Ruminant Animals are animals with a complex stomach unlike the non-ruminants that have simple stomach. They are animals having four compartment stomach namely: rumen reticulum and abomasums. They eat and digest forages or plant based feed by swallowing it first and allowing it to get moistened in the rumem which is the first compartment of the complex stomach. The swallowed food is later regurgitated by the animal and re-chewed to break down the plant materials for digestion.
This process is called rumination of chewing the cud. Examples of ruminant animals are cattle. Sheep goats camel water buffalo giraffes antelopes to mention but a few. However we shall limit our discussion in this study to cattle sheep and goats that are commonly found in our environment.
Ruminant animals are categorized into two main classes based on their body size namely. The large ruminant animals and small ruminant animals. Examples of large ruminants are cattle water buffalo giraffe camel etc while small ruminants are sheep goat antelope etc. ruminants have an advantage of the ability to eat and utilize law quality fibrous food that cannot be eaten by human non-ruminants.
ORIGIN AND DOMESTICATION OF SHEEP
Sheep was first domesticated in the new stone age. Evidence for the domestication of sheep dates to 9000 BC in lraq. DNA analysis has shown that domestic sheep are descended from two ancestor species one of which is the moufflon. The moufflons comprise ovis musion and Ovis orientalis. Although the second ancestor has not been identified both the urial and argali have been rules out. The urial (O. vignei) is found from northeastern run to northwestern india. It has ahigher number of chromosomes (58) than domestic sheep (54) which makes it an unlikely ancestor of the latter but it interbreeds with the moufflon. The arguli sheep (O. ammon) of inner Asia (Tibet, Himalayas. Itay mountains tien-sha and pamir) has 56 chromosomes and the Siberian snow sheep (Ovis nivcold) has 52 chromosomes. This soay ram demonstrates the wide variance in sheep traits that belts the prototypical appearance of te animal. Historical records show that sheep provided primitive pastoral people with meat wool tallow skin and milk.
Sheep: the entire ovine species
Lambing: the act of giving birth to lambs in sheep
Lamb: sexually immature sheep of any ex
Ewe: female sheep after reaching sexual maturity or after producing an offspring.
Flock: a group of sheep kept together
Mutton: meat from mature sheep used as food
Flecece: another word for wool from sheep. It is used for clothing
Ram: adult male sheep
Docking: cutting of lamb’s tail keep the animal clean
Shearing: process of clipping wool from sheep
Tupping: act of mating
Bleating: sound produced
Advantages of sheep production
As compared to other classes of livestock. Sheep possesses the following natural advantages.
1. Sheep help control weeds.
2. Sheep production does not require elaborate facilities and equipment.
3. They are particularly good in the utilization of more arid type of grazing
4. They are good at utilizing wasteland and are also excellent scavengers.
5. Sheep consume roughage as their primary feed.
6. Compared to cattle, they produce more liberally in proportion to what consume
7. Some breeds, e.g. the wool type produce two products-wool and lamb available for market at two different periods of the yea.
8. Their returns come quickly; lambs may be marketed 8 months after the ewes are bred.
9. Sheep droppings are particularly less subjected to wastes because of the way they are dropped and tramped into the soil.
10. Their young ones, if properly fed, may be marketed when about a year old.
11. Their energy requirements are lower than those for other livestock enterprises. Also the energy requirements for fibre production by sheep are lower than those for synthetic fibres.
12. Sheep are highly adaptable an non competitive with humans for feed.
13. Sheep are easy to handle and generally require little input.
14. They reduce risks of losses to owners by being cheaper to replace.
15. Subsistence farmers keeping sheep need very small amounts of purchased animal feed because their stock can manage on very poor quality roughage if required.
16. With a 20% death rate a farmer with five sheep or goats will still have four animals. Whereas a farmer with one buffalo or cow is likely to be left with nothing
17. Sheep milk is the most nutritious milk on sale in the world today. Because of its high calcium content, sheep milk is also very good for the prevention of osteoporosis and for those people already suffering from it.
18. Sheep milk is an excellent raw material for the milk processing industry especially in cheese production.
19. Sheep with their small body size high productive capacity and rapid growth rates are ideally suited to production by resource-poor stallholders.
Disadvantages of sheep production
1. Sheep are subject to attack by predators including dogs
2. They are less resistant to discases or injuries
3. Sheep are susceptible to a number of parasites e.g worms
4. For the wool breeds, in the international market have always been politicized and moreover synthetic fibres is stiff competition with the wool
5. Sheep require better fencing than do cattle.
Procuring foundation stock for breeding
Ideally foundation breeding stock should be purchased from reputable sheep breeding farms or government livestock investigation and Breeding Centres LIBC so as to be certain of their purity high genetic quality and freedom from diseases. Unfortunately such sources are too few at present and where they exist, the number of breeding animal available for sale is limited. This leaves the open market as the main sources of breeder stock for farmers.
In purchasing animals from the market major consideration must be given to the animals health age and physical appearance. The behavior and posture of an animal are reflections of its health status. Age can be determined from the number and size of teeth. Therefore the farmer is advised to:
1. Buy animals that are from obvious diseases such catarrh. Diarrhea and skin diseases. Also ensure that animals are free of ectoparasites such as fleas and ticks on their bodies.
2. Avoid animals with physical defects such as lameness. Walk the animal around to find out blindness and malformations.
3. A lean or stunted animal should be avoided. Buy only alert, fine looking and active animals with bright eyes and fine coat.
4. Ewes (female sheep) should be between 1.5 and 3 years of age.
5. A -1.5 to 2 year-old sheep has two broad (big) central teeth, a-2 to 2.5 year-old has 4. While those aged about 3 years have 6 big teeth
6. Buy in small batches from many markets in different localities so as to have animals that are as unrelated as possible and to have genetic variety in your foundation stock.