Sheep and goats were probably among the earliest animal species to be domesticated by man. Reed (1974), reviewing the existing evidence on the domestication of sheep, goats, cattle and pigs, concludes that the Near East, and particularly the area in the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean, was the primary area for the early domestication of these four basic food animais. Of these animais, sheep were present in northern Iraq by 10,750 B.P., and goats, along with sheep, were present in eastern Asia Minor (Anatolian Turkey) by about 9000 B.P.
The modem sheep breeds in this area probably originated from the wild varieties of sheep (Ovis orientalis vignei ). The wild goat (Capra hircus ) is considered to be the chief ancestor of the various breeds of domestic goats; its most important variety is the Benzoar goat (Capra hircus aegagrus ), which exists on the high mountains of Anadolia.
Sheep and goats have an important place in the economy of Turkey and in the nutrition of its people. They convert otherwise unuseable vegetaion on poor grazing lands to meat, milk, fiber and skins. Of the 984 thousand tons of total indigenous meat produced in 1983 in Turkey, 468 thousand tons came from sheep and goats, 246 thousand tons from cattle and buffaloes and remiaining 270 thousand tons from poultry and other farm animal species. Total milk production in that year was 5 926 thousand tons, 1 300 thousand tons being sheep milk, 636 thousand tons goat milk, 3 700 thousand tons cow milk and 290 thousand tons buffalo milk (FAO, 1984). Thus, sheep and goats together contributed 47.5 percent of the annual meat and 32.6 percent of the annual milk output of Turkey in 1983. In the same year, production of greasy wool , mohair, hair, and fresh sheep and goat skins were 62.3, 4.6, 8.6 and 80,4 thousand tons, respectively (FAO, 1984; SIS, 1985).
Sheep, goats and their products (meat, wool , mohair and skins) have always been among tne traditional export items of animal origin in Turkey. Their share in the export earnings of the country increased greatly after 1980. Currently, over 2 million heads of live sheep, about 500 thousand heads of live goats and over 50 thousand tons of sheep-meat are exported annually, main importing countries being Near East countries. During the years 1982–1984, annual foreign exchange earnings from the exports varied between 217 and 286 million US dollars for live sheep and goats, 105 and 110 million US dollars for sheep-meat and 32 and 56 million US dollars for wool, mohair and hair (SIS, 1985). Sheep and goats contribute also indirectly to the export earnings of the country through providing raw maternais for the export-oriented carpet, textile, leather and food industries.
Eastern, soultheastern and central regions of Turkey are greatly arid or semi-arid; the vast natural grazing lands and steppes in these regions are more suitable for sheep and goat raising than crop and dairy cattle production. Sheep and goats are the major source of livelihood for the rural inhabitants of these regions. They meet immediate nutritional needs of their owners and, through carpet industry, they provide occupation to many artisan families. Even in the more productive western regions of the country, where agriculture is increasingly intensified, sheep production continues to be a profitable business for sheep raisers as well as for feedlot operators, and it is often incorporated in a system of mixed farming.
In Turkey, as in the other Near East countries, sheep meat, sheep milk and sheep-milk products are valuable and generally preferred commodities. Goat meat and goat milk are the main sources of animal protein for the inhabitants of the mountainous regions. On the other hand, human population of the country is increasing at a rate of 2.8 percent, annually. This rapid population growth and rising standards of living will increase the demand for goods of animal origin, especially for mutton and lamb. In addition, there is presently a good demand for sheep meat in the high-income countries of the region, and a demand for mohair in the world market. Therefore, sheep and goat raising in Turkey is likely to maintain its importance in the future, provided that natural resources of the country are better utilized and improved management practices are used.
The objective of this report is to give information on the phenotypic characteristics and production performances of the sheep and goat breeds in Turkey, on their management Systems, and on the research work carried out on different aspects of sheep and goat production in this country.