Effects of water availability on physiological status of Nguni does and weaners.
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Physiological status of goats is mainly affected by the availability of feed and water. Factors such as frequency of droughts and low rainfalls are main contributors to water scarcity. Understanding perceptions of goat farmers about water availability in the aspect of climate change is vital for sustainable and improved livelihoods. The objectives of the study were to: (1) determine the factors influencing water availability for Nguni goat flocks in wet and dry areas; and (2) compare responses in physiological status of Nguni weaners and does to distance from water source. Farmer perceptions were captured from 300 goat farmers using structured questionnaires. Water shortage was among the major constraints to goat production. The odds ratio estimates of households experiencing goat drinking water shortage were high for temperature and rainfall patterns (P<0.001). Goat flock size and distance from water sources highly predisposed the household to experience water shortage. Farmers who did not provide additional drinking water for goats were 3.7 times more likely to have goats experiencing water shortage as compared to farmers who provided additional drinking water for goats (P<0.01). Goats that were owned by farmers situated (≥1 km) away from the water source were 1.89 times more likely to experience water shortage compared to goats owned by farmers situated (<1 km) from the water source. Farmers who had large goat flock size were 1.64 times more likely to experience water shortage as compared to the farmers who had small goat flock size (P<0.05). A trial was conducted to compare physiological status responses of Nguni weaners and does to distance from water sources. A negative linear regression was recorded between body condition score and distance from water source. A positive linear regression was recorded between FAMACHA scores and distance from water source across weaners and does. The rate of reduction in body condition scores were lower in does (-0.45 ± 0.292) as compared to weaners (-0.55 ± 0.374). The FAMACHA scores increased as distance to water source increased in both classes of goats. The slope was, however steeper (P<0.05) for does (0.56 ± xiv 0.403) than for weaners (0.44 ± 0.432). There was a negative linear relationship between packed cell volume and distance from water source. Reduction in packed cell volume was lower (P<0.05) in does (-0.62 ± 2.57) as compared to weaners (-11.21 ± 2.196). The rectal temperature and distance from water source were positively related. The increase in rectal temperature was lower (P<0.05) in does (0.05 ± 0.280) than in weaners (0.07 ± 0.432). It was concluded that although both classes of goats were affected by the distance to water source, the effects were more adverse in does than in weaners