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The Role of Small Ruminants

by S.C. Ghimire


Small ruminants (sheep and goats) are essential components of the mixed farming systems in the hills of Nepal, and are found in all parts of country. They are mainly kept for meat, although wool (sheep), fibre (goats) and manure are also important products from these animals. In the present subsistence farming system of the hills, farmers have little surplus agricultural produce to sell and so depend upon the sale of livestock and their products as a source of income. However, because of their inherent ability to utilize mountain terrain, unsuitable for crop farming, a high proportion of sheep and goats are found in the hills. Resource-poor farmers of the hills, who cannot invest large sums of money in cattle and buffalo, prefer sheep and goat husbandry which has no social, religious or cultural taboos, or caste restrictions.

Small ruminants, in the hills of Nepal, are reared either under a sedentary or a migratory system. Sedentary flocks may be stall-fed, semi-stall-fed or completely grazed, whilst the migratory flocks are reared under an extensive management system.

Many efforts have been made over the past three decades to increase production from sheep and goats, and this chapter will describe the existing sheep and goat resources, their management systems and the various efforts employed in trying to improve their production.


The total population of sheep and goats in Nepal is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Total population (000's) of small ruminants in Nepal by region during the year 1989–90.

Source: DFAMS (1991)


Figures in parentheses indicate percentage of total population.

Table 1 shows that over 85% of the sheep, and 70% of the total goat populations of the country are reared in the hill regions. Goats are more common in the hills, whereas sheep are almost equally distributed between the hills and mountains. The distribution of cattle and buffaloes displays a similar trend to goats.

The proportion of the different livestock species in different regions of the country is presented in Table 2.

Table 2: Ratio of different livestock species compared to sheep in different regions of Nepal.

Source: DFAMS (1991)

Total Nepal15.97.03.4

Tables 1 and 2 reveal that a comparatively higher proportion of sheep are found in the mountains than in other regions and that the highest number of livestock are found in the hills. Tables 3 and 4 show the trend in sheep and goat populations respectively in different regions of the country over the past five years.

Table 3: Growth rate of the sheep population of Nepal from 1985/86 to 1989/90 by region.

Region1985/861986/871987/881988/891989/90Mean growth rate/year
Total Nepal807,978836,624

* Figures in parentheses indicate the percentage increase in population every year.
Source: DFAMS (1989; 1991)

Table 4: Growth rate of the goat population of Nepal from 1985/86 to 1989/90 by region.

Region1985/861986/871987/881988/891989/90Mean growth rate/year
Mountain 778,030821,308
Hills 2,879,0572,904,344
Terai 1,359,2091,364,281
Total Nepal 5,016,2965,089,933

Source: DFAMS (1989; 1991)
* Figures in parentheses indicate the percentage increase in population every year.

Tables 3 and 4 indicate that the overall population of sheep and goats in the country is increasing at an annual rate of 2.6% and 1.5% respectively. However, population growth of small ruminants is not constant in all regions of the country. Sheep and goat populations are almost static in the high mountains, whereas in the Terai, the growth rate is high, especially for sheep. Although the rate is not so pronounced in the hill regions as in the Terai, there is still a positive trend in population growth.

The distribution of sheep and goats in relation to human population in different parts of the country is presented in Table 5.

Table 5: Per capita and goat populations in different regions of Nepal.

RegionHuman* population
Sheep** population
Goat** population
No. of sheep per head human popln.No. of goats per head human popln.
Total Nepal15,0238925,3240.060.4

Source * CBS (1988);
** DFAMS (1991)

Table 5 shows that the highest human per capita sheep and goat populations are found in the high mountain region of the country followed by the hills, with the Terai the lowest. These population distributions indicate the importance of sheep and goat husbandry in hill and mountain regions compared to the Terai.


Population distribution shows that small ruminant husbandry is popular in the hills of Nepal. The reasons for their popularity in these less-favoured hill regions are as follows.

Small Ruminants as a Source of Animal Protein

The total meat production of Nepal in 1989/90 was estimated to be 145,000mt (DFAMS, 1991). Sheep and goats contributed 2.1% and 19.9% of that production respectively. Goats are the second largest producer of meat. The meat production trend from sheep and goats in Nepal over the past five years is presented in Table 6.

Table 6: Total meat production (mt) from sheep and goats from 1985/86 to 1989/90.
Source: DFAMS (1989; 1991)

Figures in parentheses indicate the percentage contribution to total meat production in the country.

Species1985/861986/871987/881988/891989/90Average annual increase

While the total meat production from sheep and goats is increasing at an annual rate of 3% and 2.7 % respectively, their contribution to total national meat production remains static. Goat meat is the most popular in Nepal, and is accepted by every ethnic community. Goats are the main source of animal protein for certain ethnic castes which do not consume buffalo meat, chicken or pork. There is no prejudice against the slaughter of sheep and goats, and indeed, their sacrifice is essential for certain religious festivals.

Small Ruminants as a Source of Raw Materials for Woollen Goods and the Carpet Industry

Wool produced by sheep, and fibre by goats are the main raw materials for the production of warm garments such as sweaters, blankets and radi. Most of the wool and fibre produced in the country is used locally in the hill villages, for the production of various woollen goods by many different ethnic groups. Very little of it is utilized by the carpet manufacturing industry based in the larger towns. The carpet industry relies almost entirely on the importation of large quantities of wool, mainly from New Zealand and Tibet. The total wool production of Nepal is presented in Table 7.

The increase in wool production can be explained by an increase in the sheep population (see Table 3), rather than by an increase in animal productivity.

Table 7: Wool production (kg) in Nepal from 1985/86 to 1989/90.
Source: DFAMS (1989; 1991)

Figures in parentheses indicate annual increase for each year.

1985/861986/871987/881988/891989/90Average annual increase

Woollen goods including carpets are a major source of foreign currency, and the carpet industry has grown rapidly over the past few years. The export of carpets alone was equivalent to Rs.1200 million in 1987/88, which is nearly 50% of the total national earning from the export of agricultural and livestock commodities, and is around 30% of Nepal's total export earnings. In the same year, the export of other woollen goods realised the equivalent of Rs.900 million. Carpets are the single most valuable commodity exported from Nepal. The contribution of woollen goods including carpets to the national economy is increasing, and the revenue during the first nine months of 1988/89 was almost equal to that of the previous years total earning. Nepalese carpet exports account for around 4% of the total world trade in hand-knotted carpets (LMP, 1990).

Small Ruminants as a Means of Maintaining Soil Fertility

Sheep and goats play an important role in maintaining soil fertility, particularly in the hills, where the use of chemical fertilizer may be prevented either by unavailability or cost, or may still be unknown to the farmers. Nepalese farmers consider goat and sheep manure to be superior to that of other ruminants, and this concept is supported by laboratory analysis, in which sheep and goat manures were found to contain 0.61% and 0.83% nitrogen respectively on a fresh weight basis, compared to 0.25% and 0.33% in the faeces of cattle and buffalo (Oli, 1987).

Assuming that 1.4kg nitrogen is contained in the faeces produced by one sheep in one year and 1.5 kg nitrogen by one goat (Oli, 1987), the total quantity of nitrogen made available from faeces per year will be 1,250mt and 8,000mt from sheep and goats respectively. This is equivalent to Rs.121 million (current market price for urea fertilizer Rs. 6/kg), and this estimate does not take into account the value of phosphorus, potassium and other micronutrients present in the faeces of these animals.

The in-situ manuring system, practised by hill farmers in Nepal (especially migratory sheep flocks) has been shown to increase subsequent crop production by 28.7% compared to the manual distribution of an equal amount of compost (Dhital et al, 1990). This increase in production was attributed to the nutrients supplied by sheep urine which contains 1.5–1.7% nitrogen and 1.8–2% potassium (ICAR, 1986). The role of urine as a fertilizer is confirmed by Joshi et al (1990), who reported an 81.7% increase in the yield of Chinese cabbage by top dressing with diluted urine at ten day intervals.

Small Ruminants as Producers of High Quality Skins

Not all the goat skins produced in the country are marketed, and in many parts of the country goat skin is consumed as part of the carcass. However, about 1.6 million goat skins are collected and processed annually (LMP, 1990) of which only a small quantity are used domestically. In 1987/88, Nepal exported tanned goat skins worth nearly Rs. 150 million, and leather from Nepalese goat skins has a good reputation, particularly in Europe.

Small Ruminants as an Efficient User of Available Resources

Sheep and goats make very effective use of a variety of different grazing lands, including rocky mountain terrain and alpine pastures, which cannot be utilized by other domestic animals. They convert relatively inaccessible low quality forage to high quality meat, wool and fibre. By their hardy nature, they can adapt to different climatic conditions and, depending on the availability of pasture land and the cropping pattern of an area, can also be stall-fed, semi-stall-fed, or grazed. Goats can survive and produce satisfactorily on vegetation which is not consumed by any other species of domestic livestock.

Small Ruminant Husbandry as an Economically Viable Enterprise

The economic value of sheep and goats is an important factor in their popularity with smallholder farmers. The financial investment required for their husbandry is small, and capital investment for the purchase of animals, equipment and buildings is low. Most of the equipment and buildings can be constructed from locally available raw materials, so that even a poor farmer can invest. The animals begin to produce at about 1-1½ years of age, and goats being prolific, produce many offspring per year. Due to the high turnover, they give a good return per unit of capital invested, and so provide an economically profitable enterprise.

In addition, small ruminants provide farmers with a ready source of cash. In the hills, crop production is often insufficient to meet family requirements and cannot be sold, but small ruminants are in high demand, and can be readily disposed of for cash. Family meat consumption can be curtailed for more urgent necessities which may arise, so that sheep and goats are therefore regarded as a symbol of wealth.

Small Ruminants as a Source of Employment

Farmers in the villages are engaged as shepherds and in wool spinning work. Available time in the morning or evening is utilized by village women in wool spinning and weaving, which is also a source of additional income. Many urban people are engaged in the carpet industry, the total number of which was estimated to be 15,600 in 1987/88 (CBS, 1988). An estimated 230,000 additional people are involved in informal employment associated with the carpet industry, undertaking washing, carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving of wool on a household or cottage industry basis (LMP, 1990).


In the hills of Nepal, sheep and goat husbandry, like that of other livestock is an integral component of the subsistence mixed farming system. The husbandry practised is influenced by the location, topography, and cropping pattern of an area, the availability of waste land, communal grazing land and forest areas, and by market prospects. The existing husbandry system can be broadly classified into sedentary and migratory.

Sedentary system

This is the usual system of raising sheep and goats, and is practised in the low and mid-hills, the lower valleys and the Terai. Animals are kept in one area throughout the year and are penned at the homestead at night time. They may be stall-fed, semi-stall-fed or completely grazed.

In cities, towns and peri-urban areas, goats are more common than sheep. In these areas and in valleys where cropping is very intense and pasture/forest area is limited, goats are raised under a stall-feeding system. In such a system, only one or two goats are kept per family, and are maintained principally for meat production. Though they are often provided with a concentrate supplement, complete stall-feeding is practised by very few families, and semi-stall-feeding is the more common practice. Under the latter, goats are let loose for a certain period of the day, but due to limited availability of grazing land and fodder, these animals are normally supplemented at the stall with roughage (grasses, straw, fodder tree leaves) and in some cases, food grains as concentrate. However, the majority of the sedentary goat and sheep flocks are maintained under an extensive management system, where the animals are driven to the pasture land or forest for grazing during the day, and are not supplemented at the stall.

Farmers in the mid-hills and valleys follow a specific traditional grazing management, in which the available grazing land is utilized in a rotational manner. Animals are moved to a new area each day completing the rotation in four to six days. Farmers believe that this system allows adequate regrowth of grasses and vegetation inbetween grazing. However, availability of grass in a grazing area directly influences this practice, and pasture areas with good grasses are grazed more frequently than those that are less productive.

The grazing of animals in a limited area throughout the year leads to the development of a heavy parasitic burden, so that associated parasitic diseases are a major constraint upon the productivity of this system. Moreover, these sheep and goats have to compete for forage with cattle and buffaloes maintained under a similar system.

Goat breeds reared under this system are the Khari in the hills, and the Terai goat in the Terai. A few Sinhal goats are kept in the high hill villages throughout the year. Among sheep, the Kage breed is found in the hills, valleys and some parts of the Terai.

The number of goats and sheep raised by a single family, is very variable and is influenced by the availability of free pasture or forest resources, and by the availability of family labour. For goats, in the mid-hills, the number of animals per family can vary from one to twenty with an average flock size of seven (Oli and Gatenby, 1990). The average flock size is similar for sheep, with a range from one or two animals per family, up to flocks of 20 to 50 animals (Pradhan, 1986). On the whole, sheep are found in small localised areas, and are generally less abundant than goats.

Migratory system

This system of animal keeping is followed in the high hills and mountains of Nepal. Animals are moved to different areas throughout the year, and are maintained entirely under grazing management (supplemented only with 40–50gm salt/head/week or fortnight). The flocks migrate from the lower hills (800–900m asl) up to the high alpine pastures (3600–4800m asl) and back again as the climate determines the availability of fodder and forage. Once arable cultivation begins, animals are forced to move higher up the hill, and they return later in the year after the crops have been harvested. This transhumance system of animal keeping is considered to be one of the oldest forms of livestock husbandry, having evolved at the time when animals were domesticated (Owen, 1976). The pattern remains unchanged in Nepal, due to heavy interdependency of crops and livestock in agriculture (Karki, 1985).

In migratory flocks, sheep and goats are run together, with the goats acting as the lead animals (Karki, 1985). This characteristic habit of the goat is useful in protecting sheep from predators (Pradhan, 1987). Baruwal sheep and Sinhal goats, both well known for their flocking tendency and hardiness, are the principle breeds of this system in Nepal.

Karki (1985) recorded the number of sheep and goats in 224 migratory flocks of Gandaki Zone (Kaski, Lamjung, Gorkha and Manang Districts). The figures showed that the ratio of sheep to goats was 3:2. A similar ratio was recorded in the flocks of Kaski and Lamjung Districts by Ghimire et al (1991), but large variations between districts occur. A typical migratory flock consists of 200–250 animals (Karki, 1985), but the flock size can vary within the range of 50–600 animals. (Karki, 1985; Ghimire et al, 1991). The composition of migratory flocks by age group is presented in Table 8.

Table 8: Average composition of migratory flocks by age group.

Source: Karki (1985)

Age groupSheep %Goat %
Below six months11.515.5
6 months15.112.8
1 year18.612.2
2 years12.711.7
3 years13.812.6
4 years19.922.5
5 years and above8.412.7

Each migratory flock is looked after by two to five shepherds accompanied by three to four Tibetan mastiff dogs, depending on the flock size. Each flock has a chief shepherd, but the animals are not owned by a single individual. They belong to different owners, and usually the shepherds own only part of the flock. However, hired shepherds are also employed, and every owner contributes to the shepherd's food and clothing, and in addition the shepherds receive one or two animals from the owners in kind for a year's shepherding. In some areas, shepherds receive a commission from the owner for any animals sold, although this is usually only a nominal sum. A typical annual migration pattern is presented in Figure 1, and described below.

Late October to April: During late October, the flocks reach the villages (1500–2000m asl) during their descent from the alpine pasture. As the farmers harvest the crops, the flocks move onto the village ‘bariland’, where they are kept during the night for manuring. During the day, animals are grazed on village pastures, or in the local forest. These flocks will remain on one terrace for one or two nights, and then move on to another. The manure so deposited is usually immediately incorporated by ploughing.

Figure 1: Typical movement of migratory flocks in Nepal (Karki, 1985).

(Figures in parentheses indicate average time spent in days at different pastures)

Figure 1

From late December to early January, the flocks migrate to even lower altitude fields and villages (800–1000m asl) often walking long distances in search of forage, and staying in fields for one or two nights at each site. Knowing the high value of the manure, farmers request the flocks to remain on their fields, and in return offer free food to the shepherds and their dogs. Sheep and goats are not generally flocked on ‘khetland’, as these fields are usually wet and the shepherds consider it unsuitable for their animals. In addition, these fields are infested with Fasciola spp. (Epstein, 1977).

The winter forage thus consists of crop stubble, shrubs and forest undergrowth adjacent to the villages, but the available vegetation in winter is dry and poorly digestible. Competition for these scarce resources also comes from sedentary flocks, cattle and buffalo, and so, during the winter, pasture is inadequate even for maintenance. The animals reach a poor level of condition, losing around 10% of their body weight over this period (Karki, 1985).

By late February, farmers begin to prepare the land for maize in the lower areas, and so the flocks commence moving upwards to the higher villages again, reaching them by April.

Baruwal sheep are susceptible to a warm environment, so the ambient temperature also influences the timing of the upward migration. During late spring and early summer, when flocks are still at a low altitude, animals are grazed during the morning and evening, and are rested in the shade during the middle of the day. Depending on the cropping pattern and climatic conditions of an area, flocks leave the villages for the alpine pastures between April and May.

May to early July: During this period, the flocks move steadily upward through the forest. They stay for one to three nights in traditional resting places called “Kharka” - an open grassed area in the forest. For the upward migration, the particular route is dependant upon the location of the alpine pasture. During this season, shrubs and trees of the deciduous forest are in flush, and the effects of winter and pre-monsoon showers are clearly evident with the green forest undergrowth.

The sheep and goats derive adequate fodder from this summer pasture and begin to improve in condition, but losses from predation by leopards and jackals is high at this time. Losses from all causes during the first year of life can be as high as 45 % (Karki and Dhaubhadel, 1988). By early July, flocks reach the alpine pastures between 3,600m asl and the permanent snowline at 5,500m asl.

Late July to early September: Sheep and goats spend this period in the high alpine pastures called “Bugiyani”. The alpine meadows provide the most nutritious feed available to the animals throughout the year, and at this time they attain their maximum body weight. The flocks graze this area for almost two months and then begin the downward migration, the timing of which is determined by the approaching snows of winter.

In these pastures, the animals are flocked at one place for a period of 15–25 days. Sinhal goats are more susceptible to the cold, wet climate, and so are usually kept at a lower altitude (around treeline) at this time. If they accompany sheep to the alpine pastures, sheds are constructed to protect them from the weather. Similar measures are also taken to protect the goats when migrating through the summer pasture (the forest).

Late September to early October: During this period, the sheep and goats descend through the forest in a similar manner to their ascent.

This transhumance system, which utilizes fodder and grasses of high altitude pastures, which would otherwise be wasted, is one of the most taxing systems of animal husbandry practised in the world. The shepherds have to walk long distances carrying their own food and shelter with them. The work is exhausting and hazardous, with little financial incentive. With good reason the shepherds are referred to by Rajbhandary and Shah (1981) as “perhaps …… the hardest workers who earn the poorest bread on earth”.



Four breeds of sheep are recognized in Nepal. Amongst them, the Lampuchhre is found in the Terai, and the other three breeds, the Kage, the Baruwal and the Bhyanglung in the hills. The sheep population of Nepal is made up of 12% Lampuchhre, 21% Kage, 63% Baruwal and 4% Bhyanglung (LMP, 1990). The breeds found in the hills are described below.


This is a small subtropical breed of sheep found in sedentary flocks in the valleys and mid-hills of Nepal (300–1500m asl). The average adult body weight is 22kg (Kharel and Pradhan, 1986) with a range of 20–30kg for rams and 15–25 kg for ewes (Pradhan, 1986). There is such wide variation in productive and reproductive traits between different pocket areas that Pradhan (1986) has suggested the possibility of different strains existing within the breed. Productive and reproductive parameters are presented in Table 9.

The Kage is a regular breeder and has no distinct breeding season (Combs, 1982). However, autumn (September to October) lambing (56%) seems to be more common than spring (March to April) lambing (Pradhan, 1986).

The lambing interval, lambing frequency and twinning percentage show wide variation within breed. Kage sheep are shorn twice a year, once in autumn and once in spring. The average wool production per head per year varies from about 250 to about 350gms.

Table 9: Productive and reproductive performance of Kage sheep at different stations.

Source: Dhakal et al (1985); Diener (1984); Pradhan and Shrestha (1984); Thinkey (1983).

TraitsChitlang Sheep Farm, MakawanpurLampatan Farm, Pokhara and Pokhara ValleyIAAS,
No. of Lambs born per ewe per year2.221.031.25-
No. of Lambs weaned per ewe per year-1.03-1.54
Live weight weaned per ewe per year (kg)12.014.14-11.0
Age at puberty (days)--180-
Lambing intervals (days)-399181-
Frequency of lambing per year1.21.3-1.5
Single birth (%)51.596.3-55.1
Multiple birth (%)48.53.7-44.9
Lamb mortality (%)17.315.017.920.4
Adult mortality (%)
Wool yield per head per year (kg)0.2400.3540.2500.327
Milk yield per ewe per lactation (l)--19.7-

The wool quality of the Kage is very poor, containing coarse, straight, brittle kemp, fine underwool, but no heterotypic fibres (Epstein, 1977). A description of the wool quality of the Kage is presented in Table 10. As with other production parameters, the wool quality of the Kage, varies considerably within the breed, being superior in the Kathmandu Valley (Pradhan and Shrestha, 1984).


The Baruwal is the most important sheep breed found in the migratory flocks of Nepal. The average adult body weight recorded from migratory flocks of Gandaki Zone is 50.8kg for rams, and 42kg for ewes during the autumn, and 45kg for rams and 36kg for ewes during winter (Karki, 1985).

Table 10: Wool quality parameters of Kage, Baruwal and Bhyanglung sheep.

Source: Ryder (1969), cited by Epstein (1977)

Breed Sex and colour)Fibre length (cm)Fibre diameterMedullated fibre (%)
 Mean (μ)Range (μ)
Kage Male (black)6.53820 – 58Obscured by pigment
Male8.04020 – 8481
Female7.03014 – 5220
Female6.54716 – 14445
BaruwalMale and female63014 – 6468
BhyanglungMale and82814 – 7013
female (white)    
Male and122514 – 1812
female (brown)    

Baruwal sheep are very hardy, have a good flocking instinct and are famous for their walking ability, but are susceptible to heat stress. Although breeding and lambing takes place throughout the year, the main breeding season is from May to September, being highest in July when they are in peak condition in the alpine pastures. Productive and reproductive parameters of Baruwal sheep are presented in Table 11.

The Baruwal breed is late-maturing and lambing before two years of age is uncommon. First lambing usually takes place at the age of three years (Karki, 1985), but the lambing percentage from breedable ewes is very high, often more than 95% (Epstein, 1977). Twinning percentage (0.32%) and twice a year lambing percentage (1.51%) is very low (Karki, 1985).

Table 11: Productive and reproductive performance of Baruwal sheep in different areas.

Source: LAC (1976); Karki (1987); KSF (1989); PSF (1991)

Lamb mortality
Adult mortality
Lambing interval
Wool yield
Lumle's command area94.036.1–54.219.0NA1.29
Karnali Sheep Farm, Jumla70.0NA13.4NA0.78
Pansayakhola Sheep Farm, Nuwakot90.041.9NA3601.01

Both Lamb and adult mortality is high and variable. The various causes of lamb mortality and their contribution to total mortality have been studied (LAC, 1976). Results are presented in Table 12.

Table 12: Various causes of lamb mortality in migratory sheep flocks of Nepal.

Source: LAC (1976)

Causes% contribution to total death
Born dead14
“Six-month” disease14
Other diseases22
Plant poisoning3

The average annual wool yield of the Baruwal is 1.07kg (Karki, 1985), with a range of 0.78–1.29 kg (see Table 11). The fleece is long and shaggy, and the wool is coarse, hairy, full of kemp and devoid of crimp. However, the wool of the Baruwal is considered superior to Kage wool (Epstein, 1977). Wool quality analysis of Baruwal sheep is presented in Table 10. These animals are shorn twice a year, in autumn and spring. The wool production in autumn is more than that of spring, which is a direct reflection of pasture quality.


This breed of sheep is found in the rain shadow areas of the inner Himalayan valleys of Northern Nepal (3000–5000m asl), close to the Tibetan border. They are generally kept under a migratory management system. The Bhyanglung is slightly larger than the Kage but smaller than the Baruwal, with an adult bodyweight of 25–35kg (Epstein, 1977). The main lambing season is June to July. Productive and reproductive traits of Bhyanglung are presented in Table 13.

The wool of Bhyanglung sheep is considered to be a typical carpet type, with a low kemp fibre percentage. The wool is soft and devoid of crimp, and the proportion of medullated fibre is very small (Ryder, 1969, cited by Epstein, 1977). The wool quality of Bhyanglung sheep is presented in Table 10.

Table 13: Productive and reproductive performance of Bhyanglung sheep. Source: LMP (1990)

Lambing percentage7.5
Average litter size1.0
Lambing per year1.0
Lamb mortality (%)30–50
Adult mortality (%)15–20
Annual wool production (kg)0.3–1


Four breeds of goats are recognized in Nepal. The Terai goat which is thought to have developed by crossbreeding indigenous animals with the Indian Jamunapari, is found in the Terai (below 300m asl). The other three breeds, the Khari, the Sinhal and the Chyangra are all found in the hills. The goat population is estimated to comprise 9% Terai goats, 50% Khari, 35% Sinhal and 6% Chyangra (LMP, 1990). The breeds found in the hills are described below.

Khari (Syn. Nepalese hill goat, Aule) :

This is the most important breed of goat found in the lower mid-hills (300– 1500m asl) of Nepal. It is a small goat with an average bodyweight of 30 kg for females and 33kg for males (LAC, 1985), and there is wide variation in body size between different areas.

The Khari goat is a regular breeder and the breeding season is spread throughout the year. However, the majority of the does are served during September-October, and April-May (LAC, 1988). This is the most prolific goat breed in Nepal, and is suitable for meat production. The productive and reproductive performance of Khari goats are presented in Table 14.

The breed matures quickly, and under good management can produce offspring at one year of age. 30–50% of goats kid twice a year and three kiddings in two years is very common. Twinning percentage is high, ranging from 30% to 50%. There is a wide variation in age at first kidding, kidding interval, kidding percentage and litter size.


Sinhal goats are found in the high hills of Nepal (1500–2500m asl) principally in migratory flocks where they act as lead animals in mixed flocks. A few animals are also kept in villages singly or in small flocks throughout the year. The breed is characterized by good flocking instinct, hardiness and walking ability. They thrive even on low-quality, dry pasture, and lose little weight during winter (1–1.5kg) in comparison to Baruwal sheep (5–6kg) of the same flock (LAC, 1985). However, they are more susceptible to cold temperature and monsoon stress, and do not gain weight in spite of the higher plane of nutrition experienced in alpine pastures (Karki, 1985).

Sinhal goats are heavier than the Khari, with an average bodyweight for bucks in winter of 37kg, and in autumn of 41kg (LAC, 1985). The productive and reproductive parameters of Sinhal goats are presented in Table 15.

The growth rate of Sinhal goats is rapid during the first year of life, but in spite of this fast growth rate, animals are generally slow to reach puberty, even under a sedentary system at a high plane of nutrition.

Table 14: Productive and reproductive performance of Khari goats at different stations.

Source: LAC (1988); Oli (1987); Gurung (1983); CGDF (1987); Paudel (1990)

TraitsCentral Goat Development Farm, BandipurLumle Agricultural CentrePakhribas Agricultural CentreRural Development Centre, PokharaFarmers' conditions - Syangja and Tanahun
Age at puberty (days)180 – 210229---
Age at first kidding (days)330 – 360444460-365
Kidding interval (days)247 – 264230245221-
Gestation period (days)145 – 150149---
Kidding percentage147----
Average Litter size1.73-1.681.84-
Multiple birth (%)50.333.3-74.033.8
No. of kidding per doe per year1.321.301.48-1.28
Kids born alive per doe per year2.12 – 2.28-2.483.03-
Kids reared up to weaning per doe per year1.46 – 2.06----
Edible meat produced per doe per year (kg)--24.65--
Average birth weight (kg)M: 1.61
F: 1.70
M: 1.64
F: 1.40
M: 1.72
F: 1.62
Average weight at six months (kg)10.80M: 9.68
F: 10.87
M: 10.45
F: 11.73
-M: 14.70
F: 14.04
Average weight at one year (kg)--M: 18.4
F: 21.3

Generally, Sinhal goats are shorn once a year during October-November. The fibre is utilized locally for the production of ropes, bags and radi. Shearing yields between 100 and 500gms of hair fibre per head per year (LMP, 1990) are usual.


Chyangra goats are found in the inner Himalayan valleys of North Nepal near the Tibetan border together with Bhyanglung sheep. The average adult bodyweight for males is 36kg and 32kg for females (LAC, 1985). They are covered with a thick hairy outercoat and a fine undercoat called “Pashmina”. The Pashmina, which is used to prepare fine quality shawls, grows during the winter months and is shed during the summer. Therefore, in the late spring and early summer the Pashmina is collected by combing. The productive and reproductive parameters of the Chyangra are presented in Table 16. The Chyangra grows steadily for a longer period compared to the Sinhal and the Khari. They are renowned for meat production, and thousands of Chyangra along with Bhyanglung sheep from the northern part of Nepal and from Tibet are brought to the lower valleys for sale prior to the Dashain Festival every year.

Table 15: Productive and reproductive traits of Sinhal goats.

Source: LAC (1985).

Age at first kidding (month)24–36
Multiple birth (%)6.14–9.10
Twice a year kidding (%)3.04
Average litter size1.0
Kidding percentage83.2
Birth weight (kg)M: 3.9
 F: 3.7
Weight at six months (kg)M: 18–21
 F: 15–16

Table 16: Productive and reproductive parameters of the Chyangra goat.

Source: LAC (1985); Epstein (1977); LMP (1990)

Age at first kidding (years)
Breeding season
Kidding percentage
Average litter size
Twin kidding (%)
Pashmina per head per year (gm)
Hair production per head per year (gm)
2.5 – 3.0
March - May
70 – 85
115 – 170
300 – 1130


The existing population of small ruminants contributes about 22% of the total meat produced in the country (see Table 6). The demand for sheep and goat meat is large, and these animals are also important for religious purposes. The present sheep and goat populations of the country are not able to meet current market demands, and so large numbers of live animals are imported from India and Tibet. The quantity of live animals imported during 1987/88 is presented in Table 17.

The country imported almost 50,000 more small ruminants than it exported during 1987/88, equivalent to Rs.34 million (DCFTS, 1988). Even so, the per capita meat production of the country is very low. Table 18 compares the per capita meat production of Nepal with that of some of the developed countries of the world.

Therefore, it is important to increase the meat production of the country, and the government of Nepal hopes to increase per capita meat production to 14.4kg by the year 2000. For this, the number and/or the productivity of meat-producing animals, including sheep and goats, needs to be significantly increased. Similarly, wool production does not meet national demand. Most of the wool produced in the country is used locally by wool-based industries, but the carpet industry located in the larger towns relies mainly upon imported wool. The total quantity of wool imported by the country during 1987/88 is presented in Table 19.

Table 17: Total import and export of live sheep and goats during 1987/88.

Source: DCFTS (1988)

Animal species Country from/toImportExportBalance
 Tibetan goatsIndia6,357108-6,249
Entire male and female goatsIndia20,536114,463+93,927
Castrated goatsIndia104,0452,462-101,583
Total 177,080127,296-49,784

Table 18: Per capita meat production in different countries.

CountryMeat produced/head/year (kg)

Source: FAO (1988)

Table 19: Total wool imported in 1987/88 by source.

Source: DCFTS (1988)

Source countryQuantity (mt)Amount (Rs. million)
New Zealand5,062450
Other countries17717

Although, as previously stated, the carpet industry earned foreign currency equivalent to about Rs. 1200 million from the export of carpets in 1987/88, it expended almost 50% of this amount on importing wool from elsewhere. Hence, in reality the net earning from the carpet industry is much lower. Carpets produced in Nepal have a high demand in European countries, and constitute a major source of the country's revenue. To make the industry more profitable, home wool production has to be increased, and efficiently marketed from producers to the consuming industry. However, most of the wool produced in Nepal is coarse and unsuitable for quality carpet production. Therefore, not only quantity but also quality of wool needs to be increased to fulfil national demand and to strengthen the basis of the carpet industry.

The alternatives for increasing production are to either increase the number of sheep, or their productivity or both. Considering the available feed resources in Nepal, population increase is not a sustainable option, and so productivity of small ruminants both for meat and wool needs to be improved. The present constraints upon the existing management systems need to be identified to increase the productivity per animal, and some of these are now described.

Available Resources

Animal resources: Sheep and goats of Nepal are hardy and are adapted to harsh environments with a low plane of nutrition. Sinhal and Chyangra goats, and Baruwal and Bhyanglung sheep are late-maturing, of low prolificacy and reproduce only once a year. Khari goats and Kage sheep are comparatively early-maturing and prolific, but have variable rates of offspring survival and exhibit wide variation in productive and reproductive performance at different localities and under different management. Sheep and goats in Nepal are generally small in body size, but selection for improvement is not practised by farmers, and indiscriminate breeding results in maintenance of a low level of productivity from generation to generation. Steps towards the improvement in traits such as litter size, frequency of lambing/kidding, kid/lamb survivability, growth rate, adult body weight, and wool production have not yet been taken.

Feed resources: At present, the country is in a state of animal feed deficit. The pressure of increasing human population requires an increase in agricultural production, and this has led to an increase in the area under cultivation. Furthermore, there is a lack of forest and pasture improvement, and a high density of livestock. Pasture management in most parts of the country is traditional, generally inefficient, and efforts made to improve it are inadequate. Communal grazing lands are becoming unproductive due to overgrazing, and the palatable forest undergrowth is changing to unpalatable species and weeds. The total available forage resources of the country are inadequate to meet the nutritional demands of livestock in terms of dry matter (DM), total digestible nutrients (TDN) and crude protein (CP).

The mountain region has sufficient feed resources at present, but the same is not true for the hills and the Terai. For the hill region, Rajbhandary and Pradhan (1991) reported that the high hills have a positive feed balance, but the mid-hills face an acute deficiency. The feed deficiency in the lower hills is forcing animals to move upwards in search of food. The deterioration of pasture quality, deforestation and conversion of forest to scrubland, especially in the densely populated lower and mid-hills, is placing the animals under increasing stress and decreasing their production.

At the present population levels, TDN requirement for goats and sheep is only 5% and 8% respectively of the total TDN requirement for all domesticated ruminants in Nepal. On the other hand, TDN required to support dry or unproductive cattle and buffaloes is 23% of the total TDN requirement (Rajbhandary and Pradhan, 1991). Therefore, it is not the small ruminants, but the large ruminants, that are responsible for the shortage of fodder in the country. Since cattle and buffaloes are competing for forage with sheep and goats throughout the year, and particularly during the winter, small ruminants are facing nutritional deficiency. Available resources are not utilized effectively. Alpine pastures are traditionally (and now illegally) owned by certain communities or villages, while other communities or village lack such a traditional privilege. The latter depend upon the goodwill of those who own the land, require permission to take their animals there every year, and have to pay for use of the land. The major drawback of this system is that shepherds without traditional ownership of pasture land, often find difficultly in securing adequate grazing, whilst communities that “own” the pasture may not even use it.

Management System

Animal husbandry in Nepal, is based on traditional practices, and sheep and goats receive very little care. Under the present system, farmers neither practise selection, nor follow an organized breeding system, and a large number of unproductive animals are maintained to compete for feed with the more productive ones. Most of the sheep and goats are not supplemented at the stall, and depend upon grazed forage. Feed conservation practices are not generally implemented in most parts of the country, and any fodder that is conserved is reserved for large ruminants. Sheep and goats lose condition throughout the winter, which can be so severe that it takes up to four months for animals to regain body condition lost during this time (Karki, 1985).

Sedentary flocks of sheep and goats compete with large ruminants throughout the year, and poor pasture quality forces animals to utilize forest resources. Overgrazing/browsing is adversely affecting the forest vegetation, and so lack of proper pasture management is leading to forest deterioration. The same is true for pastures grazed by migratory flocks, and in many “Kharkas” palatable grasses are being replaced by thorny weeds.

Sedentary flocks graze a limited area throughout the year leading to heavy parasitic burdens, and decreased animal productivity. The transhumance system, on the other hand, places great demands upon shepherds for little financial reward. Animal mortality due to disease, predation and accident in the forest are very high, causing considerable economic loss. Furthermore, migratory flocks are inaccessible to veterinary service centres for most of the year, and are therefore vulnerable in cases of epidemic outbreaks.

Animal Health

Karki (1985) reported thirteen diseases to be prevalent in the migratory flocks of Gandaki Zone. Of these “six-month” disease, pneumonia, unspecified diarrhoea and foot ailments are the major problems. Of parasitic diseases, parasitic gastroenteritis and fascioliasis are the major migratory flock problems, but are also found in sedentary flocks.

Very little investigation has been carried out upon the epidemiological aspects of these diseases and their control. For some diseases, like “six-month” disease, even the causative agent has not been identified, and for infectious diseases which can cause severe losses, there is no policy of vaccination.

Drenching against parasitic diseases is extremely rare in migratory flocks, and in sedentary flocks it is normally done only after the clinical symptoms have become manifest. In areas where drenching is practised, it is done on an empirical basis with little systematic consideration as to the time of drenching or evaluation. Recent work by Joshi (1991) has revealed the serious effects of parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) on the productivity of sheep, and the prospects for substantial economic benefits from a regular drenching programme.

Ectoparasitic infection including mange mite is a common problem, and high levels of mortality in migratory goat flocks is often encountered. Apart from mortality and its adverse effects on productivity, ectoparasitic infestation is responsible for a deterioration in the quality of skins.


There is no organised marketing system for livestock, or livestock by-products in Nepal, so they do not realise a remunerative price. An organized market in the form of a ‘hat’, is observed weekly in some parts of the Terai, where traders and farmers can sell their produce in a competitive manner, but no such system exists in most parts of the hills. Farmers are compelled to sell their animals without market competition, and in a limited market situation which is often controlled by middlemen who have a monopoly over purchase of sheep and goats in a particular hill area. Farmers cannot time their sale to realise an optimum price, but have to wait for a customer. In some remote areas this period is annual, at the Dashain Festival, when sheep and goats are in high demand. The lack of a regular market does not encourage a commercial approach. Kids and lambs grow rapidly up to one year of age, but thereafter the growth rate is slow (LAC, 1991), so the selling of lambs or kids older than one year of age is not profitable, if they are to be sold for meat. The annual marketing prior to Dashain itself leads to unnecessary retention of animals in the flocks, which is not only uneconomic, but also increases pressure on the limited feed resources.

A similar situation exists for the marketing of wool and skins, and the lack of processing facilities in the hills means that skins cannot be preserved and taken to the cities for sale. Thus, sheep fleeces and goat skins, which are important export items for the country are not fully utilized. Wool is used locally in making goods which realise low prices, as there is no organised link between village wool producers and city-based wool industries. As a result, city-based wool industries have chosen to purchase raw materials from other countries, rather than making an effort to purchase home-produced wool.

Technology Transfer

Present livestock extension policies seem unable to prepare farmers for the adoption of new technologies. Even simple improvements to the existing system which could substantially increase income or decrease losses are not adopted. The inability to implement technologies that are convincing to the farmers, to train them properly, or to make the necessary inputs available may be reasons for these inadequacies. For example, the timely injection of terramycin is known to be effective in preventing “six-month” disease in young lambs, but the disease is still responsible for high levels of mortality, because the farmers are not aware of the drug's availability, nor are they trained in its use.

Under such circumstances, very few farmers are willing to relinquish traditional farming practices in favour of new ones. This is mainly because of the lack of necessary inputs for improved farming practices where they are needed. The lack of provision of even a single input may have a negative effect on the adoption of the whole technology. For example, to realise maximum benefit from crossbreeding indigenous animals with exotic breeds, the crossbreds require a better plane of nutrition, preventive health care, and improved husbandry practices. An incomplete set of inputs, and lack of practical training is responsible, to some extent, for ineffective technology transfer, and hence a reduced rate of change from traditional farming practices.

Ecological Balance

To fulfil the requirements of an increasing human population, more and more land is being cultivated, and in the hills every piece of land that can be effectively used for grain production, is being cultivated. There is continuous deforestation for agricultural work and fodder provision and large numbers of cattle and buffalo are creating more pressure on the available resources. If the present rate of deforestation and the consequent soil erosion continues, the country may face an ecological disaster, with the consequence that the nutritional problems for livestock will be further aggravated, resulting in reduced production.


Different strategies have been adopted in the past three decades to increase the production and productivity of sheep and goats. Major topics of intervention include animal feed resources, animal productivity, and technical support services. However, little attention has been paid to improving the marketing components. The various approaches undertaken to improve sheep and goat production and productivity are described below.

Animal Feed Resources

Attempts to improve and increase animal feed resources are described in other chapters of this book. These include the planting of fodder trees, the cultivation of different fodder species including winter grasses, perennial grasses and legumes, and the Himalayan Pasture Development Programme.

Animal Health

Disease diagnosis and veterinary services have been strengthened in all districts of the country by establishing one district-level Veterinary Hospital, and at least nine Service Centres in every district. To strengthen the diagnosis, treatment and control of various diseases, animal health research has been directed at evaluating the prevalence of various diseases and at formulating control strategies based on the evaluation. In addition, mass treatment in the case of disease outbreak, and vaccination against major infectious diseases, are provided as a regular programme as and when necessary.

For small ruminants, parasitic gastroenteritis is the major parasitic disease of economic importance, followed by fascioliasis. Drenching with broad-spectrum anthelmintics at intervals during the monsoon, and once during the winter is the recommended strategy to check the disease.

District Veterinary Hospitals as well as Service Centres provide veterinary services to the farmers. To make veterinary services more available, farmers are trained as Village Animal Health Workers (VAHWs) throughout the country. Shepherds of migratory flocks from Gandaki Zone have been trained in the identification and treatment of various ailments of sheep and goats. This training has been useful, provided those trained continue in the job of shepherding. However, the frequent changing of trained shepherds for untrained ones, can make this policy a pointless excercise, so the selection of shepherds for training must be exercised with care and take into account the attitude of the shepherd and his devotion to the job.

Animal Production and Extension

Farmers are also trained in different aspects of sheep and goat husbandry, which includes lamb/kid rearing, the importance of selection and breeding, and nutrition. To improve the productivity of sheep and goats the crossbreeding of native animals with different exotic breeds has been encouraged. Exotic or crossbred rams and bucks have been distributed to farmers, usually free of cost, and the indigenous male animals of that area have been castrated. This practice has been adopted in many parts of the country but more recently, distribution of such animals to Village Livestock Development Committees has been found to be a more effective approach.

To make extension services more effective, the group approach has been adopted, and under this system, farmers in a village with similar farming practices and interests are united into groups according to the species of animal it is desired to rear, e.g. a sheep or goat development committee. Under this system, inputs in the form of bank loans, veterinary and extension services and marketing advice are provided by the concerned agencies. Extension advice is also disseminated through the group as appropriate, and necessary inputs are provided at cost price. However, this approach has not been followed all over the country.


Production of meat, wool and fibre from sheep and goats of Nepal is insufficient to meet demand. The major reason was considered to be the low productivity potential of native animals. During the 1960s, studies were made on different aspects of sheep and goat productivity, and on the possibilities of increasing productivity by feeding, breeding and other management practices. Selection within the local breeds alone was considered to be too slow a method of genetic improvement, and crossbreeding exotic breeds with much higher genetic potential for production, with indigenous animals was expected to increase productivity significantly within a shorter period.

The major objective of crossbreeding goats was to increase meat production, while that for sheep was to increase both wool and meat. Exotic breeds of sheep introduced to Nepal were the Polworth, the Rambouillet, the Merino, the Scottish Blackface and the Border Leicester. There was also introduction of the Romney Marsh, the Dorset and the Dormer. However, the most commonly used exotic breed in Nepal has been the Polworth (Kharel and Pradhan, 1986). Exotic breeds of goats introduced were the Jamunapari, the Saanen, the Beetal and the Barbari, with the Indian Jamunapari being the most commonly used exotic breed in Nepal. Of the local animals, the Kage and the Baruwal breeds of sheep, and the Khari breed of goat were adopted for almost all these breeding and genetic improvement programmes.

In addition to crossbreeding of native animals with exotic breeds, the possibilities of improving meat production of goats by crossbreeding of indigenous breeds were also studied. These included the crossbreeding of the Sinhal and the Khari (LAC, 1990), and the Sinhal and the Chyangra goats (LAC, 1987).

Four Government sheep farms and two Government goat farms and Lumle and Pakhribas Agricultural Centres are principally involved in breeding work with sheep and goats. These farms/centres are studying the performance of different crossbreeds, and also serve as resource centres for the distribution of exotic or crossbred rams/bucks to the farmers of different areas.

Crossbreds of Kage sheep:

The quality and quantity of wool produced and the quantity of meat produced by Kage sheep is very low. The performance of different crosses of Kage at different farms is presented in Tables 20, 21 and 22.

Table 20: Performance of crossbreds of Kage (K) with Rambouillet (R) and Merino (M) at Chitlang Sheep Farm, Makawanpur.

Source: CSF (1984)

CrossesWool yield (Kg)Adult Body weight (Kg)Total Mortality (%)Lambs born per ewe per year
R × K (50% R)0.5 * (16)32.0 * (16)2.31.7
R × K (75% R)1.2 (26)42.6 (26)8.31.4
R × K (75% R, linebred)1.7 (18)46.4 (18)11.71.1
M × K (50% M)1.0 * (9)31.5 * (9)nilNA
M × (RK) (50% M 25% R)2.0 * (5)33.5 * (5)NANA

NA = Not Available; Figures in parentheses indicate number of observations;
* Average of Females only.

Table 21: Wool production and adult body weight of different crosses of Kage (K) with Polworth (P) and Border Leicester (B), at Lampatan Farm, Pokhara.

Source: LFP (1986)

 P × K
(50% P)
P × K
(75% P)
B × K
(50% B)
B × K
(75% B)
Adult Body Weight (Kg)
Annual wool Production (Kg)  1.3  1.9  1.42.4

All the Kage crossbreds showed a significant increase in both wool production and adult body weight compared to that of the pure Kage (see Table 9).

Table 22: Reproductive performance of different crosses of Kage (K) with Polworth (P) and Border Leicester (B), at Lampatan Farm, Pokhara.

Source: LFP (1986)

CrossesP × K
(50 % P)
P × K
(75 % P)
B × K
(50 % B)
B × K
(75 % B)
Age at first lambing (months)24.824.825.030.6
Lambing interval (months)11.011.510.812.6
Litter size  1.0  1.0  1.0  1.0
Lambs born per ewe per year  1.1  1.0  1.2  0.9
Lambs weaned per ewe per year  1.0  0.9  1.1  0.8

At Chitlang Farm, annual wool production was increased by more than 100% when the Kage was crossed with the Rambouillet (Tables 9 and 20). This F1 crossbred was then backcrossed to the Rambouillet, increasing the exotic blood level to 75%. This backcross was found to be superior to the F1 crossbreds. 75% Rambouillet crossbreds were then linebred after selection to develop a new breed called the “Kambouillet” (CSF, 1984). This first generation of linebred sheep showed a significant increase in wool production over the backcross.

Similarly, Merino x Kage crossbreds also showed a significant improvement in both wool production and body size. The production performance of 50% Merino crossbreds was similar to that of 75% Rambouillet crossbreds. Also, when the 50% Rambouillet crossbreds were bred with pure Merino, the resulting offspring were found to be superior to all other crosses in wool production. This indicated that two or more exotic breeds could be utilized for developing a three breed synthetic.

The reproductive performances of Polworth and Border Leicester crosses at LPF, Pokhara were very similar. However, the wool production and body size were greater with the Border Leicester. Shrestha (1985, cited by Kharel and Pradhan, 1986) found that Border Leicester crossbreds grew faster than the Polworth crosses.

Crossbred ewes and rams from these farms are distributed to farmers in different districts. The majority of sedentary flocks in Kaski and Syangja Districts have at least 25% exotic blood. However, little is reported about the performance of these crossbreds under farmers' management. Gatenby et al (1990) reported a low level of farmer adoption with the Polworth breed in the eastern hills of Nepal due to the unsuitability of the breed to the prevalent environment. Kharel and Pradhan (1986) also reported low acceptance level with the Polworth and suggested that the Border Leicester, the Rambouillet and the Merino would be a more suitable crossing breeds under Nepalese conditions for wool production.

Crossbreds of Baruwal Sheep:

The Baruwal breed of sheep has been principally crossed with the Polworth and the Merino. In certain areas, crossbreeding with the Border Leicester has also been started. Karnali Sheep Farm (KSF) and Pansaykhola Sheep Farm (PSF), and Lumle and Pakhribas Agricultural Centres have been involved in crossbreeding work. The performance of different crossbreds at different stations is presented in Tables 23 and 24.

Table 23: Performance of different crosses of Baruwal (B) with Polworth (P) at different stations.

StationCrossesAnnual wool yield
Lambing (kg)%Lambing interval (days)Litter sizeBirth wt. (kg)(kg)Wt. at one yr (kg)(kg)Adult wt. (kg)(kg)Source
(50% P)
1.5467.6NA0.852.6418.532.2KSF (1989)
P × B
(75% P)
P × B
(62.5% P)
P × B
(25% P)
(50% P)
1.783.0348NA4.023.738.6Upreti (1990)
(50% P)
2.7NANANA3.528.1NALAC (1980)

Table 24: Performance of different crosses of Baruwal (B) with Merino (M) at different stations.

Source: KSF (1989); Upreti (1990)

StationCrossesAnnual wool yield
Lambing interval
Litter sizeLamb Mortality
Birth wt.
Wt. at one yr
(50% M)
(50% M)

Crossbred rams have been distributed to farmers in different regions to upgrade the local sheep population, and these rams were maintained under the migratory system. The wool production performance of Baruwal x Polworth sheep of different blood levels under a migratory system is presented in Table 25.

The results of this crossbreeding work have indicated that wool production can be almost doubled even though body size is hardly affected. The increase in wool production was significant, even at a level of only 12.5% exotic blood. However, the reproductive efficiency, especially lambing percentage and lambing interval, was adversely affected by increasing the Polworth blood level.

Table 25: Wool production of Baruwal x Polworth sheep under migratory system of management.

Polworth blood levelAge of SheepTotal Annual wool production (kg)% increase over adult Baruwal sheep
50%> 1 yr2.593.5
< 1 yr1.6 
25%> 1 yr2.486.4
12.5%> 1 yr2.377.8

The increase in wool production was affected by management, being higher under a sedentary system compared with the migratory system. Similarly, lambing percentage was found to be lower (67.8% compared to 83%), and lambing interval longer (405 days compared to 348 days) in migratory flocks of 50% Polworth crossbreds compared to sedentary flocks of the same breed (PSF, 1991). Though the crossbreds performed better with a higher level of exotic blood in terms of wool production and body size, they did not thrive under the harsh conditions, and mortality in 50% Polworth sheep was 36% higher and lambing percentage 18% lower than for the indigenous breed (Karki, 1984).

However, this problem could be overcome by decreasing the exotic blood level to only 25%. At this blood level, lamb mortality was not found to be higher in crossbred lambs compared to purebred indigenous lambs (Karki and Dhaubhadel, 1991).

To investigate the possibilities of introducing exotic breeds other than Polworth and Merino, crossbreeding work has been started with the Border Leicester at Lumle. The performance of this crossbred is presented in Table 26.

Table 26: Performance of 50% Border Leicester x Baruwal sheep.

Source: LAC (1987)

Birth Weight (Kg)4.14
Weight at one yr (Kg)31.94
Age at first service (days)584
Annual wool yield (Kg)2.27

50% Border Leicester crossbreds have been found to be superior to 50% Polworth crossbreds in terms of birthweight and growth rate but not in terms of wool production. However, the yield of wool of the Border Leicester crossbred was still almost double that of the purebred Baruwal.

Recent studies at Lumle have reported that 25% Border Leicester x Baruwal sheep produced 85% more wool than the purebred Baruwal. Since the problems under the migratory system experienced with the Polworth crossbred have not yet been reported with the Border Leicester cross, this may be a more promising breed with which to continue investigations.


Crossbreeding with Khari goats:

Although less emphasis has been placed on the crossing of indigenous goats with exotic breeds, attempts have been made over the years. The most commonly utilised breed for this purpose has been the Jamunapari, which originates in the semi-arid region of N. India. Whilst this breed may be appropriate to the Terai plains of Nepal, its use as a crossing breed in the hills is questionable. CGDF (1987) reported the performance of Jamunapari, Khari and Jamunapari x Khari goats on-station. Results are presented in Table 27.

Table 27: Performance of Jamunapari, Khari and Jamunapari x Khari goats at the Central Goat Development Farm, Bandipur, Tanahun.

Source: CGDF (1987)

ParameterJamunapariKhariJamunapari × Khari
Birth Weight (Kg)3.81.842.2
Growth Rate (to 4 months) (g/day)836973
Growth Rate (4–6 months)53NA52
Kidding Percentage (%)85.7147.3119.4
Kidding Interval (days)374247268
Litter Size1.171.931.44
Age at 1st kidding (days)987603632
Liveweight weaned per doe per annum (kg)12.514.714.2

The data presented in Table 27 suggest that the crossbred performance in terms of growth rate is marginally higher than the local breed. However, the ultimate measure of performance, liveweight weaned per doe per annum is highest in the indigenous breed bacause of a shorter kidding interval, a lower age at first kidding, a higher kidding percentage and a larger litter size.

Oli (1987) tested the performance of local goats crossed with Jamunapari, with Beetal and with Barbari goats. Performance in terms of growth rate was similar, However, the crossbreds suffered high rates of perinatal mortality, and were inferior to the local animals with respect to age at first kidding, kidding interval, litter size, number of kiddings per year and number of kids reared per doe per year. The quantity of saleable meat produced per doe per year was about 60% higher in the local breed, when compared to the Jamunapari cross.

Paudel (1991) considered the Saanen breed as an appropriate breed for crossing with the Khari with a view to improving total meat production per doe and to reducing slaughter age. The report suggested that growth rate of local goats is severely impaired by inadequate milk production of the doe. However, the reproductive performance of the local breed in terms of litter size, kidding interval and age at first kidding was higher than for the crossbreds. Furthermore, the total meat produced by the Khari at weaning age was higher, although not significantly so, when compared to the pure Saanen and the crossbreds.

It would appear therefore that certainly under farm conditions, the indigenous goats adaptive traits more than compensate for the productive traits of the exotic breeds. Oli (1987) concluded that a blanket recommendation of exotic breeds for crossbreeding should be avoided.

Crossbreeding between local breeds:

With the relative lack of success achieved by crossbreeding local goats with imported breeds, Lumle Agricultural Centre has now adopted a policy of concentrating on local breeds. Parajuli (1988) reported that the Sinhal x Chyangra breed grew at a rate significantly lower than that of the purebred Sinhal, but similar to that of the purebred Chyangra. Since the objective of the research was to find a crossing breed to increase the growth rate of the Sinhal, little benefit could be gained from using the Chyangra.

The Sinhal mountain breed is characterised by high age at first kidding, low prolificacy and slow growth rate. The Khari valley breed, on the other hand exhibits low body weight, high prolificacy and medium growth rate. If the good features of both these breeds can be combined, a useful higher-producing breed for the mid-hills could be developed. A flock of Khari x Sinhal goats is being raised at Lumle, and to date the benefits seem to be an increase in growth rate and reduced age at first kidding compared to the Sinhal. However, this performance was achieved on-station, and the real test of the breed will come when they are reared under a migratory system. The prolificacy of the valley Khari goat is now considered to be a valuable gene resource. Highly prolific does that can kid twice a year and produce up to six offspring per annum would form an ideal basis for a stall-fed meat production system if the doe can produce enough milk to support her kids.

Lumle is now building up a nucleus breeding flock, with a view to intensifying sedentary goat meat production, exploiting the indigenous strain of the goat, and conserving the potentially valuable prolificacy gene.


With the export of carpets playing such a significant role as a foreign exchange earner in Nepal, due consideration must be given to the supply of raw materials to that industry. Breeding plans for sheep should aim to meet the wool quality requirements laid down by the carpet factories, and marketing channels for local material should be developed, so that the import of wool is reduced. At the same time, it should be realised that the crossbred will need to survive and perform under the indigenous system practised in the hills. With the Polworth cross suffering from low farmer acceptance rates, attention should now be focused on exotic breeds more suited to hill or mountain farming systems.

Goat meat production should concentrate on prolific indigenous valley breeds under sedentary and stall-fed conditions. Genetic improvement of mountain breeds should be restricted to selection within breed for twice a year kidding and negative selection against twinning. Emphasis should be placed on intensifying goat production, and decreasing the number of goats under the migratory system in favour of sheep.

For both species, improvement in genetic potential can only be realised with concurrent improvements in health, nutrition and management. To this end, strategic drenching, mineral supplementation and improved marketing should be prioritised, as well as more general strategies directed towards alleviating the winter feed deficit.

It should be emphasised that it is the large ruminants, rather than goat and sheep that are responsible for the nutritional imbalance and environmental degradation associated with present grazing systems. With this in mind, strategies to increase the proportion of large ruminants maintained under stall feeding regimes should be encouraged, so that production from small ruminants, especially sheep can be increased in the migratory systems most suited to them.


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