There exists a growing demand for high quality sheep and goats among the high-end domestic markets and global export markets. The factors contributing to this growing demand includes growing populations, increased urbanisation and improved affluence from growing economies.
Presently, Kenya’s top export market for her sheep and goats is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with an estimated USD 30 million worth of exports in 2020. This represents 55 per cent of the total export share. Other export markets exist in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, among others.
Both export and high-end domestic markets require animals that are of a certain age and weight to be accepted for sale. Current players in the livestock production systems need to understand these requirements so they can attract and maintain a steady market for their animals.
Like the case of beef cattle, sheep and goats can benefit from improved quality by undergoing through an intensive finishing and fattening regime, commonly known as a feedlot.
A feedlot is a farming operation where animals are put in an enclosure at a certain age and weight. They are then intensively fed on high quality balanced feed to attain a certain slaughter weight and quality within a specified period.
Requirements for high-end domestic and export markets
The high-end domestic markets require sheep to attain 25 kilograms of body weight in less than 12 months. This weight is achieved by aiming at an average daily gain of more than 65 grams per day for a period of 12 months. If the sheep are passing through a 35-day feedlot period, you can realistically aim at an average daily gain of more than 135 grams from birth to weaning at 120 days, and then 250 grams in an intensive finishing program for 35 days. For goats to attain 50 kilograms, they must gain an average of more than 90 grams per day for 18 months.
Export markets have different requirements depending on the importing country. For example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) requires one-year old sheep that have attained between 15-20 kilograms market weight. This represents an average daily weight gain of more than 50 grams per day for a period of 12 months. Goats need to have attained between 16-18 kilograms within a period of 18 months, representing an average daily weight gain of about 45 grams.
Other export markets require sheep with 30-35 kilograms of market weight in less than 15 months of age for sheep (average daily weight gain of 65g). If such an animal is scheduled to pass through a 50-day finishing and fattening program, aim at an average weight gain of more than 135 grams per day from birth to weaning for 120 days, and thereafter 250 grams per day for 50 days.
To continuously supply to these markets, it is important for pastoralists to improve reproduction of the breeding animals by using good breeds that can gain weight within the recommended period. Supplementary feeding during dry pregnant state of 60 days and dry season supplementary feeding during dry production part (123 days) when at high state of production is also encouraged.
Lambs marketed at less than 12 months should undergo supplementary feeding at 300 grams of feed per day during the dry season and 30 grams per day mineral supplementation or 300 grams per day production supplementation.
Nutritional ratios for intensive production of sheep
Sheep and goats should be provided with 15% crude protein and 25-28% roughage for the starter rations, and then 14% crude protein for the finisher rations in the intensive finishing programme.
Roughage should be provided as follows. Starters’ feed should include 25-28% of Lucerne against 20-24% of grass hay, while that of growers and finishers should include 18-22% of Lucerne against 15-18% of grass hay.
Grass hay is ideal for sheep feedlotting. For grain by-product levels, provide 48-53% during the starter phase and 58-62% during the grower/finisher phase, with a pack of Vitamin/mineral pack (Vitamin A, D, E) and lower Copper levels for sheep, as they are sensitive to high copper levels. The Calcium to Phosphorous ratio should be as close as possible to 2:1– 2.5:1.
Goats are currently exported without passing through this phase as smaller-sized animals are required by the export market; the high-end domestic market does not majorly use goat meat. Therefore, the above nutritional information applies to the feedlotting of sheep and lambs, especially for the domestic market.
Deputy Director, Livestock production
State Department for Livestock
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives