Sheep and goat contribute significantly to the economy of third world countries. For instance, about 50% of sheep and 80% of the goats of the world are found in the third world countries.

F.A.O. (1982) has given the world population of sheep as 1,130.8 million while the goat population was 468.8 million. Africa has 16.3% of the sheep and 31.7% of the goat population. Within African, the centers of sheep concentration of sheep population are Ethiopia, Morocco, South African, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan. The sheep and goat breeds in Nigeria are meat producing animals adapted to the various ecological zones in which they are found. The highest concentration being Kano, Sokoto, Borno and Kaduna states. They are kept largely by rural populace. It has been estimated that goats contribute 16.0% and sheep 5.0% of total domestically produced meat in Nigeria which has been estimated at 813,000 tonnes of meat per annum (F.A.O. 1982). In addition, these small ruminants produce skins used in the local leather industry. Sheep and goat skins have been estimated at 7,500 tonnes and 20,400 annually, respectively (F.A.O. 1982). They are also handy during certain occasions e.g. marriages, festivals, burial, and naming ceremonies. Apart from meat they also supply cash to the rural dwellers.

Nigeria Sheep Breeds:

  • Balami
  • Uda
  • Yankasa
  • West Africa Dwarf (WAD) or Forest shhep

Nigeria Goat Breeds:

  • Sahelian
  • Red Sokoto or Maradi
  • West African Dwarf Goat

Cross/Exotic Breeds of Sheep and Goat:

Some exotic breeds have been imported and these these together with their crosses with the indigenous breeds are found in some government institutions in Nigeria. For instance, the livestock improvement and Breeding Centers (LIBC) under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Resources, Kaduna State. The goat improvement centers located at Dutsin-Ma and Rimi in Katsina are working towards upgrading our indigenous goats with those imported from Niger and Chad Republics. The project could not attain the desired objective mainly due to the usual administrative bottle-neck of the government.

The sheep and goats projects under LIBC at Panbegua imported some Merino (Buluchi) breeds of sheep. These sheep are very hairy and are used for wool production in Australia, Newzealand and other Western countries.

They could not thrive well in Nigeria because of the heat stress, thus the cross breeding work for sheep did not attain the desired goal. There is another breed of sheep called Tuma which is found in the LIBC farm katsina. It is hairy, and so suffered the same heat stress as the Buluchi.

Generally cross breeding of sheep and goat has not been very successful due to the severity of weather in Nigeria which makes it difficult for the imported ones to perform well. It is therefore advisable that we make use of the local breeds listed above in our breeding work.


  1. Balami: Found throughout the north Eastern part of the country, but more concentrated in Borno State. It is big, predominantly white with convex face. The ear is large and droopy. The tail is thin and long. Horns are prominent in males (rams), but absent in the females (ewes). Mature weight is 40 to 65 kg in males and 30 to 45 kg in females. Balami has good potential as a meat producer and it has ability to survive under arid conditions.
  2. Uda: This breed is found throughout the Sahelo-Sudan vegetation zone in Nigeria. But it is more predominantly found in the North-western part of the country. The Uda is a large, long-legged sheep with a convex face. The breed has a characteristic coat-colour pattern. The anterior (fore) half is black or brown while the posterior (rear) half is white. The ear is long large and pendulous. The rams carry horns which became larger, wide and spiral as they mature. Horns are usually absent in the females. Mature live-weight are 30 to 45kg in females and 30 to 60 kg in males. It is adapted to extensive grazing and survival under hot and dry environment. It does not survive well outside its ecological zone.
  3. Yankasa: Is found throughout the area North of Latitude 14°N. It is thus most widely distributed and most numerous sheep breed in Nigeria. It is intermediate in size between the Southern breed in sheep and Uda. It has a typical white coat-colour with dwarf patches around the eyes, ears, muzzle, and sometimes feet.

Some of the ewes have wattles. The rams carry horns. The mature rams have heavy white mane. Mature live weight are 30 to 45kg in rams and 25 to 40 kg in ewes.

  1. West African Dwarf Sheep: The breed is found in the whole area south of Latitude 14°N. Within this wide geographical zone are variation in type. It is small and short-legged. The coat colour varies from all white, all black or brown to spotted black or brown on a white coat. Many of them have wattles. Males have horns. Mature live weight are 15 to 25kg in ewes and 20 to 30kg in rams. It is hardy and tolerant to typanosomiasis.


  1. Sahelian: Is found in the semi-desert area of Lake Chad in the North-eastern part of the country. It is large in size with long legs. Is usually white or white with brown in colour.
  2. Red Sokoto or Maradi: Is the most numerous (17.3million) and widely distributed breed of goat in Nigeria. It is one of the few well-defined breeds of goat and characterized by its uniform dark-red coat colour, short and horizontal ears and horns in both sexes. The Kano Brown and Borno White are believed to be strains of the Red Sokoto.
  3. The West African Dwarf Goat: Is confined to the humid forest belts of the south. It is hardy and short legged. The colour varies from white to black background or white spots on a black background. They are scavengers and trypano-tolerant.


Breeding of Sheep and Goats

a)      Selection of breeding animal: The first procedure is to select animals that will enter the breeding stock under standard condition. Selection should be based on appearance and performance records (twinning, rearing ability, growth rate and early maturity). However, in situations where livestock owners are uneducated, a practical approach is to select on the basis of appearance, vigour and aggressiveness, for example, select those that are alert, with sound feet free from rot, active rams seeking out and serving ewes on heat, ewes with good udders, sound teats without signs of disease, good mothering abilities and ability to lamb quickly and easily.

It is possible for the farmer to know the animals that produce twins and the mothers of lambs that grow fastest. Such mother should be kept at the breeding flock.

Recording keeping is very good in animal breeding. The farmer should try and identify the animals with ear tags, to enable him keep his records. Record keeping will help to identify the offspring with their mothers.

Animals can be selected soon after weaning at 3 months. It is necessary to separate the sexes at the age of about 4 months to prevent indiscriminate breeding. Ewes lambs can join the breeding flock from the age 9 months. Although ewe lambs will show the first oestrus or heat at the age of 6 months when they are young and growing, it is best to breed them at the age about one year or at least 9 months (Adu, 1980). The rams and bucks can also attain puberty at the age of 6 months (Osinowo, 1985; Marira, 1986), but they are best used in mating from the age of 9 months to 12 months.

b)      Mating: The males are the best detectors of heat. The farmers should therefore leave the males with the females continuously for a period of 6 to 8 weeks during which each females should have come on heat at least once. The best results have been obtained with a mating ration of I male to 20 females (Adu, 1980).

Sheep and Goats Methods of Mating:

  1. Flock or pasture mating: In this, females and males are allowed to run together with free movement on pasture. The mating ratio is 1 ram to 20 ewes. They are allowed to run for 6 to 8 weeks.
  2. Individual or Pen Mating: Is a mating arrangement in which the females are observed for heat or oestrus and once any female is on heat, it is removed into a separated pen, and a male is introduced to serve her. In this method, heat is detected by vasectomized males with marking harness or by visual observation when the female mounts or allow other to mount her.
  3. Synchronized A.I. Method: In this method, the females are first synchronized (i.e. made to come on heat at the same time), then they are artificially inseminated. This method is advanced, and required a special trained manpower to collect semen from the males and inseminate the females. It is therefore not very useful to the local farmers.


c)       Breeding Interval: Sheep and goats can be bred all year round in Nigeria as there is no anoestrous season. It is a regular practice in most farmers to breed once a year due to insufficient supply of pasture or concentrates. In some places breeding is not organized and animals can be served or born any time of the year. It has been shown in NAPRI (Osinowo, 1985) that sheep and goats can be served once a year. The number of times one wants to breed (once or twice) in a year depending on the level of management and availability of feed.

For those who are managing their livestock under semi-intensive or range system, it is advisable to breed once a year. The  breeding should be done in September/October in order to have the lambs or kids around March. This is to enable the young ones to enjoy the dry favourable weather and get strong before the rains. Usually the young ones die of cold, helminth when they are born during the rainy season. However, it is good to have the lambs/kids near the rains to enable the dams to get enough forage feed to be able to suckle the young ones.

d)      Feeding at Mating Period: Attention should be paid to feeding in the period before and during mating to obtain high lambing rates. In practice, there are no feeding standards, so the farmer’s judgment is very important. An animal that spends a lot of time on its feet looking for food is probably not having enough from grazing and hence needs some supplement. Although breeding animals should not be over- fed to avoid being too fat, they should have sufficient natural grazing during the day and receive some concentrate up to 500g per head when housed at night to stimulate multiple ovulation, high conception and twinning rates . The animals should keep their bloom, be alert and have bright eyes.

During early pregnancy (the first 3 months), females should receive some concentrate (about 200g per head and per day) to supplement grazing. The supplement should be increased progressively during the last 2 months of pregnancy which constitutes a very critical period from the point of nutrition. This is because the  developing foetus depends on the mother for its own food for development which becomes very rapid from the 4th month of pregnancy. This will help in producing strong and healthy offspring and allow for good udder development of the mother to ensure good milk production. An adequate level of nutrition can be met by giving increasing amount of supplement up to 750kg per head per day in addition to roughages.

e)      Lambing: Restlessness and seeking for a quiet and sheltered place are the first visible signs of impending parturition. It is best to allow the dam to lamb in pens under cover to ensure individual shepherding, thus reducing ewe and/or lamb mortality.




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