livestock farming in Ghana is a key aspect in Ghana’s agriculture system, contributing toward meeting food needs and providing a monetary income. While the majority of rural households keep some sort of livestock, commercial farming has become popular.
Each of Ghana’s regions has a preferred livestock production: chicken farming dominates the Southern region; cattle production is concentrated in the Northern Savannah zones; pig farming is active in the Accra and Ashanti regions; sheep and goat production is prevalent in every region. Raising livestock in Ghana can be a rewarding experience as long as the livestock is housed, fed and vaccinated properly.
The livestock sector contributes in direct products about 7 percent of agricultural GDP in 2001 and comprises mainly dairy and meat production, eggs, hides, skins and wool from cows, sheep, goats and poultry.
Livestock Farming in Ghana
Domestic livestock meat production is low and amounted to 66,283 metric tons in the year 2000 of which beef contributed about 27 percent, mutton about 18 percent, goat meat and pig meat about 17 percent each, and poultry meat about 21 percent (SRID, 2001) [According to FAO data there were also 57,000 metric tons of game meat produced in 2000].
Domestic milk production is estimated at 13,700 metric tons for the same period. Both the meat and milk production represent about 30 percent of the national animal protein requirements. The country depends on imports of livestock, meat and milk to meet the animal protein shortfall.
It is, however, difficult to estimate the amount of livestock and meat imported, as most of the live imports from the northern neighbors, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, are not recorded. The quantity of livestock product imports (through the main port at Tema) in 1998 was 22,727 metric tons; made up of 10,143.5 metric tons poultry, 1,724.0 metric tons beef, 757 metric tons pork, 9,941.1 metric tons dairy and 362.7 other products
Livestock farming is the rearing of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and poultry. Two types of livestock fanning may be distinguished, namely traditional or pastoral and commercial.
livestock farming in Ghana – Pastoral Farming
The system is also referred to as subsistence livestock farming or nomadic pastoralism. It refers to extensive grazing on natural pasture involving constant or seasonal migration of nomads and their livestock.
The smallholder agro-pastoralism, the main cattle production system in Ghana, is geared towards beef production. It is linked with milk production system whereby milk is shared between the herdsman and the calf, with the surplus going to the market. In this system, settled farmers whose main occupation is crop cultivation own livestock.
Ownership may be direct, personal and individual, or in the form of trusteeship for family group property held in trust. Where a large herd is found the owning family group may be several, varying widely in size and in relationship. It frequently occurs that the apparent owner is not the sole owner and he is unable either to authorize or approve extensive interventions without consultation with the co-owners.
The practice of herding under smallholder agro-pastoralism has not changed over decades. It has been described as a function of the type of settlement and distribution of the community, influenced by other factors such as proximity to the frontier, security of danger from predators and cattle thieves and by the availability of and quantity of grazing areas.
In the compound farming areas, the cattle-owning people live in scattered compounds each surrounded by a farm. Soon after dawn each herd is released from the compound and driven through the compound farm by the owning family’s children. Herding is, however, by adult members of the family where there are standing crops.
The young children then take charge and herd them to a rendezvous where a number of herds are combined under the leadership of an older boy for grazing. Towards the end of the afternoon they gradually make their way back towards their homes.
After harvesting annual crops, it is the practice of some communities in the north-west and the north-east of the country to drive their herds from the compounds into the unfarmed areas without any form of herding, where they remain wholly untended until the next farming season. This is an annual event and generally cattle from a group of compounds tend to keep together and go to the same grazing grounds year after year.
They follow the same annual itinerary from one grazing place and watering point to another until with the approach of the next farming season make their way on their own accord to the vicinity of the settlements from which they came. Diseases, accidents and theft tend to diminish the stock population during this period of free range.
Elsewhere in the country, human settlements are nucleated and herding methods are consequently different. Cultivated land is located at a little distance from the settlement and grazing land is much further away. In these circumstances herding is usually by hired Fulani herdsmen.
Livestock Farming in Ghana – Problems Facing Pastoralism
- Climatic hazards – The areas where pastoralism is practiced receive low and unreliable rainfall. At times they experience prolonged drought. This leads to lack of water and sufficient pasture for the animals.
- Pests and diseases – Pests such as ticks and the tsetse fly, and diseases e.g. rinderpest, anthrax, east coast fever etc. are common in the pastoral areas. This has contributed to the death of large herds of animals.
- Overstocking – In most instances the pastoralists keep large herds far exceeding the land carrying capacity. This has led to soil erosion and environment degradation.
- Poor pastures – Most of the pastoral areas are underlain by poor soil. This cannot support quality pastures. Most areas are thus covered by poor pastures consisting of Taft grasses and bare land.
- Cattle rustling – This is a big cause of insecurity among the pastoralists and it always leads to loss of life and destruction of property.
- Inadequate transport network – The pastoral areas are inaccessible. Fanners are therefore not able to get their animals to the market.
- Inadequate veterinary services – Extension services in the pastoral areas are inadequate hence it is difficult to treat or improve the animals. It is difﬁcult to provide these services due to insecurity and given that the pastoralists are always on the move.
livestock farming in Ghana – Commercial.
Commercial cattle farming, with absentee ownership by professionals and businessmen, are almost entirely limited to the Coastal Savannah zone with varying levels of management. There are also a few farms belonging to para-statal institutions with herds ranging from 1,000 to 3,000.
In this system, cattle graze on sown pastures as well as natural pastures, which are often improved with forage legumes. The system represents a comparatively safe, automatically incremental and readily realizable investment. There are no large-scale commercial sheep and goat farms in the country.
livestock farming in Ghana – Feeding systems.
Sustenance for cattle, and to lesser extent small ruminants, is almost entirely dependent on grazing on natural pastures, with its extreme seasonal variation in quantity and quality. Most farmers practice supplementary feeding, using crop residues, in the dry season. Those who fatten cattle and back-yard sheep and goat farmers in the cities and towns practice stall-feeding.
The animals are fed on both crop residues in the form of groundnut tops, maize cobs, by-products from grain winnowing, cowpea pods, and peels of plantain and cassava. These are often supplemented with cut grass and browse as well as leaves from fodder plants.
In some communities practicing compound farming, sheep and goats are only let loose after the crops are harvested. Otherwise they are tethered and graze in a limited area. The animals are moved to different areas daily to ensure that they have access to adequate forage.
Livestock Farming in Ghana – Livestock resources
The ruminant industry is composed largely of small-scale enterprises involved in the rearing of cattle, sheep, and goats. The ruminant livestock population stood at 1.3 million cattle, 2.7 million sheep and 3.1 million goats in the year 2000. In addition, there were 2,700 horses and 13,100 donkeys. By 2004 FAO data indicate that there were 1.37 million cattle, 3.11 million sheep and 3.6 million goats (as well as 300,000 pigs and 29.5 million poultry).
The most prominent cattle breed in the country is the West African Shorthorn (WASH). The name of the breed is coined as a general descriptive term to cover all the variations of small non-humped cattle, generally black and white in colour but sometimes fawn and white. It is an indigenous tough breed of cattle, thick set with short fine-boned limbs.
Zebu influence in the WASH becomes much more marked towards the northern frontier and especially towards the north-east where the tsetse challenge is much less (Hutchinson, 1962). The breed accounts for about half the cattle in the country and has developed a degree of tolerance to tsetse-borne trypanosomiasis.
The Sanga, a natural cross between the WASH and the large humped Zebu cattle, follows the WASH in abundance. The Zebu cattle, which are susceptible to trypanosomiasis, are found mainly in tsetse fly free areas. There are no pure exotic dairy cattle in the country at the moment. Most of the crossbred dairy cattle available now, about 500, were produced through artificial insemination with imported semen.
The major sheep breed, the indigenous West African Dwarf or Djallonké breed is distributed nation-wide. The breed is acknowledged for its hardiness, trypanotolerance, prolificacy and suitability for year-round breeding.
Although it is a small animal, with an adult weight of 25-30 kg in males and 20-25 kg in females, the Djallonké does not exhibit traits associated with dwarfism. The larger and long-legged Sahelian sheep, and crosses between the Djallonké and the Sahelian sheep, are found mostly in the north of the country and peri-urban areas.
Most goats in Ghana are of the indigenous West African Dwarf (WAD) breed, an achondro-plastic dwarf. The adult male weighs 20-25 kg and the female 18-22 kg. The breed is very prolific, precocious and trypanotolerant and are found throughout the country. There are considerable numbers of the much larger and long-legged and exotic Sahelian as well as crosses between the WAD and the Sahelian goats in the north of the country and in the peri-urban areas.
livestock farming in Ghana – Non-ruminant herbivores.
Most horses in the country are used as symbols of authority and wealth by chiefs in the northern sector of the country and for racing and polo games. Donkeys are used mainly for carting goods. Ghana has an array of herbivorous wildlife that ranges in size from the massive elephant to rodents, which live on forages and food crops.
They are present in all the agro-ecological zones, vegetation types and farming systems. Wildlife is a source of considerable value to the nutrition and economy of many rural households as a source of animal protein and income respectively. The species of wildlife commonly exploited for food in the country is the West African grass (sugar cane) cutter, Thrynomys swinderianus (ADB, 2001).
Attempts are being made by researchers and farmers to domesticate and breed the grass cutter and render it more available to reduce the rate of harvest from the wild.
livestock farming in Ghana – Livestock Stations in Ghana
livestock farming in Ghana – Kintampo Goat Breeding station
The station provides improved breeding goats to farmers and carries out on farm trials in collaboration with the universities and research stations in Ghana to formulate extension packages for dissemination by the Agricultural Extension Agents.
The station also supports the training of deprived groups especially women who are interested in goat production and management
livestock farming in Ghana – Ejura Sheep Breeding Station
Ejura Sheep Breeding Station is located in the transitional zone of the country at Bonyon in Ejura, The mandate of the farm is to produce and supply genetically superior and tested progeny of the Djallonke sheep to farmers in the country.
livestock farming in Ghana – Babile Pig Breeding Station
The Babile Pig breeding Station is mandated to carry out breed improvement of the Ashanti Black forest pig through breed selection and breeding and to supply the superior breed to farmers for multiplication.
Over the years it has contributed immensely to improving the genetic traits of ABP and has provided breeding stock for farmer’s country wide for breeding purposes and NGOs/ organizations who use livestock as a medium in their poverty alleviation strategies.
The station collaborates with research institutions and the universities in upgrading the reproductive performance of the ABP and has provided trainings over the years in rearing and management pigs in general for interested groups.
livestock farming in Ghana – Pong Tamale Livestock Breeding Station
The station is mandated to carry out breed improvement of Sahelian sheep and goats, and the West African Shorthorn cattle through breed selection and breeding and to supply the superior breed to farmers for multiplication.
It is also mandated to maintain the genetic potentials of the Large White pig and supply to farmers for multiplication.
The station also has a ‘Livestock Demonstration Village’ where visitors can gain practical knowledge in animal husbandry practices and management.
livestock farming in Ghana – Aveyime Cattle Ranch
The aim was to enhance national cattle production in the catchment area of the project by producing genetically superior beef cattle for sale to the local cattle breeders, private farmers and institutions in the coastal savanna zone of Ghana to improve the national herd.
The ranch also provided extension and veterinary services to breeders and farmers in the catchment area
livestock farming in Ghana – Nungua Livestock Breeding Station
The Nungua Livestock Breeding Station (NLBS), popularly called Animal Husbandry or Nungua Farm is one of the national breeding stations of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture under the directorate of Animal Production. NLBS is located in Accra off the Accra- Tema motorway. It was established in 1938 for livestock breeding and distribution to farmers to upgrade their stock and has remained as such to this day.
The NLBS is a multi-specie non-ruminant nucleus breeding station for pigs, rabbits and glasscutters.
The station has been at the forefront of supplying high quality breeding stock to farmers across the country especially in the southern half of Ghana.
livestock farming in Ghana -Amrahia Dairy Farm (ADF)
The ADF by its mandate is to develop through selection of the Sanga a dual purpose animal for the dairy industry. To prosecute this mandate, the station is engaged in the production of crossbreds from the Sanga and Friesian and/or Jersey with a potential for higher milk production.
Through selective breeding, crosses involving the Sanga (dam line) and the Friesian/ Jersey (sire line) are developed. The crossbreds are expected to combine the good qualities of the Sanga (local adaptation) and the high milk production quality of the sire lines.
The farm is located on the Accra – Dodowa road about 27 km from Accra.
livestock farming in Ghana – Livestock Associations
These are just a few of the associations that can provide current information about livestock policies, regulations and licenses in Ghana:
The Ghana National Association of Pig Farmers (GNAPF) is a non-profit organization, whose primary function is to support the efforts of pig farmers and pig industry personnel. Membership is available to all pig farmers in Ghana. Register at GNAPF’s website, www.gnapf.org, to receive a free newsletter and find out about the latest news, research, policies and funding opportunities available to pig farmers in Ghana.
The Poultry Development Board was formed in 2005 and has been instrumental in conducting poultry workshops, establishing bio-security schools to educate poultry farmers about disease prevention, and funding research projects aimed at improving the poultry industry in Ghana.
Tema Municipal Poultry and Livestock Farmers Association can be contacted at:
P.O. Box CS 8689
Information on how to reach the Poultry Farmer’s Association of Ghana can be found by contacting the Ministry of Information at firstname.lastname@example.org or at:
P.O. Box M41
Ghana Cattle Farmers Association can be found by contacting the Ministry of Information at email@example.com or at:
P.O. Box M41