thatched roof

It's raised off the ground to protect the animals from flooding and possible predators

It's raised off the ground to protect the animals from flooding and possible predators

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Similar to pig farming in rural Laos, these goats spend much of their day outside. Village members take turns to herd all the goats to forage in the forest. The animals can't be allowed to wander freely though as UXO (unexploded ordinance) is a serious hazard in rural Laos, threatening at least 25% of arable land, not to mention lives.

A sign warns of UXO dangers in uncleared land somewhere off to the right, and right next to the village

A sign warns of UXO dangers in uncleared land somewhere off to the right, and right next to the village

Goat farmers also milk their animals to make yoghurt and cheese which is sold at the markets. However, a far more beneficial option would be for the village women and children to drink the goats milk, given Laos' alarmingly high rates of malnutrition. Goats' milk is highly nutritious, full of calcium and anti-allergenic properties.

Let's just say that goats have a hell of a lot of potential in Laos.