The objective of this study was to examine the characteristics of small-scale livestock production systems in some communal areas of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. The parameters surveyed include sex, age, educational and marital status of the farmers, types of livestock raised and production system practiced. The study revealed that mixed crop-livestock production systems were dominant in the study area. Majority of the respondents (72.4%) were male and approximately 59% of the older male farmers were more than 70 years old with the highest mean flock size of 86. A total of 62% of these farmers had basic education and a mean family size of 5.9±3.0. Most of the sheep farmers (70.9%) bought their foundation stock, but 6.5% of them obtained theirs through bride price (lobola). Generally, livestock species owned by the respondents were sheep (71.8%), poultry (12.9%), cattle (7.7%), goats (4.4%), dogs (1.3%), pigs (0.6%) and others (1.3%). Family labour is mostly used for animal management and herding, being done by men (65%) and boys (30%), respectively. The natural veld provides highest feed resource base for the animals and almost all the respondents provide night shelter for their sheep, in the kraal that is adjacent to the main family house. The prevalence of gall sickness was ranked the highest (22.1%) among the diseases and parasites affecting sheep. While 80% of the respondents treated their animals with stock remedies, a very low proportion of them (3.4%) adopts an integrated approach of using commercial drugs and local herbs or call animal health technicians to treat sick animals.
Key words: Gall-sickness, herd size, characteristics, sheep farming.