Scientific Research and Essays

  • Abbreviation: Sci. Res. Essays
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1992-2248
  • DOI: 10.5897/SRE
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 2768

Full Length Research Paper

Characterization of Zulu sheep production system: Implications for conservation and improvement

B.S. Mavule1*, V. Muchenje2 and N.W. Kunene1
1Department of Agriculture, University of Zululand, P Bag X1001, KwaDlangezwa 3886, South Africa. 2Department of Livestock and Pasture Science, University of Fort Hare, Private Bag X1314, Alice 5700, South Africa.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 25 June 2013
  •  Published: 11 July 2013


Understanding the production environment under which Zulu sheep are raised is essential in strategizing the breed’s conservation and improvement programme. Ninety-six farmers across 11 rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, were interviewed using structured questionnaires to describe traditional Zulu sheep production system, evaluate its sustainability and identify some constraints limiting production. Sheep were the least owned livestock species amongst interviewed farmers after cattle and goats. Farmers began sheep production with sample stock of fewer than four animals, either bought from other farmers or inherited through patrilineality. Sheep flock sizes were 39.8±7.5 (±SD) on average, with each flock constituting of 3.12±0.31 rams, 21.81±5.61 ewes, 4.98±0.87 yearlings and 9.92±2.05 lambs. About 43.7% of the flocks interacted with 2 or fewer neighbouring flocks during grazing time. Rate of flock size decrease was estimated at 7.4% in the past 5 years. Drought and diseases were identified as leading causes of sheep loss. Methods to controlling external and gastro-intestinal parasites were only practised when sheep showed a need. Zulu sheep were used mainly as a source of meat, income and manure and were preferred over their exotic counterparts because they were regarded tolerant to diseases and drought and for their tasty meat. The information obtained in this study is crucial in planning suitable conservation, improvement and extension programs for the breed.


Key words: Production environment, animal genetic resources, socio-economic, production systems.