Sheep Farming In Ghana, sheep play an important role in the food production systems. Their popularity can be explained by their good adaptation to many different climates (ecological adaptation) and uses for which they can be kept.
Sheep (mutton) and goat (chevron) are highly patronized by revelers of “chop bar” in all the regions across the nation. This point to the fact that a big market exist for the meat in Ghana.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Breeds
Sheep breeds are classified as
- Exotic wool sheep
- Fine wool e.g. Merino
- Medium wool breeds e.g. Corriedale, Hampshire, Suffolk, Dorset Horn
- Improved hair sheep
Indigenous hair sheep
- Thin tailed
- Fat tailed e.g. Maasai sheep (Red Maasai)
- Fat rumped e.g. Blackhead Persian, Somali sheep
Merino originated from Africa but was developed in Spain then spread to other parts of the world. Merino is important for fine wool production in range areas because of their hardiness, excellent flocking instinct and efficiency in utilization of low quality forage.
Crossbreeding Dorpers and Hampshires produces offspring with quality mutton and fast growth rates since they mature in five to six months. During selection, go for suitable quality breeds as per your desired production.
Although pure breeding is still done, cross breeds with dorpers and Hampshires has offspring’s with fast growth rates and quality mutton. The offspring’s are ready for the market in 5 – 6 months.
This was developed from Lincoln and Merino in Australia and is known for long wool and Merino fine wool. It is a dual sheep important for both mutton and wool capable of competitively producing both at a ratio of 50:50.
They are hardy and can survive in semi-arid areas. The dam breed is very fertile producing enough milk for the young ones and has good temperament. However breeding should be guarded against kempy fiber on the head and shoulders.
They are the smallest and oldest of the medium breeds. They give quality wool and provide fat lamb. South down have a fast growth rate and can afford to lamb at weaning.
They are also highly prolific with about 125 – 150% lambing rate. But the very small body size limits the final weight of fat lambs and the fleece produced is light.
Because of their size cross breeding is not encouraged and the breed is dying in Ghana.
This is the largest of the medium sized breeds after Suffolk. It has high growth rate with an average size of 80Kg. they are also quite prolific at 125 – 150% lambing rates.
The breed is good for cross breeding for upgrading purposes. The sire is very fertile, aggressive and big in size making them the most important sire breeds. But conformation is limiting by the heavy shoulders at the front quarters tapering towards the rear quarters. Wool quality is low with dark and black fibers in the face and neck.
The breed was developed for wool and mutton. The wool produced is long and coarse therefore of low quality and the mutton and fat lambs are also of poor quality.
Romney marsh can survive in marshy and wet areas because of their resistance to foot rot. The hooves are black and very hard making it difficult for pathogens to enter. They are efficient utilizers of pastures but the meat is delicate as it tends to retain tainting from pastures. Their cool temperament makes them easy to handle.
The breed was developed from a cross between black head Persian and Dorset Horn. By 1950 the first consignment of Dorper had arrived in Katumani Research Station. Rams were sold to Eastern Province.
This is an improved hair sheep and it is important for mutton in marginal areas. They are hardy and produce quality meat. They have a faster growth rate and fertility compared to the indigenous.
One limitations of the breed is the deposition of too much subcutaneous fat. The Red Maasai is also an improved hair sheep used to cross breed with the Dorper.
The breed is popular in south west Ghana and north Tanzania. They are important for mutton in marginal areas because they are hardy. The coat color is distinguished.
They are good milkers and have high fertility. The size has large variations. Areas that need improvements in crossbreeding are size, fertility, fat distribution from the tail and behind the neck and growth rate.
They are fat ramped mainly found in Somali, North Eastern Province of Kenya and Sudan. They are hardy; the skin quality is higher than other indigenous hair sheep and is important for mutton production.
They are generally white coloured although usually spotted with black or red colours. Tan with black belly is also common. They have a wither height of 40-60 cm and a body weight of 20-30 kg; these measurements indicate their characteristic small size. The horns of rams are crescent shaped with angular cross sections; the ewes are polled or have tiny scars. The eyes are large; their back is straight; their tail is fairly thick at the root growing thinner till it terminates at the hocks. Male have a throat ruff and mane. They are hair type.
West African Dwarf sheep
The West African Dwarf is generally white or piebald, the front half being black and the back half white. However, skewbald (tan on white) and the blackbelly pattern are found, and the Kirdi type are specially selected to be entirely black. Rams weigh approximately 37 kg (82 lb), have a well-developed throat ruff and are usually horned. The horns are wide at the base, curve backwards, outwards and then forwards again, with a maximum of one and a half coils. Ewes weigh about 25 kg (55 lb) and are usually polled (hornless), but may have slender short horns. The ears are short and pendulous, the neck is long and slender, the chest is deep, the legs are short, the back is long and dished, higher at the withers than at the tail-head, and the tail reaches the hocks
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Site selection
- Distance to neighboring residence
- Direction of prevailing winds in relation to neighbors
- An adequate source of water
- Topography (avoid steep hill)
- Soil type (well-drained soil)
- Proximity to surface water bodies, sinkholes and flood plains
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Housing
The house should be clean and with dry beddings, proper drainage and be suitable enough to keep the animals safe from adverse weather conditions and predators. An adult sheep requires about 16 to 20 square feet floor spacing and lambing pens 16 to 25 square feet. Keep the roof at least 6ft high from the floor with good ventilation system to allow sufficient air flow and light. The house should also be easily accessible during deliveries and manure handling.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Materials needed for pen construction
Housing for sheep/goat can be constructed from both traditional and non-traditional materials:
- Wood (boards and scantlings)
- Iron sheet
- Concrete/bricks (expensive but durable)
- Local mud fortified with cement
- Tree branches
- Thatched roof
- Combination of any of the above
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Floor space for pen construction
Ram/Ewe (Adult) 12-20sq ft.
Ewe with lamb: 15-22sq ft.
Feeder lamb: 10-12sq ft.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Space requirements
When confined to a building, a bred ewe requires 12 to 16 square feet of living space. Lambing pens should be 16 to 25 square feet in size. In group housing, a ewe with her lambs needs 16 to 20 square feet. Feeder lambs need 8 to 10 square feet.
Less space is required if sheep are raised on slatted floors or if they have access to an exercise area or pasture. Shearing before housing will allow stocking rates in the barn to be increased by up to 20%.
Recommended housing space (square feet) for sheep and lambs
|.||Dirt lot||Open shed||Confinement
|Ewe with lambs||25||12||16-20||10-12|
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Ventilation
Barns should not be heated or closed up. Good ventilation is an absolute must. Respiratory problems (e.g. pneumonia and bronchitis) often result from poor ventilation. If ammonia can be smelled in the barn, ventilation is likely inadequate.
Ventilation can be accomplished by either natural or mechanical means, but usually naturally-ventilated cold housing is preferable for sheep. It is better to over-ventilate than under-ventilate. The only requirement is that sheep have a dry, draft-free area for lambing.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Bedding
Bedding provides warmth, insulation, and comfort to housed animals. Various materials can be used for bedding for sheep, depending upon their cost and availability: straw, hay, dried corn stalks, corn cobs, peanut hulls, cottonseed hulls, oat hulls, sawdust, wood shavings, wood chips, pine shavings, sand, paper products, peat, hemp, and leaves. Each type of bedding has advantages and disadvantages.
Straw is the traditional bedding for livestock. It comes from the stems of small grains: oats, wheat, rye or barley. Since straw has many uses other than livestock bedding sometimes it costs more than alfalfa hay. As a result, hay is often a cheaper alternative than straw.
Sawdust is not good bedding for wooled sheep because it gets in their fleeces, but works fine for hair sheep. Wood chips or peanut shells are less absorbent than other materials, but can be used as bedding.
Shredded paper (or newsprint) is more absorbent than straw, but is more difficult to handle and may look offensive when spread on fields. Sand has been used by dairy farms to reduce mastitis and improve cow comfort. No matter what material is used for bedding, it needs to be clean and dry.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Livestock bedding alternatives
|Bedding material||Absorption factor*|
|Oat straw||2.4 to 2.5|
|Sawdust||1.5 to 2.5|
|Shavings||1.5 to 2.0|
|* Weight of water held per unit of try material.
Assumes initial moisture content of bedding < 10%.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Feeding
High quality and nutritious feeds are mandatory for optimal growth, maximum production and have a disease-free healthy flock. Sheep requires a daily feed intake of about 3 per cent of their body weight and usually all types of grasses and plants make food for the animals, apart from hay. They should be fed according to their nutrient requirements, age and weight and stage or level of production. Generally, they require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.
Flushing is done to ewes by providing better quality pasture to increase ovulation rate and subsequent lambing rate. Diet for sheep remains the same unless flushing to improve their body condition before breeding.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Breeding
Ewe lambs should not be bred until after puberty between five and 12 months or 70 per cent of their mature weight while ram lambs between five and seven months of age, at 50 to 60 percent of their mature weight. Testicle size is a good indication of a ram’s sperm-producing ability normally taking 49 days. Before breeding, ewes should be dewormed using anthelmintic, have their hooves trimmed and vaccinated if need be.
Mating may consist of using one ram per group of ewes. A ram to ewe ratio of 1:25 for ram lambs and 1:35 or more for mature rams is recommended. If natural breeding does not yield satisfactory results, it is possible to artificially manipulate the reproductive cycle of the ewe through using hormones like melatonin and prostaglandin or introduction of a teaser ram to stimulate ovulation.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Lambing
Overfed ewes experience lambing difficulties hence they should be assisted by extracting or repositioning the lambs. Allow ewes to lick, clean and suckle their lambs for colostrum’s. When lambs are several weeks old, identification through ear tagging should done, docking, castration and vaccination commonly anti-clostridial must also be done at about 10 to 12 weeks; and re-vaccinated annually about three weeks before lambing to provide high antibody concentrations in colostrum during the first several hours after lambing.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Parasites and Disease Control
Common Sheep Diseases
Blue tongue is an insect–transmitted, viral disease of sheep, cattle, goats, and other ruminants, such as white–tailed deer and pronghorn. It is particularly damaging in sheep; half the sheep in an infected flock may die. In cattle and goats, however, blue tongue viruses cause very mild, self–limiting infections with only minor clinical consequences. A blue tongue virus infection causes inflammation, swelling, and hemorrhage of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and tongue.
Inflammation and soreness of the feet also are associated with blue tongue. In sheep, the tongue and mucous membranes of the mouth become swollen, hemorrhagic, and may look red or dirty blue in color, thus giving the disease its name. Blue tongue viruses are spread from animal to animal by biting gnats. In the United States, the disease is most prevalent in the southern and southwestern States.
Animals cannot directly contact the disease from other animals. The blue tongue vaccine for sheep is only effective against certain serotypes, will not prevent the disease, and may cause adverse reactions. Pregnant ewes should not be vaccinated.
Bloat occurs when rumen gas production exceeds the rate of gas elimination. Gas then accumulates causing distention of the rumen. The skin on the left side of the animal behind the last rib may appear distended. Bloat can be a medical emergency, and timely intervention may be necessary to prevent death. Bloat is a common cause of sudden death in livestock. It usually results from nutritional causes.
There are two types of bloat: frothy and free gas.
- Frothy Bloat (pasture bloat)
Frothy bloat is usually associated with the consumption of legumous forages, but may also occur in sheep grazing lush cereal grain pastures or wet grass pastures or consuming grain that is too finely ground. Animals with frothy bloat can be treated with anti-foaming agents such as cooking oil or mineral oil or a commercial product such as Poloxalene.
- Free Gas Bloat (feed lot bloat)
Free grass bloat is associated with grain feeding and occurs when animals were not given enough of an adjustment period. Many of the same factors causing acidosis are associated with free-gas bloat. Simple passage of a stomach tube may be effective at relieving free gas bloat. Inserting a trochar or needle into the abdomen is a life-saving procedure that should only be attempted as a last resort.
Tetanus (lock jaw)
Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, a soil inhabitant that is a prolific spore producer. This disease is usually related to docking and castrating by elastrator bands, though any wound can harbor the tetanus organism.
Signs of tetanus occur from about four days to three weeks or longer after infection is established in a wound. The animal may have a stiff gait, “lockjaw” can develop and the third eyelid may protrude across the eye. The animal will usually go down with all four legs held out straight and stiff and the head drawn back. Convulsions may occur and the animal.
Treatment consists of the tetanus anti-serum and antibiotics. It is usually unrewarding. Tetanus can be prevented by vaccinating pregnant ewes 30 days before lambing. If pregnant ewes were not vaccinated for tetanus, the tetanus anti-toxin can be administered to lambs at the time of docking and/or castrating. The tetanus anti-toxin provides immediate short-term immunity and can be used at the time of docking and castrating to prevent disease outbreaks.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Sheep parasites
The impact of parasites on sheep can range from being virtually undetectable, through to obvious clinical signs or even death. Symptoms are often aggravated by periods of stress such as lambing, weaning and poor nutrition. Control and eradication (where possible) relies on sound management and correct application of veterinary chemicals.
The main worms that affect sheep are the scour worms, including brown stomach worm (Teladorsagia, or Ostertagia) and black scour worm (Trichostrongylus) which can cause ill thrift, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, death.
Barber’s pole worm
Barber’s pole worm, which can cause anaemia (visible as pale mucous membranes of the gums and around the eyes), subcutaneous oedema (bottle jaw) and sheep deaths, can also be a major problem in some areas.
The main costs associated with managing these parasites are chemicals and labour involved in applying treatments as well as reduced productivity. Other costs include those associated with increased occupational health and safety risks for operators and for shearers, wool classers and others handling treated sheep or wool.
Reducing the risk of flystrike has immense benefits to the health and wellbeing of sheep, the people who work with them and business/farm productivity. Predicting your risk of flystrike will depend on environmental conditions as well as how susceptible your sheep are.
‘Sheep measles’ or ‘Cysticercus ovis’ is the name given to the cystic intermediate life cycle stage in sheep of Taenia ovis, a tapeworm parasite of dogs. If detected at slaughter, the small cysts in sheep muscle must be trimmed, or if severe, the carcass condemned, causing financial loss to the producer or abattoir.
This serious parasite of ruminants and some other animals is not present in Western Australia, and a stringent quarantine process is in place to prevent its introduction from other states. It is essential to ensure familiarity with the entry requirements before importing livestock.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Marketing
Market for sheep is unlimited in form of whole carcass for butcheries or primal cuts due to the rising demand for mutton, foundation stock for breeding, wool whose price has also gone up lately and other hygienically value-added products. Exporting to international market where their products have a huge demand is also an option especially through Ghana Meat Commission.
Sheep Farming in Ghana – Advantages of sheep keeping
- Sheep provide good source of income in barren, desert, semi-arid and mountainous areas.
- A sheep enterprise requires little labour and small capital to start.
- Sheep require little space and can be raised alongside other livestock.
- They eat wide varieties of plants, thus, utilizing even the available low quality forage sufficiently.
- When properly managed, a sheep farming business can be a great source of income as products such as wool and meat are in high demand.