Sheep and goat systems

Small ruminants are increasing very much in numbers, in particular in the least developed countries. Literature suggests that small ruminants can really contribute to improving livelihoods of the rural poor.

Research on small ruminants in Indonesia showed that small ruminants are very much appreciated by rural households, however, they are more a sign of poverty than that they lift a farming family out of poverty. In Indonesia small ruminant systems intensify: they are kept more and more indoors, other breeds (other tropical breeds) are being kept and numbers increase due to promotion by government institutions, and intensifying of cropping areas, so less grazing is available. The most important drivers for small ruminant keeping are found at household level, there has to be household labour and a small capital available. If so, then about 4-6 animals are kept. On average a household spends considerable time on their small ruminants, mainly to find sufficient feed, in particular in the dry season. This results in labour productivities below the minimum wage level. But most of the family labour is not competitive in the job market, so, farmers do not consider the family labour as real costs.

In Indonesia, the development focus is on goats, but research results indicate that sheep are just as productive as goats. Small ruminants are an appreciated secondary activity. Farmers always say that they keep them as a security and for their manure. They sell them to cover expenses for the start of the school year, a new school uniform, or for buying fertilizers for preparing the paddy fields. Small ruminant farmers not only supply local markets, their animals are being bought by traders who transport them to major cities. Males are being slaughtered for the feast of sacrifice. We explored whether farmers could specialize in fattening males for this purpose, but the numbers they can fatten are too small, with these small herd sizes, to really have an impact. In West Africa this is more of a success for a small group of farming households; here flocks are bigger and there is more grazing available.

Research in Mexico showed that dairy goat keeping is an important component of the portfolio of livelihoods strategies for resource-poor rural households. Flocks are much larger than in African or Asian farming systems. Goat milk generates a regular income. Farmers said that having goats was better than not having goats, but goat farming does not lift the poor out of poverty.

Relevant publications

  • Budisatria, I.G.S.; Udo, H.M.J.; Eilers, C.H.A.M.; Zijpp, A.J. van der (2007)
    Dynamics of small ruminant production. A case study of Central Java, Indonesia
    Outlook on Agriculture 36 (2). – p. 145 – 152.
  • Bosman, H.G.; Moll, H.A.J.; Udo, H.M.J. (1997)
    Measuring and interpreting the benefits of goat keeping in tropical farm systems.
    Agricultural Systems 53 . – p. 349 – 372.