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birds of the family Anatidae of the order An-seriformes. Their dimensions are quite large; they weigh from 2 to 6 kg. They have relatively long legs, which are better suited for walking than swimming. The bill is massive, and in some geese it is thick at the base. Geese feed predominantly on dry land or in the shallows. Their food is chiefly vegetable: stems and leaves, tubers, and seeds; arctic species feed in the shallows on small crayfish, mollusks, and the like. The nests, on the ground or on rocks, are of grass and moss lined with down. There are five to eight eggs in a clutch. The female broods; both parents care for the young. In the USSR there are five genera (eight species) of geese, including the genus Anser, which includes the greylag goose, the bean goose, the white-fronted goose (A. albifrons), and the lesser white-fronted goose (A. erythropus); the last two are found in the tundra and the forest tundra. The Chinese goose is common in southern Siberia, from the Altai to Sakhalin; the mountain goose (Eulabeia indica) nests in the high-mountain lakes of the Pamir, the Tien-Shan, and the Altai; the emperor goose (Philacte canagica) is found in the extreme northeast of Siberia and in Alaska; and the snow goose is found on Vrangel’ Island and in arctic America. All geese are hunted.
Domestic geese are descended from the wild greylag goose, to which they bear a great external and anatomical resemblance. One may obtain 20–25 goslings from one goose in a year, and after fattening and slaughtering them, up to 100 kg of meat. Geese are good foragers. They begin to lay eggs at the age of 265–350 days; if nurtured intensively, at 160–180 days. The egg-laying period lasts from four to eight months, usually in the winter-spring months. With artificial lighting, egg laying may also be induced in autumn. The egg-laying capacity is 30–40 eggs, in some breeds up to 100. In contrast to hens, the egg production of geese increases with age: by 15–25 percent in the second year over the first, by 30–40 percent in the third year, and in some breeds by 10–25 percent even at the age of five years. The average period for using a goose for breeding is five to six years, with a maximum of up to eight years. The sexual ratio within the flock is three or four female geese to one gander. Goslings are usually slaughtered for meat at the age of six months, when they weigh 3–4 kg; with intensive nurturing, in 60–65 days. The liveweight of adult ganders is 5–6 kg, with a maximum of up to 12 kg; of female geese, 4–5 kg, with a maximum of up to 10 kg.
The meat contains approximately 16 percent protein and approximately 35 percent fat. The caloric value for 100 g is 1.3 megajoules (about 320 kilocalories), higher than that of the meat of other species of agricultural fowl. In some countries (such as Hungary, Poland, and France), specialized production of goose livers, whose weight may reach 1 kg, is widely developed. Other important products of goose breeding are down, feathers, and downy hides. Goose fat is the best medication for treating frostbite.
Geese are usually kept in pasture from May through October. Supplementary feeding with concentrates is minimal and, with pasturing on stubble, it is completely unnecessary. In the winter, part of the concentrates in the rations are replaced by coarse and succulent fodders. Geese are kept in unheated premises with natural lighting. Such a system lowers expenditures for feeding and maintaining the fowl but does not assure high productivity; moreover, pasturing requires considerable areas (1 hectare of pasture, depending on its productivity, for 10–80 head per month).
With an intensive system, geese are kept in heated poultry houses under conditions in which light is regulated (13–14 hours of light a day). In poultry houses in central and northern regions the number of geese over 5 kg of weight to a sq m is: breeding geese, 1; commercial geese, 1½. In southern regions these figures are 1¼ and 1¾, respectively. For geese of lower weight the density is increased.
The approximate food rations of adult geese during the breeding period (in grams per head per day) is: grain, 215; oilcake and oil-seed meal, 30; succulent and green fodders, 200–350; grass meal, 70; yeast, 2; chalk and shells, 2–3; bone meal, 2–3; and table salt, 114–2. During the non-breeding period, rations of succulent and green fodders are increased and grain is decreased. Fodders are left in the feed boxes overnight as well. There must be gravel and mineral fodders in the feeders.
In the USSR, domestic breeds and populations of geese that are raised include Kholmogor, Arzamas, Large Gray, Pskov, Tula, Romny, Ural, Lithuanian, Gorky, Dzhavakhe-tia, and Solnechnogorsk. Geese imported from other countries include Toulouse and Rouen (France), Pomeranian and Emden (German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany), White Banat and Frāzāta Danube (Rumania), Straw Pilgrim and Mangrill (USA), White Bulgarian, White Czechoslovak, local Hungarian, and the Canada goose.
REFERENCESPenionzhkevich, E. E. Parody gusei i utok v SSSR. Moscow, 1954.
Smetnev, S. E. Ptitsevodstvo, 5th ed. Moscow, 1970.
Sel’skokhoziaistvennaia ptitsa, vol. 1. Edited by E. E. Penionzhkevich. Moscow, 1962.
E. E. PENIONZHKEVICH