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Small ruminant research in Kenya

The sheep and goat development project (SGDP) 1970's
The present- 1980's -1990
The small ruminant collaborative research support program (SR-CRSP)
The future 1990's

B.A.J. Mwandotto,¹ J.D. Wachira² and V.C. Chemitei²
¹Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program (SR-CRSP)
²Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)


Kenya has an estimated 7 and 8 million sheep and goats, respectively. Table 1 gives the breakdown of this important animal resource base into hair and wool sheep and meat- and dairy-goat types. The significance of the small-ruminant sector in the overall agricultural economy was recognised in 1970's with the establishment of the Sheep and Goat Development Project. Due to increasing demand for animal products, a proportionate share of increase in small ruminant productivity is necessary without environmental degradation. This development will inevitably come through research. This paper outlines the small ruminant research trends from the 70's up to the present and projects on what will likely be the research requirements by the year 2000 AD, given the current socio-economic development patterns in the country.

Table 1. Kenya's sheep and goat pop/elation, 1964-1986 ('000s)







Hair sheep





Wool sheep





Sheep total





Meat goats





Dairy goats





Goat total





Grand total





Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development animal reports¹.

The sheep and goat development project (SGDP) 1970's

This Project was assisted by FAO/UNDP. It had a broad objective of increasing productivity of small ruminants in all production areas of Kenya. Associated with this broad objective, this long- term Project also addressed the following areas: (1 ) Establishment of multiplication centres for Galla goats and Dorper sheep; (2) breed comparison trials-which included indigenous Red Massai sheep and East African goats; (3) management of small ruminants: housing, dipping, feeding and disease control; (4) establishment of some data base for monitoring and research; (5) implementation of marketing operations; (6) training of production and research scientists.

This Project is still on with Kenya Government funding. Some of the successes of the Project can be listed as follows:

1. The general awareness of the significance of small ruminant industry to policy makers was enhanced.

2. Research and production scientists were trained to MSc and PhD levels.

3. Long-term breeding programmes were established in some centres.

4 - The establishment of basic management principles for sheep and goats on a nationwide scale as opposed to previous individual farmer or communal approaches. Some of these recommendations included:- (a) control of Haemonchus contortus and other worms; (b) housing against wind and rain; (c) cleaning the pens; (d) dipping against ectoprasites; (e) appropriate; (f) the complementary nature of sheep and goats to the larger herbivores; raised pen floors; (h) use of acacia pods to supplement nutrition.

5. Establishment of breed societies with the Kenya stud book.

The Project also had some shortcomings: It lacked sufficient co- ordination. Progress in the field could not be adequately monitored. Breeding and selection criteria of the studs were not established. Overall production package could not be advanced. The small-scale farmer production system was not addressed. There was marked deterioration in specific production segments like prime lamb and wool production. Most of the work was done on-station and it lacked on-farm socio-economic considerations.

The present- 1980's -1990

Based on the experience gained from the SGDP, other projects were conceived that had a direct bearing on the research aspects on sheep and goats.

The small ruminant collaborative research support program (SR-CRSP)

The Project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and has been in existence now for about 10 years. The Project's principal objective in Kenya is to develop on systems analysis research basis a dual-purpose goat (DPG) of 40 kg mature weight with a potential of 4 kg daily milk field at peak lactation to satisfy home milk requirements of families in small-scale farming areas. The selling points of this Project are:

1. To synthesise a DPG from a broad base of adequately sampled two indigenous goats, the Galla and the East African and two exotic dairy goats, the Toggenburg and Anglo-Nubian, based on systems analysis principles and the management capability to small-scale farmers. The parental combination ensures high adaptability to local environmental fertility and high meat and milk production. It also ensures high heterosis retention in the economic traits in the stabilised new DPG. So far, the first composites are in place and breeding is in the correct direction in terms of yields of two kg of milk per day on one milking (Mwandotto et al, n.d.). The use of artificial insemination (Al) for goat production in our environment has been demonstrated in the process of development of this DPG and adaptability of the DPG to different production zones is planned in the development of the Project.

2. The project is multifaceted in that the breeding research is augmented by simultaneous nutrition management, disease and socio-economic research aspects in order to evolve a comprehensive production package for the producers, training institutions and extension agents. That package is now at its final stage of development.

3. The project aims at producing low cost production technologies: (a) use of weigh-band to estimate weight of animals on the farm for on-farm research see below; (b) development of non-conventional fodders - vines and agroforestry shrubs and farm by-products for goat feeding; (c) use of Haemonchus contortus resistant animals to lower the cost of maintenance of breeding flocks. With a heritability estimate of 0.397 for Haemonchus resistance in the breeding flock (Rohrer et al, 1990, unpublished), the resistance can be selected for in the future DPG; (d) partial milking for cheap and hygienic feeding and still able to adequately estimate milk yield (Ruvuna et al, 1988).

4. The project has an important aspect of on-farm production and evaluation research aspects where DPG parentals are monitored in terms of acceptability by target farmers, production levels and marketability of the goats and their products.

5. The project is a shining example of institutional collaboration- USAID through, University of California, Davis, Winrock International, Texas A&M University, Missouri University and Washington State University and the Kenya Government through KARI. It is a model for integrated research.

6. The project further trained research scientists to MSc and PhD levels.

The SR-CRSP has its inherent shortcoming as well:

It addresses only goats for small-scale farmers in high potential areas for now. It is, however, clear that there are many animal production systems in Kenya that are dependent on small ruminants (Thorpe et al, n.d.) and with the possibility of genotype- environment interaction and correlations, universal production packages across all production systems cannot be possible.

The Integrated Project in Arid Lands (IPAL) and International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA)

The IPAL Project was set in the arid lands of northern Kenya with the Federal Republic of Germany and UNESCO aid. The selling point of this Project was that the small ruminants were researched on in their traditional setting and management and in integration with cattle and camels. Prospective innovations were monitored carefully. One of the notable of the projects knowledge of the resilience of small stock in sustaining its population after drought catastrophes (Blackburn, 1984). The limitation here was that it was also location-specific. The ILCA project in Kajiado showed the importance of marketing small ruminants on weight, body condition and sex basis (Chabari et al, 1987).

The Embu-Meru-Isiolo Goat and Sheep Project

This as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Project based at Marimanti and sponsored by the Governments of Kenya and the United Kingdom. It is a good example of an NGO conducting research to augment the national efforts of research information generation. It has conducted on-farm recording and breed comparisons. Even though there is some confounding in data structure, it is indicated that there is no difference between the Deguin and the Boran Galla in milk production (Skea, n.d.). As we move to on-farm research activities, apparently care will have to be taken in experimental designs in order to get as much information as possible from trials.

The Universities and Agricultural Development Corporation (ADO) Farms

The University farms do keep some stock for teaching purposes complete with good records especially in purebreed dairy goats. Most of these flocks have, however, tended to be small in size and consistent long-term observations on them have not been possible. Large flocks of both sheep and goats are, however, in the hands of ADG with a possibility of large data sets of pedigree and production kept for long periods. This is an area of ADC flocks and their breeding/management programmes.

Flocks in Other Government Farms

As a result of the first project of the 1970's some data have accumulated on government farms which have been analysed recently to reveal important research information. On crossing the Galla to the East African goat and the Boer (Angwenyi, 1984), the East African superiority in adaptation and the superior mothering ability of the Galla was indicated. Furthermore, a Galla x East African cross dam gave a favourable maternal heterosis that would be useful in raising Boer cross kids. Shortcomings in the experimental designs limited the information on maturing characters that could have also been generated by that study. On the same farm, Maasai and the Dorper with apparently a combination between 47/64 and 7/8 Dorper being ideal. In another study in high altitude areas, the Hampshire Down sheep grew faster than the Red Maasai with the Dorper being in between the two breeds and the carcass characteristic also differed between the breeds (Wachira et al, n.d.) while interactions between breed and sex occurred for meat traits.

The future 1990's

Given the experience of the past and the present, research projection on small ruminants by the year 2000 AD in Kenya may be viewed as follows:

1. A more integrated and co-ordinated approach will be needed instead of the research being zonal and addressing only small sections of the societies.

2. Well designed studies will be set that have adequate experimental material and without confounding effects in order to generate comprehensive information per unit of resource invested in research. Current methods of data analyses and animal evaluation will also be employed.

3. Products that have so far not been included in our priorities will be addressed - prime lamb and wool. A research laboratory in wool and mohair is envisaged in order to support the natural fibre industry. There should be more research on Merino, Corriadale, Romney mash sheep (which form more that 10% of the sheep population) and Angora goats. A proposal to develop a prime lamb production industry, near urban centres for ease of marketing has been proposed by Angwenyi (n.d.).

4. Revitalization of small ruminant breed societies and formation of new ones to promote and develop the characteristics of individual breeds in order to support any planned crossbreeding programmes.

5. More multidisciplinary approach to research will be in place in line with the example of SR-CRSP with multi-institutional involvement for any possible complementarily and more efficient use of research funds and research expertise and release of technological packages of different production systems.

6. More intensive search for resistant animals against endemic diseases and understanding the mode of inheritance of the possible resistance in order to cut down the cost of drugs in maintaining flocks.

7. More diversified fodder crops for small ruminants i.e. studies on shrubs and agro-forestry trees and use of goats for more efficient control of bush enchroachment in range areas.

8. Broaden the definition of small ruminants to include rabbits (in intensive agriculture) and small wildlife species like the undertake (in range areas) and undertake studies on the economic integration of those species in animal agriculture. In ranching situations, wildlife meat is relevant as tourist hotel industry moves into individual ranches and the lean wildlife meat may earn premiums. Harvesting of wildlife products from non-endangered species was recommended in 1985 (IBAR, 1986).

9. Small ruminant meat characteristics will be studied in detail including meat from the (new) species in order to develop objective grading criteria and more use of by-products from the small ruminant industry.

10. Use of biotechnological principles on breeding better animals and development of vaccines (animal health management through biotechnology). Embryo transfer technology will be built on the current Al experience and successful commercialisation of contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) vaccines will stimulate the development of multivalent vaccines to cut down cost of production and administration of the drugs.

11. Training in very specialised fields in small ruminant production i.e. reproductive physiology, embryo transfer, development of gene markers and probes etc.


Ahuya C O, Mwandotto B A J. Ruvuna F and Taylor J F. (n.d.). Use of heartgirth measurements to estimate liveweight in goats. (n.d.). In: Proceedings of the Eighth SR-CRSP Scientific Workshop, 7-8 March 1990, ILRAD, Nairobi, Kenya. Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 29- 32.

Angwenyi G N.1984. Effects of crossbreeding East African, Galla and Boer goats on body size, growth rate and kid survivability in Kenya. MSc thesis, Texas A & M University, College Station, USA.

Angwenyi G N. (n.d.). Performance of Suffolk sired lambs with Dorper x Maasai dams. In: Proceedings of the Seventh SR-CRSP Scientific Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya, 22-23 February 1989. Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program (SR-CRSP)/Animal Production Society of Kenya (APSK), Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 136-140.

Blackburn H D. 1984. Simulation of genetic and environmental interaction of sheep production in northern Kenya. PhD dissertation, Texas A&M University, College Station, USA.

Chabari F N. Ackello-Ogutu A C and Odhiambo M 0.1987. Factors determining market prices of small ruminants from a pastoral production system in Kenya. East African Agricultural and Forestry Journal 52(4) :286-292.

IBAR (Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources). 1986. Wildlife/livestock interfaces on rangelands. Proceedings of a conference held at Taita Hills Lodge, Kenya.

Mwandotto B A J. Ahuya C O. Ruvuna F and Taylor J F. (n.d.). Milk yield potential of the Kenya dual purpose goat (DPG). In: Proceedings of the Eighth SR-CRSP Scientific Workshop, 7-8 March 1990, ILRAD, Nairobi, Kenya. Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 12-14.

Ruvuna F. Cartwright T C, Blackburn H. Okeyo M and Chema S. 1988. Lactation performance of goats and growth rates of kids under different milking and rearing methods in Kenya. Animal Production 46:237-242.

Skea I W. (n.d.). A comparison between the Deguin and the Borana Galla goats over four years, with reference to fertility, fecundity and kid growth rates and milk production during the first 42 days. In: Proceedings of the Seventh SR-CRSP Scientific Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya, 22-23 February 1989. Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program (SR-CRSP)/Animal Production Society of Kenya (APSK), Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 131-135.

Thorpe W. Nyambaka R. Chabari F, ole Maki M and Rugema E. (n.d.). Small ruminants in the farming systems of coastal Kenya. In: Proceedings of the Eighth SR-CRSP Scientific Workshop, 7-8 March 1990, ILRAD, Nairobi, Kenya. Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 178-183.

Wachira J D, Kamau C R. Chemitei V C, Muia J K and Gichuru W N. (n.d.). Carcass composition evaluation of sheep grazed on Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) in high altitude area of Kenya. In: Proceedings of the Eighth SR-CRSP Scientific Workshop, 7-8 March 1990, ILRAD, Nairobi, Kenya. Small Ruminant Collaborative Research Support Program, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 295-309.

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