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Review Paper
Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 2001;14(10): 1483-1496.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.2001.1483    Published online October 1, 2001.
Small Ruminants: Imperatives for Productivity Enhancement Improved Livelihoods and Rural Growth - A Review
C. Devendra
Small ruminants form an important economic and ecological niche in small farm systems and agriculture. Their current low level of contribution is dismal, and is not commensurate with the potential capacity for higher levels of production. The context for productivity enhancement and increased socio-economic contribution relates to large sizes of small ruminant populations; wide distribution across various agro-ecological zones and production systems; and diversity of breeds, where 66% of all goat and 57% of sheep breeds in Asia are found in China, India and Pakistan. The advantages and disadvantages of small ruminants over larger ruminants are enumerated with reference to adaptation and environment, small size, production systems and products and interactions with the environment. Discussion focuses especially on efficiency of meat production and niche markets for higher-priced goat meat, and inefficient marketing systems given an estimated 40-45% loss of income to farmers presently. Increasing the quantity of meat produced is related to live weight and the total number of animals at slaughter, which in turn, depend on the total number of offsprings weaned and lifetime productivity. At the national level, priority attention is essential to build up numbers in concerted breeding programmes, selection for efficiency of reproduction and meat production, and improvements to make traditional markets and marketing systems to respond to the changing environmental and consumer preferences. Post-production systems are neglected and improvements are associated with collection, handling, marketing, slaughter facilities and consumer requirements. Potential opportunities to expand and benefit from integrating small ruminants into annual and perennial cropping systems remain largely unexplored. Important development imperatives include choice of species and better use of available breeds, appropriate production systems that match available feed resources, and linkages between production, products and by-products to markets. Affirmative action is necessary, backed by official policy support, institutional commitment and increased resource use, that can target poverty and directly benefit the poor, and shift subsistence production to a more market-oriented opportunity. These efforts together constitute the challenges for both the owners and producers of small ruminants in the immediate future, as also the will to accelerate increased productivity, improve their livelihoods and promote rural growth.
Keywords: Small Ruminants; Breeds; Production Systems; Meat Production; Efficiency; Markets and Marketing
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