Posted on 6 August 2018 by Makhosi Mahlangu
In rural communities, sheep play an important socio-economic role where they serve as a source of milk, meat, manure, wool, cash, skin and other by-products like dung for fertiliser or fuel. Additionally, sheep serve as a form of security against crop failure and are also used when performing rituals in traditional ceremonies.
Rural communities are inhabited by resource-limited farmers who only afford to produce livestock at the lowest possible costs. Sheep are ideally suitable for production in resource-limited communities because of their good environmental adaptability, fast growth rates, ease of management, shorter gestation periods; low investment capital and low feed requirements compared to large ruminants.
In most communal areas, sheep production is usually characterised by poor management practices and high lamb mortalities which in turn affect returns. Availability of mature sheep for wool, slaughter, and selling highly depend on the management and survival of lambs. It has been reported that most communally managed flocks lose between 10 and 50% of their lambs annually before weaning in different agro-climatic conditions.
In South Africa, the Sour veld is found in high rainfall areas (600–800 mm per annum) and is characterised by annual grasses while the Sweet veld is found in areas with an average rainfall of 500 mm per annum and is characterised by perennial grasses that maintain nutritive value throughout the year.
The differences in agro-ecological conditions have an effect on the performance of animals. It is, therefore, important to understand lamb management practices and constraints faced by communal farmers in order to establish management and production improvement strategies that best suit different ecological conditions.
To document all the management practices and constraints which characterise sheep production in such communal areas, there is a need to use robust techniques which are up-to-date. Such techniques should be able to cater for the flaws which are confounded by the usual data mining designs such as surveys on perceptions. Currently, the check-all-that-apply (CATA) method is one such technique.
Lungu, N. S., & Muchenje, V. (2018). Check All-That-Apply (CATA) analysis of lamb management practices and constraints faced by resource-limited sheep farmers in two ecologically different regions of South Africa. Small Ruminant Research, 160, 107-115.