African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6863

Full Length Research Paper

Herd management and breeding practices of sheep owners in a mixed crop-livestock and a pastoral system of Ethiopia

T. Getachew1, A. Haile2, M. Tibbo3, A. K. Sharma4, J. Sölkner5, M. Wurzinger5,6*
1Debre Berhan Agricultural Research Center, P. O. Box 112, Debre Berhan, Ethiopia. 2International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Animal Genetic Resources, P. O. Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 3International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), P. O. Box 5466, Tel Hadya Aleppo, Syria. 4Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Mukteswar, Uttrakhand, India. 5BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Vienna, Austria. 6International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), P. O. Box 30709, Nairobi, Kenya.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 19 March 2010
  •  Published: 18 April 2010


An exploratory survey was undertaken to understand sheep production system, breeding practices and selection criteria for Ethiopian Menz and Afar sheep breeds in their home tract as a step towards developing sustainable sheep breeding strategies. The mean sheep flock size was 31.6 in Menz and 23.0 in Afar area. Half of the pastoralists (Afar) and one-fifth of smallholder farmers (Menz) do not have a breeding ram. Mating was predominantly uncontrolled. Higher chance of mixing sheep flocks was reported in most of the seasons. Menz and Afar rams were castrated at 1.7 and 1.5 years old, respectively. Castrates were kept for longer period of time, on average for 1.9 years in Menz and 3.1 years in Afar. Appearance/conformation was the most important trait in choosing a breeding ram for both Menz and Afar sheep owners. Breeding ewes are chosen based on lambing interval and mothering ability in both crop-livestock and pastoral systems; and milk yield in pastoral system. Afar ewes produce mean daily milk yield of 224 ml. In Menz area sheep are kept for income, meat, manure, coarse wool and as means of saving, in that order. In Afar area, sheep are kept for milk, meat and income. Livestock improvement programs targeting smallholder farmers need to incorporate existing traditional herding and breeding practices, trait preferences and the multiple roles of sheep.


Key words: Afar sheep, indigenous selection criteria, low-input production systems, menz sheep.