Sheep farming is one of the most sustainable businesses in agriculture. Sheep is a domestic animal which can be found in and around the home. Sheep farming is also part or type of animal husbandry. Sheep farming is a type of farming which involves rearing and raising of sheep domestically for commercial purposes.
It generates a lot of income in various ways such like selling of the animal for its meat, milk, fur, hide, wool production and skin, i.e., leather.
Common Breeds of Sheep for Sheep Farming
Sheep are said to perform better in terms of growth when they are bred in the same region they originated from, but of course they will still thrive in other regions with similar climate and weather conditions. So, a ram from any part of the north will most likely do well somewhere in another part of the northern states, but not necessarily well in rainforest areas of the country.
Here is a list of the four common breeds we have in Nigeria that are perfect for sheep farming and where they are found to help when choosing for what type of ram to keep.
- Balami – It is the largest breed found majorly in Nigeria, they are usually tall and huge, all white with large
droopy ears. Found in the arid regions such as Maiduguri.
- Uda – This breed is long legged and large, it usually has two color combinations black and white or
brown and white. It could grow to an enormous size.
- Yankasa – This breed is the common type everyone knows, it looks like a cross between an Uda and Balami but not as big as them. It usually has black patches on its legs, around the muzzle or eyes.
- West African Dwarf – Found within the middle-belt region, they are short and stumpy and has the lowest growth rate among the other breeds.
Animal husbandry in Nigeria is experiencing a huge form in interest. People are realizing the potentials in the business of rearing animals especially now that the government has placed a ban on exported meat, this presented an opportunity for anyone to source the meat locally, and a considerable amount of our meat source is from sheep. This originated from the North, where they are reared in larger numbers.
The male sheep known as ‘ram’ has a greater percentage when it comes to selling or marketing them, especially among the Muslims for celebrations. Their female counterpart the ewe, are mostly kept for breeding processes.
With the right knowledge and connections one will be able to make huge profit each year. One of the major advantages of the ram over other domestic animals is that it doesn’t take long to reproduce and it attains full maturity in a very short time for its size, and it is highly disease resistant, but in case of any disease caused by microbes such as anthrax and rinderpest, they should be vaccinated. Their vaccines usually come very cheap.
The rams are bred for a minimum of six months, but they are usually reared till they reach a year before they are sold out in the market. We will first be discussing some of the common breeds found here in Nigeria then move onwards to the key practices when starting ram farming.
However, before venturing into sheep farming business, there are some certain factors which should be
considered which are:
- Orientation / business plan
- Getting a pen / shelter
- Marketing and sales
Things to consider when starting a sheep farming business
- Orientation / business plan: This should be a core and primary factor to be considered when planning of
venturing into sheep farming business. Making researches on the nitty-gritty of the business, the best
breed to read, the convenient and comfortable housing for the sheep, those to market it for. One
should have a good amount of start-up cost which will include their feeding, housing. etc.. When all this
are put in place, then the planning can start.
- Getting a pen / shelter: Just like humans, shelter is important in sheep farming too. This involves getting a piece of land, The housing of sheep is usually a very simple structure just to protect them from rain and direct contact with the elements. To house a considerable number of sheep one has to build a rectangular pen with one open side for ventilation. Add fencing net around the open side to prevent thieves and unwanted visitors. The housing should be
some few meters tall with an overhang of about a meter from the roof, each sheep requires a minimum meters of space inside the pen and about 2 square meters outside the pen or shed. Every morning the sheep are allowed to come out and graze the plot of land they are subjected to. Fencing the area with wire round will keep them all from wandering. Also the young ewes should be put in consideration when constructing their house.
- Grooming: Knowing how to groom a sheep is important in sheep farming. This is the next step in sheep farming and it involves getting the best breed. All the commonly known breeds of sheep take five to six months to achieve full maturity, although they are usually kept and reared for
another six months after which they are then taken to the market, in some occasions they are reared to
complete a year so they can achieve more body mass, which ultimately means more profit when they
are sold. The gestation period for a ram is normally within 147-150 days, and the ewes come into heat
every 17 days. Rams feed on forage, fresh grass, hay and grains such as soybeans, maize, etc. but
preferably grounded. They are also fed chaff, of maize especially, it is highly economical and very
satisfying to the sheep. From time to time however they should be fed with feed with a good level of
protein and they consume a lot of water. Their drinking water must be clean all the time, it should be
monitored and refilled whenever it is finished.
- Marketing: Marketing is key in sheep farming. This shouldn’t come when they are all grown and matured, marketing should start early to bring about quick and fast sales and to avoid getting disappointed. The sheep are sold at an average of N40,000-N80,000 each if sold in suburban northern towns like Bauchi, Yola. The prices are much higher
up in cities where there is a scarcity of the product and high demand, and also if sold during Muslim festivals, their price increases. After a year of rearing, the expected profit margin is around 50-60%,
which is like exactly what you invested in profits.
Being up for this sheep farming business means investing a lot of time and money, because if it is not done properly
it will reflect in their growth and their growth will reflect in their prices. Making fast and quick decisions
will save both time and money, so one should be ready to react to sicknesses despite how rare it is,
changing selling/buying market prices. etc.