SHEEP (Ovis aries)
Sheep (Ovis aries) are quadrupedal, ruminant animals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over one billion in the world, domestic sheep are also the most numerous species of sheep. A male sheep is called a ram and a female sheep is called a ewe and a young sheep is called lamb. Sheep husbandry is practiced throughout the world, and has been fundamental to many civilizations. In the modern era, Australia, New Zealand, the southern and central South American nations, and the British Isles are most closely associated with sheep production.
Domestic sheep differ from their wild relatives and ancestors in several respects, having become uniquely ‘neotenic’ as a result of selective breeding by humans.[i] Another trait unique to domestic sheep as compared to wild ovines is their wide variation in color. Wild sheep are largely variations of brown hues, and variation within species is extremely limited. Colors of domestic sheep range from pure white to dark chocolate brown and even spotted.[ii]
Depending on breed, sheep show a range of heights and weights. Their rate of growth and mature weight is a heritable trait that is often selected for in breeding.[iii] Ewes typically weigh between 45 and 100 kilograms (99 and 220 lb), and rams between 45 and 160 kilograms (99 and 350 lb).[iv] The average life expectancy of a sheep is 10 to 12 years, though some sheep may live as long as 20 years.[v] Sheep have good hearing, and are sensitive to noise when being handled.[vi] Sheep have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, possessing excellent peripheral vision; with visual fields of approximately 270° to 320°, sheep can see behind themselves without turning their heads.[vii]
Several hundred breeds of sheep have been identified by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), with the estimated number varying somewhat from time to time: e.g. 863 breeds as of 1993,[viii]1314 breeds as of 1995[ix]and 1229 breeds as of 2006.[x] (These numbers exclude extinct breeds, which are also tallied by the FAO).
However, in Nigeria there are four breeds:
· The West African Dwarf
But other breeds that are of less importance exists and they include the Bororo and the Ara-Ara found in Niger and Anambra States (RIM, 1989). These two breeds were described in a survey by RIM (1989).
The West African dwarf is the predominant breed of the humid tropics from southern West Africa through central Africa. The West African Dwarf is a small bodied, compact breed which may be all white, black, brown or spotted black or brown on a white coat. Its variation in colour and patchy distribution makes it difficult to distinguish it clearly from the Yankasa Adult males. Its weight is approximately 37 kg. They have a well-developed throat ruff and are horned. Ewes of this species have mature weights of 25 kg and are usually polled. They can be bred at the age of 7 to 8 months. They tend to have a short lambing interval. The prolificacy of adult ewes is low to moderate and it ranges from 1.15 to 1.50 lambs per lambing. This breed is also trypanotolerant (tolerant to trypanosomiasis disease).
(Top) A West African dwarf Ram (bottom) A West African dwarf Ewe
Yankasa is a meat breed found in North and North central Nigeria. The Yankasa is a medium sized breed of sheep. The tail is long and thin, the ears moderately long and somewhat droopy. Rams have curved horns and a hairy white mane and ewes are polled. They have white coat colour with black patches around the eyes, ears and muzzle. Yankasa rams stand 70 to 80 cm at the withers and weigh 55 to 60kg at maturity. Mature females could weigh 25 to 40kg while male weighs between 35 and 50kg. The milk yield (kg) per lactation is between 30 and 56kg and has a lactation length of 91 days. The peak milk yield per day is 960 grammes.
The Uda is also known as Bororo and North Nigerian Fulani. The Uda is found in Northern Nigeria, Southern Niger, central Chad, Northern Cameroon and Western Sudan. It is one of the hair sheep breeds of the Sahel type. It is also a meat breed. It is a long legged breed of sheep with distinctive coat colour of brown or black anterior and white posterior. They are large with straight and long face. The rams of the Uda are horned and the ewes are usually polled. The Uda is slightly smaller bodied than the Balami, although their size ranges overlap. The weight of mature females could be 30 to 40kg while mature rams weigh 30 to 60kg. Milk yield per lactation lies between 32 and 36kg for an average lactation length of 91 days.
Photographed by: R. E. McDowell, Professor Emeritus of International Animal Science, Cornell University, and provided by Paul O. Brackelsberg, Professor of Animal Science, Iowa State University.
Balami is the largest bodied native sheep in Nigeria. As a pastoral animal, it is confined to the semi-arid north but it is favoured as a stall fed breed by Muslims throughout the Nigerian middle belt. It is white and hairy with pendulous ears, long leg and a long thin tail. Rams are horned but ewes are normally polled. Another feature that makes the Balami distinctly recognisable is its Roman, bulbous nose that distinguishes it from the Yankasa. It has good potential as a meat producer. The weight of mature males ranges from 40 to 80kg while that of female lies between 30 and 40kg. The milk yield per lactation lies between 28 and 33kg in 70days.
Sheep prefer to cluster together thereby facilitating their management and makes it easy to discover any abnormalities in the flock. For better performance of sheep, the following management practices should be undertaken:
Routine health management
A number of sheep management systems have been described in Nigeria. These management systems range from free range to confinement in semi-intensive and intensive systems. These systems are explained below.
Extensive or Traditional system
In Nigeria, the main husbandry system is mainly traditional with individuals keeping 2 to 4 animals with little investment, but high potential return. This system of husbandry is characterized by trekking and exposure to high ambient temperatures which cause animals to lose body weight while moving. It is also characterized by high incidence of diseases and parasitism, together with the adverse effects of tropical climate. Other characteristics include losses to stealing, motor accidents, poisoning by crop farmers and conflicts between livestock owners and crop farmers.
The semi-intensive management system is the intermediate between intensive and traditional management system. The system involves grazing of the animals on any available herbage during the day and housing them during the night. On the other hand, the sheep is still fed in the morning and in the evening. Animals are observed for disease problems and veterinary care is also provided in this system.
This system involves complete confinement of the animals either in pastures or in pens where water, feed and some crop residues such as cassava peels, brewer’s dry grain rice straw and bran are provided. Under this situation, adequate nutrition is ensured and the welfare of the animals is constantly monitored with full veterinary care being provided. The greatest advantages of this system are effective conversion of crop residues or supplement to products of high biological value such as milk and meat. There is control of reproduction, improved performance and hygienic conditions, collection and use of faecal materials as farm yard manures, reduction in cases of parasitic diseases..[xi]
The economic importance of sheep in developing nation cannot be over-emphasized. Sheep with their small body size, high productive capacity and rapid growth rates are ideally suited to production by resource-poor smallholders. In sub-saharan Africa, sheep provide almost 30% of the meat consumed and around 16% of the milk produced. Sheep contributes about 50% of the total domestically produced meat in Nigeria. Nigeria possesses about 22.1 million sheep. They thrive in a wide variety of environments in the tropics and sub-tropics. It requires less capital as they can be completely maintained on pastures, browse, and agricultural waste products. A flock of sheep can provide families with food each day in the form of milk, but only in limited parts of the world are sheep milked for diary foods. Sheep milk is an excellent raw material for the milk processing industry especially in cheese production. The Mediterranean countries are the biggest producers of sheep milk. They participate with approximately 47% in the overall world production of sheep milk. Sheep milk yields 18 to 25 percent cheese, whereas goat and cow milk only yield 9 to 10 percent. While sheep usually produce less milk than goats and much less than cows, sheep milk sells for a significantly higher price per pound, almost four times the price of cow milk.[xii]
Sheep is an example of small ruminants in Nigeria that are increasingly becoming a major source of animal protein contributing over 30 percent to total meat consumption in the country. The output of sheep and goat meat was estimated as 100 000 tonnes in 1965 and 163 000 tonnes in 1980 (mcClintock, 1983).[xiii] Estimates from the federal livestock department in 1983 showed that there are 11 million cattle, 22 million goats, 8 million sheep, 900 000 pigs, and 150 million poultry (both local and exotic) in the country. In Nigeria, sheep play a significant socio-economic role in the life of the people: they are slaughtered during ceremonies and festivals, and serve as a source of ready cash to small farmers.
Sheep are an important part of the global agricultural economy. They play a major role in many local economies, which may be specific markets focused on organic or sustainable agriculture and local food customers.[xiv][xv] Especially in developing countries, such flocks may be a part of subsistence agriculture rather than a system of trade.
In the 21st century, the sale of meat is the most profitable enterprise in the sheep industry. Sheep meat and milk were one of the earliest staple proteins consumed by human civilization after the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. (Simmons et al.)
Global sheep stocks
UN Food & Agriculture Organization
Some breeds of sheep, e.g. the wool type produce two products; wool and lamb available for market at two different periods of the year. Their returns come quickly as lambs may be marketed 8 months after the ewes are bred. Also Sheep droppings are particularly less subjected to wastes because of the way they are dropped and tramped into the soil.
Sheepskin is likewise used for making clothes, footwear, rugs, and other products. Byproducts from the slaughter of sheep are also of value, for example sheep tallow can be used in candle and soap making, sheep bone and cartilage has been used to furnish carved items such as dice and buttons as well as rendered glue and gelatin.[xvi] Sheep do not require the expensive housing, (Smith et al.) [xvii]such as that used in the intensive farming of chickens or pigs. They are an efficient use of land; hence roughly six sheep can be kept in the space that would suffice for a single cow or horse.[xviii] Also, in contrast to most livestock species, the cost of raising sheep is not necessarily tied to the price of feed crops such as grain, soybeans and corn.[xix]
Sheep are especially beneficial for independent producers, including family farms with limited resources, as the sheep industry is one of the few types of animal agriculture that has not been vertically integrated by agribusiness. (Simmons et al.)
COMMON DISEASES OF SHEEP
Foot and Mouth Disease; it’s a viral disease that affects animals. The disease spread through direct contact and indirect contact with the infected animal or infected manure, hay, forages, water, rats, birds and livestock attendants. The disease is characterized by fever and blister-like lesions followed by erosions on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats, and between the hooves. There should be proper sanitation, rotational grazing and annual vaccination. The only control measure is to bury and burn the infected animals.
Abortion; Caused by vibrio organism, Chlymadia or plasmolysis. The fetus and placenta are aborted during the last three to four weeks of gestation. The placenta is thickened and brown. Some ewes infected with vibrio may not abort but will produce weak lambs, most of which die. Use of 250-400mg of tetracycline (Aureomycin or Terramycin) per ewe daily for 30 days usually is an effective preventive measure. Use of antibiotics also helps.
Orf; (also known as scabby mouth, contagious ecthyma or soremouth) is a skin disease that leaves lesions which is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Common forms of preventive medication for this disease is vaccination
Footrot; this is a grievous disease that almost defies curing. For a small flock of grade ewes, selling out and starting over is the wisest decision. Footrot is caused by two bacteria–Fusobacterium necrophorum andBacteroides nodosus–that act synergistically. F. necrophorum is common in most manure; it is very hardy and can live for years in manure. B. nodosus apparently lives only in sheep hooves. It dies out in soil in two weeks. It grows very slowly, so the incubation period may be long. Foot abscesses may be caused by B. nodosus, but footrot requires the presence of both B. nodosus and F. necrophorum. Moist soil conditions contribute greatly to the cause and spread of footrot. Footrot can be controlled and/or eradicated by a combination of hoof trimming, vaccination, foot bathing and soaking and culling. Zinc sulfate is considered to be the most effective foot rot treatment. Footrot is highly contagious.[xx]
Facial eczema; Facial eczema is a condition of severe dermatitis in cattle, sheep, and goats caused by a toxin in spores of the saprophytic fungus, which lives in dead vegetative material in pastures, especially perennial ryegrass. Facial eczema is an example of "secondary photosensitization," in which the skin lesions are really the secondary result of liver damage, rather than the direct result of a plant toxin. The liver damage in facial eczema is caused by the toxin sporidesmin in the fungus spores. Animals suffering from facial eczema should be removed from the contaminated pasture and provided with shade, cool water, and a good diet. Feeding high levels of zinc may help prevent facial eczema.[xxi]
Pneumonia (respiratory disease complex, pasteurellosis, shipping fever); Pneumonia is second in importance to diseases of the digestive tract. Pneumonia is a respiratory complex with no single agent being solely responsible for the disease. The most common bacteria isolated from respiratory infections are Pasteurella haemolytica or Pasteurella multocida or both. Affected animals become depressed and go off feed. They may cough and show some respiratory distress. Their temperatures are usually over 104°F. The disease may be acute with sudden deaths or take a course of several days. Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.[xxii]
Mastitis; (acute pasteurella) is the major reason producers cull ewes. Mastitis is associated with lambs with sore mouth and incorrect "drying up" of the ewe at weaning. Minimize reinfection by isolating the infected ewe and her lambs. Avoid udder injury, and cull ewes with pendulous udders. Treatment includes giving antibiotics, intramammary infusion of the udder (by a teat tube), or intramuscular injection of 8–10 cc of tetracycline.[xxiii]
Tetanus; Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, which persists in the soil of most farms. Next to horses, sheep are the most susceptible farm animal. The bacteria are anaerobic, so wounds in which air contact is limited are most susceptible to tetanus. Docking and castrating with rubber rings increase the incidence of infection. Disinfecting docking and castrating wounds will minimize it. Infected sheep become stiff, move with a straddled gait, and usually die. Vaccinating with tetanus toxoid and anti-toxin prior to docking is effective.
In general, the government is strategizing for the development of small ruminant production in Nigeria by creating a livestock policy which aims at improving the nutritional status of its people through the domestic provision of high quality protein rich livestock products, to provide locally all necessary raw material inputs for the livestock industry, to provide rural employment through an expanded livestock programme, and to improve and stabilize rural income emanating from livestock production and processing.[xxiv]
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[i] Budiansky, pp. 97-98. 100-01.
[ii] Source; "Natural Colored Sheep". Rare Breeds Watch list. Rocky Mountain Natural Colored Sheep Breeders Association. January 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
[iii] Simmons, Paula; Carol Ekarius (2001). Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-58017-262-2.
[iv] Melinda J. Burrill Ph.D. Professor Coordinator of Graduate Studies, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, California State Polytechnic University (2004). "Sheep". World Book. Mackiev.
[v] Ensminger, Dr. M.E.; Dr. R.O. Parker (1986). Sheep and Goat Science, Fifth Edition. Danville, Illinois: The Interstate Printers and Publishers Inc. ISBN 0-8134-2464-X.
[vii] Weaver, Sue (2005). Sheep: small-scale sheep keeping for pleasure and profit. 3 Burroughs Irvine, CA 92618: Hobby Farm Press, an imprint of BowTie Press, a division of BowTie Inc. ISBN 1-931993-49-1. Sheep Care Guide.
[viii] ^ Maijala, K. 1997, Genetic aspects of domestication, common breeds and their origin. In: Piper, L. and A. Ruvinsky (eds.). The genetics of sheep. CA
[ix] Scherf, B. D. 2000. World watch list for domestic animal diversity. 3rd Edition. FAO, Rome. 726 pp
[x] FAO. 2007. State of the world's animal genetic resources for food and agriculture. 512 pp.
[xiii] McClintock, J. (1983). What causes supply levels from African Livestock Sectors to change? ILCA's LPU working paper no. 2
[xiv] Culled from; Weaver, Sue (2005). Sheep: small-scale sheep keeping for pleasure and profit. 3 Burroughs Irvine, CA 92618: Hobby Farm Press, an imprint of BowTie Press, a division of BowTie Inc. ISBN 1-931993-49-1.
[xv] Culled from; Severson, Kim (2005-09-14). "Iceland Woos America With Lamb and Skyr". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
[xvi] Culled from; Simmons, Paula; Carol Ekarius (2001). Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-58017-262-2.
[xvii] Smith M.S., Barbara; Mark Aseltine PhD, Gerald Kennedy DVM (1997). Beginning Shepherd's Manual, Second Edition. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press. ISBN 0-8138-2799-X.
[xviii] Small, Joanna (2008-01-18). "Sheep Compete With Beef". KSBR News (ABC). Archived from the original on March 16, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
[xix] Wilde, Matthew (2008-01-20). "Profit opportunities raising sheep". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
[xxiv] Culled from; http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/s8374b/S8374b20.htm
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