An important and traditional branch of livestock farming that has been regularly ignored and undermined is small ruminant farming.
‘Small ruminant farming’ is the farming of goats and sheep for meat, milk, skin for leather and wool from the likes of high-quality mohair to cashmere.
Goats in particular are the most extensively distributed meat animals in the world. They are easy to maintain as they can survive by simply grazing and can be fed cheap hay and grain.
They do require lots of water in extreme weather conditions but their small size, adaptability to harsher surroundings, and wide-scale availability makes their farming most common in developing countries.
Due to these advantages, small ruminant production is of great importance to assisting developing countries, like our own, in increasing food security and alleviating poverty.
Farmers engaging in small ruminant production benefit from a healthy flow of cash to support their livelihood. It serves an economic advantage as the variety of products that can be put on the market from farming these animals greatly outweighs the cost of production.
Small ruminant farming is also beneficial in the way that profiting from the many animal by-products does not always require a full combination of refrigeration, animal management skills or modern transportation. Hence, it is an important farming type for developing nations as it is a cost-efficient way of farming that provides economic security.
In countries like Africa and Ethiopia, the constant availability of sheep and goats allow for household food security to be achieved.
The advantages of small ruminant farming enable farmers to provide physical and economic access to adequate and healthy food at all times. Goat’s milk is easier to access than cow’s milk and has greater health benefits such as higher levels of calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc. It is also slightly lower in lactose and cholesterol.
Along with the meat, is a great source of vitamins A and B12 and digestible protein.
In communities that face food insecurity and malnutrition, the nutritional advantages of small ruminant farming can eradicate issues of stunted growth, poor cognitive functions, morbidity, and infant mortality due to health deficiencies.
These economic and food security advantages can only be fully realised when small ruminant production is developed to be more efficient biologically and structurally.
With generous investment into this type of farming by governments in developing countries, better pest and disease control can be achieved and the benefits of production optimised with the right technology.
It is no secret more economically developed countries have found ways to capitalise on products derived from this very low-cost type of farming. Think about how expensive goat’s milk and cheese imported from these nations cost when priced at your local grocery stores.
I strongly believe that we can benefit in the same capacity if more people safely and seriously engaged in small ruminant farming.
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