Notes to broadcasters on sheep

    | July 23, 2012

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    Here is a technical manual on raising sheep and goats from the International Livestock Research Institute:

    Farmers keep sheep and goats as a source of food (milk and meat), a source of fibre (wool and skins), a source of ready cash, and a form of savings.

    Sheep and goats have other benefits:

    • they are adaptable to a broad range of environments;
    • they have short generation cycles and high reproductive rates, leading to high numbers of offspring;
    • some breeds (e.g. Red Maasai sheep and West African Dwarf goats) are tolerant of diseases such as helminthosis, caused by worms; and
    • they are small enough to be consumed by an average rural family in a day or two, and so do not require refrigeration facilities.

    Most sheep breeds prefer to graze on grass and other short vegetation, avoiding the taller woody parts of plants eaten by goats. Sheep crop plants very close to the ground and can overgraze an area much more quickly than cattle. For this reason, sheep are sometimes managed by using intensive rotational grazing, where a flock is rotated through multiple areas, giving plants time to recover.

    Sudan and Nigeria are two African countries whose sheep populations are amongst the highest in the world, with an estimated 51 and 34 million animals, respectively.

    As indicated in this week’s story, high-protein feed supplements such as cottonseed meal greatly aid the fattening process. Other high-protein options are oilseed cakes made from groundnut, sunflower or soybean; and some of the by-products of beer-making and sugar processing. These may not be affordable for many farmers, however. But molasses added to cottonseed cakes or urea-oilseed cakes are a more affordable option. Fodder crops such as the leaves and pods of Faidherbia albida are in West Africa are another source of protein. Many other tree species can be used for fodder, for example,  Sesbania sesban, Calliandra species and Gliricidia sepium.

    On a lighter note, sheep have been successfully equipped with cell phones. See:

    If you live in an area where farmers raise sheep and/or goats, or where the climate and other conditions are favourable for keeping them, you might consider doing a series of programs on the benefits of these animals. Explore how these animals benefit families, who cares for them, how they are fed, and whether they are sold or always consumed by the family. Ensure that you talk to female, male and youth farmers.