Characterization of Sheep Production Practices in Mixed Crop-livestock and Agro-pastoral Systems of Central and Eastern Ethiopia
The study was conducted in Digelu-Tijo and Meiso districts representing the mixed crop-livestock and agro-pastoral production systems, respectively with an objective of characterizing sheep production practices. A total of 150 households from six rural kebeles (75 households from each production system) were selected randomly based on sheep population and accessibility. Data were collected through structured questionnaire, focus group discussion and field observation. The average number of sheep per household in mixed crop-livestock (12.5±0.99) was higher (p<0.001) than that of agro-pastoral production system (6.2±0.34). The purposes of keeping sheep in both production systems were to generate income followed by saving, meat, and manure. Natural pasture and crop residues were the major feed resources in both production systems. Water sources were largely rivers, springs, ponds and pipe with different magnitude of use during wet and dry seasons. The major diseases and parasites of sheep during the dry season were pasteurellosis, sheep pox, orf, parasites, peste des petits ruminants (PPR), foot and mouth disease (FMD) and blackleg, while, liver flukes and lungworms were common across the production systems during the wet season. The survey revealed predominance of uncontrolled mating (97.7%) in mixed crop-livestock than the agro-pastoral (50.7%) production system (p<0.05). Despite diverse production management practices identified, overall sheep production systems were affected by constraints related to feed and water shortages and prevalence of infectious and parasitic diseases. Thus, to increase sheep productivity, designing and implementing sustainable sheep production improvement programs targeting at solving these constraints are crucial.