Sheep farming is an agro entrepreneurial venture that promises high return on investment, however just like the animal itself, is a calm venture that has hardly been exploited. Ever since the age of stones, humans have found a soft spot for these amiable animals, and as such have been rearing them. The main business of domesticating sheep can be best traced to modern day Iraq.
Today, in Nigeria, it is best associated with the northern regions; there sheep farming is a common place activity, but the situation in the southern end is a pure contrast. Perhaps this is because people are less enlightened on the subject; hence the purpose of this article is to bridge that gap of information.
I happen to have a neighbor who rears sheep, and I was more than shocked to discover that in less than three months, three sheep multiplied into eleven. Then I did my studies and found out the following facts:
1) The matured sheep or ewe reaches its heat period every 16 – 18 days, and has a gestation period of 148 days. You can imagine what this means for you if you consider that the sheep has an average lifespan of 7.4 years.
2) Sheep feed on virtually all fresh grasses and forages! After the initial capital required commencing the farming, they afterwards require so little funding to sustain them.
Usually, most entrepreneurs who venture into this niche do so for the purpose of extracting wool from the sheep, while others do so for the meat or mutton that can be fetched from each sheep (this is great business because each sheep weighs between 30 – 120kg). Of course, these products are sure to bring in good income, and consequently promise a successful sheep farming in Nigeria.
However, there are factors to consider before embarking on this business.
Factors to Note When Going into Sheep Farming Breeds
You must know your purpose of doing sheep farming, as it helps you make a choice of what breed to rear. There are those breeds of sheep that are all about the wool like the Merino breed, while there are others that are moderate in this regard like the Hampshire and Suffolk. The major breeds in Nigeria are the West African dwarf, Bororo, Yankasa, Ara-Ara, Uda and Balami.
Nonetheless whichever breed you choose to rear, you should do well to make enquiries as to its advantages. So that if you are after the wool or mutton, you would rear a breed that suits you need. There are also hybrid breeds that have quality wool, and are not lacking in quantity of meat.
The Sheep Pens
Some persons allow their sheep graze on fields and grasses. This is great way of rearing the sheep, however extensive. On more intensive levels, the sheep house must be built. In this area there are some specs that you must keep in mind. The house should be over 5 feet in height, at least 17 square feet in area, adequately ventilated, and easy to access to feed the sheep. The use of housing prevents the sheep from easily contracting diseases, to which they are largely susceptible.
It is also possible for you to use mud walled structure and thatched roof in order to save cost. Some sheep farmers sometimes use corrugated iron sheets to make the wall of the sheep house.
They are ridiculously cheap. To have an optimally performing sheep farming, you must consider quality feeding scheme for these animals. They are ruminants, and so have specialized stomach that work on whatever food they take in, and then improve in growth and capacity to develop better products (meat and wool).
Poor feeding of these animals has its own way of bring down the output of the business; to this end, you must be careful. Sometimes, you might want to breed or cross breed the sheep, then you would have to feed them specialized diet for the sake of flushing.
Also provide the sheep with adequate water, within 3 to 6 liters each day. The quantity increase when there is heat, and when the sheep has a large physiology.
The animal is more sensitive than insensitive to diseases. They can be attacked by microbes that get into their system, or external organisms like lice and other ectoparasites that suck the nutrients from their bodies. They suffer from diseases such as Rinderpest and Anthrax.
Control measures must be taken to prevent them from being attacked by these diseases by improving the strength of the antibodies. There are vaccines meant to serve this purpose. Now this does not add to the cost of rearing the sheep so much as the vaccines are cheap, coupled with the fact that you do not have to administer them every time. Occasionally they should be dewormed as well.
Sales of Sheep
I would be hardly exaggerating a word if I say that sheep market is largely lucrative. You could buy three sheep at the rates of N10,000, and by their biology, before three months you should have registered additional six to nine sheep.
Going to sell these imply huge gains on your end, whether for the meat or wool. Also some sheep farmers sell to butchery organizations, while others look at export businesses; either way, there is a lot of profit to be made. And guess what, there is always a booming market for sheep!
The breakdown of the entire process of sheep farming is:
• Know your main aim of doing the business
• Get a Piece of land where the sheep are to be kept; it would be best if a portion of the land has forages planted on it.
• Watch out for health condition of the animals, and control that by administering vaccination occasionally.
• Breed them effectively, and master the manner to tender the calves.