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Page last updated at 00:44 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 01:44 UK

Goat 'condoms' save Kenyan herds

By Ruth Nesoba
BBC News, Nairobi

Goat wearing an olor
The olor is held in place by a rope or an elastic strap

Maasai herdsmen in Kenya have turned to an age-old contraceptive device, the "olor", to protect their precious goat herds from an ongoing drought.

The olor is made from cowhide or a square piece of plastic, and is tied around the belly of the male goat.

It prevents the bucks from mating with the female goats.

The herdsmen are using the device to limit the goat population and ensure there are not too many animals grazing on sparse vegetation.

"We don't want them to breed in this drought," says Mr Ole Ngoshoi Kipameto, a goat owner in Kajiado district.

Vital assets

The area, which is 80km (50 miles) from the capital, Nairobi, has received insufficient rainfall, making the landscape barren and forcing residents to move from place to place in search of pasture and water.

In the Maasai community, livestock are often people's only assets and sole means of survival.

"We tie this hide under the belly of the buck for three months. After that we remove it and then they can breed by November when the short rains come," Mr Kipameto says.

Herdsmen putting an olor on a goat
The olor saves employing separate herdsmen for male and female goats

The rectangular piece of cowhide is passed over the buck's head and front legs and secured under the belly in front of the hind legs with a rope or elastic strap.

"It looks like an apron," Mr Kipameto says.

Peter Ndirangu, the area livestock officer, says the olor is very effective.

"In the modern method, we advocate keeping the bucks separate from the breeding goats. But that is an added cost as you require two herdsmen - one for the bucks and one for the goats," he says.

"This [device] will play the part of a herdsman."

He says the device is very useful in keeping the herd numbers down and controlling when the goats give birth.

"If they give birth during harsh conditions like now, the mothers - the does - are going to be very weak, they're not going to feed their young ones properly," he says.

The device helps the herdsmen to restrict kidding to the period during and after the rains.

If the rains fall in October and November, the dry landscape will turn green again and the herdsmen will be able to settle with their livestock.

Until then, the herdsmen will have to employ the olor to protect their livestock and livelihood safe.

Those who do not use it could face a hefty fine if their bucks are found guilty of impregnating another herder's doe.



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