Officer in Charge, Sheep and Goat Research Station,
Techiman, c/o Animal Health and Production Department
P.O.Box M161, Accra, Ghana
The main purpose of this paper is to review the system of sheep and goat production in Ghana especially along the middle belt stretching from Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region to Buipe. This area is more suitable for small ruminant production taking into account the semi-savannah nature of the vegetation with inter-twining rivers and a not too severe period of dry season. Furthermore, this paper seeks to bring out the major setbacks facing sheep and goat production and how recently acquired knowledge might be profitably used to improve traditional systems.
It is a difficult task to achieve comprehensive coverage of such a varied activity as sheep and goat rearing in Ghana. This is aggravated by the fact that most livestock owners in Ghana keep sheep and goats purely for historical or cultural reasons and as a result the owners do not seem to engage in proper management practices. Also the bulk of the nation's sheep and goats is confined to the rural areas or villages where lack of means of transportation makes it very difficult to monitor the activities of these livestock owners effectively.
DISTRIBUTION OF SHEEP AND GOATS
Ghana has a total population of 1 814 193 sheep and 1 632 576 goats and the breakdown based on regional level as at 1986 is as follows:
|Brong Ahafo||160 092||145 276|
|Northern||427 481||403 592|
|Upper East||225 984||198 924|
|Upper West||140 284||164 169|
|Ashanti||196 941||142 313|
|Eastern||173 015||159 953|
|Greater Accra||51 723||45 704|
|Central||83 031||80 975|
|Western||102 960||69 315|
|Volta||252 682||222 355|
Source: Animal Health & Production Department, Ghana
GENETIC POTENTIALITIES OF THE HERDS
Basically in Ghana, we have two main breeds of sheep and goats namely:
West African Dwarf type
West African Long-Legged type
(found mostly in Northern and Upper Regions).
Occasionally, we do come across sub-units of a variety according to the type of relationship between the animals belonging to it. This is so because some livestock owners in a bid to improving upon the quality of their stock bring in a valuable sire for crossing purposes. As a result, a line is established and animals belonging to a particular line exhibit to some extent characteristics of the founder, i.e. the common prominent ancestor, the sire.
In the rural areas or villages, animals of various ages, sexes, etc. are kept together always with no control whatsoever over the mating behaviour of the rams and ewes. This has led to in-breeding among most flocks resulting in reduced fertility and viability of the inbred animals. As compared to outbred animals the phenotypic value of inbred animals is greatly reduced as reflected in lower growth rate, poor lactating potentialities of dams, mismothering, etc. The general weakening of the constitution of inbred animals also predisposes them to various diseases resulting in economic losses.
SYSTEM OF SHEEP AND GOAT PRODUCTION IN GHANA
The system of sheep and goat production in Ghana is basically traditional except for a few organized or large-scale livestock farms which exhibit some degree of improved system.
In the settled villages or rural areas where the bulk of the nation's sheep and goats can be located, there are usually unroofed or fenced yards and semi-open sheds where the animals are confined after grazing. The animals when released for grazing stay within a particular distance by dint of their territorial instinct.
On the few large-scale livestock farms, e.g. Techiman Sheep and Goat Diseases Investigation Farm, there are enclosed fenced and pasture areas divided into paddocks with dips.
Confinement of goats is difficult because of their troublesome nature and for that matter these animals are always found on free-range.
Feeding has long been the most potent tool by which man manipulates productivity in his domestic animals and sheep/goats are no exception. Animal feeding constitutes one of the major constraints facing sheep and goat production in Ghana not in terms of scarcity of grazing area but the attitude of livestock farmers to the question of effective pasture utilization.
Sheep and goats have a fascinating ability to survive and produce under a surprising range of conditions and even in respect of dry season survival on poor herbage, sheep far excel cattle. Most livestock owners have taken undue advantage of such natural ability making very little effort in the provision of adequate feed for their animals.
In Ghana, three main forms of animal feeding can be distinguished:
In the villages or rural areas, animals are released in the morning from backyard sheds for grazing on their own, with or without feed supplementation in the form of cassava and plantain peels.
Zero grazing of stock combined with supplementary feed. This mode of feeding is usually employed by small-scale livestock owners in urban areas.
Where animals are stocked on paddocks with developed pasture. This mode of feeding is practised by very few organized livestock farmers.
In the rural areas, there are always reports of crops being destroyed by these animals especially the goats. The farmers, in turn, inflict various injuries to the animals causing damage to their crops, at times going to the extent of poisoning the animals. This normally leads to petty rivalry between livestock owners and crop farmers forcing most of the livestock owners either to fold up or develop indifferent attitudes towards their animals.
This topic will not be complete if mention is not made of dry season feeding of livestock. Livestock owners make little or no preparation for dry season feeding or supplementation. Therefore the animals feed only on poor herbage which does not satisfy their nutrient requirements and at times injudicious grass burning leaves the animals with nothing to feed on. As a result, the animals have to walk for long distances in search of feed and the little energy acquired from the poor feed intake is expended during the period of their mobility. The total effect is that the animals become generally debilitated and we have cause to believe that the numerous cases of paralysis encountered during the dry season can be attributed to nutrient deficiencies. Furthermore, in order to curb their hunger, the animals feed on various non-digestible objects such as rubber, pieces of clothing, etc. which invariably result in impaction, ruminal stasis and death from intoxication.
Some of these undesirable trends in sheep and goat rearing can be minimized if livestock owners adopt proper management and feeding procedures which will be mentioned later.
Finally, we hold the view that effective pasture utilization should be the key feature of sheep and goat production in Ghana.
It is a fact that in Ghana, sheep and goat diseases of all causal categories occasionally devastate and insidiously drain animal numbers and quality, thus reducing economic gains. Diseases persistently threaten not only the viability but also the survival of this sector of animal production. Therefore, the cogent demand from this sector of animal production is relief from such depressing conditions.
However, the extent of veterinary assistance and advice to livestock farmers is limited due to lack of means of transportation and apathy on the part of most livestock owners.
A wide range of sheep and goat disease problems are encountered in Ghana, most of which exhibit some degree of seasonality in their occurrence.
RELATIVE RATE OF OCCURRENCE OF SOME SHEEP AND GOAT DISEASES
IN THE BRONG AHAFO REGION
|2. Contagious Ecthyma||3.06||4.8|
|1. General debility||6.4||5.7|
|6. Diseases of other causal categories||5.29||4.0|
Source: Annual Report of Animal Health and Production Department, Brong Ahafo Region, 1986.
Parasites are a major source of loss to sheep and goat production in Ghana. Because of its ubiquity and variability of its effect on performance, it is difficult to assess the true extent of the cost of parasitism.
Based on data from Techniman Sheep and Goat Diseases Investigation Farm, the chief groups of internal parasites of general economic importance in Ghana are as follows:
RELATIVE RATE OF INFESTATION OF INTERNAL PARASITES BASED ON FAECAL EGG
COUNT BETWEEN JUNE-AUGUST FOR LAMBS 3–6 MONTHS OF AGE AT THE
TECHIMAN SHEEP AND GOAT DISEASES INVESTIGATION FARM
|Parasites||Rate of Infestation (%)|
|1. Strongyles (especially genera Haemonchus)||70|
|2. Trichuris spp.||3.5|
|3. Moniezia spp.||24.5|
Infestation by helminth parasites is usually very high between April-September, then gradually decreases starting from mid-October. This is true for semi-savannah areas, e.g. some areas of Techiman, Kintampo Districts.
In the areas with a shorter dry season period like the middle belt and the southern parts of Ghana there is virtually no period when the micro-climates in the grazing areas are particularly unsuitable for larval development and survival. To elucidate this point further, the seasonal variations of worm infestation were studies at Techiman Farm based on faecal egg count per grams of faeces (epg) for lambs between the ages of 4–10 months during the rainy and dry seasons.
During the rainy season April-September, the highest count recorded was 102 000 epg and the lowest 500 epg. During the dry period (mid-November - January) the highest count recorded was 39 500 epg with 100 epg as the lowest count. There were differences in the levels of worm build up which was much slower during the dry season than in the rainy season. We are of the view that the worm build up during the dry season can be attributed mainly to the high humidity in the mornings.
The use of anthelmintics has been the only effective method of controlling worm burden because of the poor management and husbandry practices engaged in sheep and goat production. Because of this situation, the Techiman Sheep and Goat Diseases Investigation Farm continuously investigates the efficacy of the anthelmintics in the system and advises livestock owners accordingly.
A lot of factors are taken into consideration when conducting such investigations such as the distance of the villages from the nearest veterinary post etc. since lack of transportation means makes it extremely difficult for veterinary personnel to conduct frequent deworming/dipping exercises. Based on these factors there was the need to conduct investigation into the use of broad spectrum anthelmintics with high anthelmintic efficiency. Investigation into the comparative efficacy of Ivomec, Tetramisole and Panacur (Fenbendazole) on sheep naturally infested with strongyles was conducted in July 1987 using young stock of sheep between 4–8 months of age with egg count variation of 102,000 – 100 epg. Some of the experimental animals had ticks on them as well. Dosages of the various drugs administered were based on liveweight.
The results showed Ivomec to be the most effective drug suitable to the system of sheep keeping in Ghana. In the first place it has a quick effect on strongyles, e.g. all the animals even those with high pre-deworming counts up to 72 000 epg showed the zero count on the second day after administering Ivomec. Secondly, the worm build up was very slow; the first count was recorded after 1 month 18 days in animals kept on the same grazing field before and after deworming with high stocking rate - and 3 months in animals kept on a fresh non-contaminated paddock with lower stocking rate. Thirdly, Ivomec was effective against ticks. The next drug after Ivomec in terms of efficacy against strongyles was Tetramisole which also had a quick effect with most animals showing zero counts on the second day after deworming but the worm build up was much faster than Ivomec. Panacur had a more gradual effect on the stryongyles with a faster rate of worm build up. This may partly be explained by the fact that Panacur has been in the system for far too long thus giving rise to problems of resistance to it. Even though Ivomec is a very expensive drug, its judicious and timely use coupled with low stocking rates will go a long way to reduce the worm and ectoparasitic burden drastically during the rainy season.
LIVESTOCK IMPROVEMENT METHODS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Even though I have recommended earlier that effective pasture utilization should be the basis of sheep and goat production in Ghana, its full implementation at the moment will be very difficult since in the villages and rural areas there is no clear cut demarcation of the land into grazing area and fields for cultivation of arable crops. So any livestock improvement programme should start from mass education of livestock farmers on the advantages of effective pasture utilization based on grass and legumes. Also there is the need to make available vital inputs like vehicles, protective clothing etc. for technical staff who are engaged in field work. Finally, the banking institutions must be ready to assist the small-scale livestock owners financially in order to boost production.
The cause of malnutrition of sheep and goats in Ghana on qualitative terms can be attributed first and foremost to protein deficiency. The diet of these animals contains basically fibre and carbohydrates which they get from grass. The problem of protein deficiency can be rectified by incorporating legumes in the diet of these small ruminants. Feeding trials conducted at the Techiman Sheep and Goat Diseases Investigation Farm confirmed the fact that Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) and Centrosema pubescens are valuable sources of protein which can contribute greatly towards the improvement of nutritional conditions of sheep and goats in Ghana.
Centrosema grows widely during the rainy season, and the farmers must be educated on how to use it effectively. Before I take this topic further, I must stress that because of the attitude of Ghanaian farmers towards animal feeding there was the need to look for legumes that will benefit the farmer himself and can be effectively incorporated in the diet of the animals as well as alleviating the problems of dry season feeding. From our investigations, pigeon pea proved to be the best solution since it has a very good drought resistant ability, the leaves, with a very high protein content, can be effectively used as animal feed and the farmer can consume or sell the seeds.
Apart from this, to reduce the burden of dry season feeding, feed supplementation in the form of groundnuts tops must be used. Dried cassava, plantain peels and “pito” mash (a waste product from a locally brewed drink) are very valuable feed supplements that can be used at any time of the year. The farmers must be educated on the importance of legumes and sheep manure in improving soil fertility instead of going in for expensive imported chemical fertilizers. By doing so a complete cycle is formed between crops and animals all to the advantage of the farmer.
Another point on which it is worth educating the livestock owners is the relationship between nutritional status and disease condition of animals. Poor body condition of sheep and goats attributable to inadequate feed intake in quantitative and/or qualitative terms leads to energy or protein deficiency making the animals susceptible to the parasitic diseases to which they normally enjoyed some degree of resistance. Therefore, proper nutrition is the basic prophylactic measure against most disease conditions of animals.
It can be inferred from all the facts put across in this report that a lost needs to be done in order to upgrade the existing system of sheep and goat production in Ghana. Whilst mass education of livestock owners is very necessary, the banking institutions must also be ready to assist them in this regard.