Reconnaissance tour, focus group discussion and semi-structured interview were used to generate the dataset from 144 randomly selected small holder Begait sheep owners in two districts of Tigrai region, namely Tahtayadyabo and Kaftahumera, Ethiopia to understand Begait sheep production systems and identify breeding practices, breeding objectives, and constraints as a first step towards developing breeding strategies of Begait sheep smallholder farmers in the two districts of Tigrai regional state, northern Ethiopia and analyzed using descriptive statistics of SPSS 2010. The study area was characterized by mixed crop-livestock system where farmers livelihood depends on both crop and livestock production. The overall livestock holding per households (mean Â±SE) are 55.69 Â±4.88 sheep, 28.36 Â±2.43 goats, 9.23 Â±1.05 cattle, 9.87 Â±1.08 poultry, 1.33Â±0.11 donkeys, 0.14 Â±0.02 camels and 0.39 Â±0.19 honey bee; and most farmers in the study area keep sheep primarily as source of income. The main feed sources for sheep in the area were; crop residue (index =0.38), range land (index =0.31), hay (index =0.16), and natural pasture (index =0.14) and majority of the farmers (77.78 %) shelter their sheep in separate housing during the night to prevent from thefts and predators. Breeding was generally uncontrolled. Even though poor practice of controlled breeding in the study area, 99.31% and 87.50 % of the respondents practiced selection for breeding male and females respectively.Color, body size, facial profile, libido and tail size were the most frequently reported traits in selecting breeding Begait rams across the two districts; whereas milk yield, body size, color, tail size and facial profile were mentioned as traits given due emphasis in selecting future Begait breeding ewes. The survey identified several constraints such as disease, feed shortage, water shortage, limitation of grazing land, predator and market demand. It needs special attention on effective management of major constraints to utilize the potential sheep breed and to realize full benefits of a breeding strategy in Begait sheep breed.
Keywords: Begait Sheep breed, Breeding objective, Flock, Kaftahumera, Livestock, Tahtayadyabo, Trait.