During the first 10 years of Independence, when the combined sheep and goat population was moving around 1 000 000 units, smallstock farming was mainly for subsistence purposes. All of us were old enough to remember management inputs of our parents will remember that it was mainly:
- Herding of stock t stop them from destroying crops in ploughed fields
- Provision of drinking water
- Crude disease control or treatment composed mainly of drinking Mokgopa and cutting ears to bleed
- Fostring kids or mabs from poor milkers or dead mothers to other dams with better milk production capacities
- Protection of small kids/ lambs from weather effects by providing shelter
During these early years of Independence even at school we were taught the geography of Europe and America. I do not remember being taught about Africa or Southern Africa except Egypt because of the influence of the Nile river basin farming. The first time i was taught about Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland was in 1972 when i was doing my pre-entry for an agricultural course in Swaziland. We were taught that the value of smallstock in the BLS countries was:
- Milk Production
- Skins afor making Mats or blankets
- Meat for home consumption and ceremonial purposes
Now the question is, how do you make money out of smallstock?
Cattle, sheep and goats have the ability to convert plant carbohydrates and proteins into available nutrients for human use, making otherwise the human unusable pasture/ browse resource productive.
Goats are among the easiest animals to be domesticated and rank among important livestock species around the world. It is estimated that there are 570 goat breeds and over 1000 sheep breeds in the world. of the 570 goat breeds 89% are found in Africa. Cattle and sheep are mainy grazers, while goats are browsers. It would therefore be advisable to keep a mixed sheep and goat flock running with very few cows to graze down overgrown grasses.
In order to make good money out of livestock birth rates have to be as high as possible, death rates as low as possible and growth rates improved drastically. You can achieve this by drastically enhancing the environment under which sheep and goats survive and bring in improved genetics to boos growth rates.