A detailed survey was conducted among 150 shepherds depending on sheep farming for their livelihood to know the information about breed preferred and various managemental practices followed like feeding, housing, breeding and healthcare in rural and peri-urban areas in and around Proddatur town, kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Among the total shepherds surveyed, 72% were maintaining Nellore brown sheep and 28% were maintaining goats also along with sheep. 86% of the shepherds were landless and no shepherd was engaging outside labour for rearing animals. 64% of shepherds preferred extensive system of management, followed by semi intensive system (34%) and intensive system (2%). Majority of the shepherds were taking the animals for grazing in the open lands, nearby forests and hilly areas for about 10 hrs in the winter and 6 hrs in summer. More than 86% shepherds were aware of heat symptoms in sheep and goat and only 28% shepherds were maintaining 2-3 rams per flock for practicing flock mating while only 18% shepherds were aware of exchange of rams and were exchanging them after every 2 years. 98% of shepherds were deworming and 96% vaccinating their sheep at regular intervals to keep them healthy. Approximately 90% of shepherds were seeking the help of a veterinarian for the vaccination and treatment of the commonly encountered diseases in this region.
India possesses 65.07 millions of sheep and 135.17 millions of goat (BAHS 2014). Sheep and goat contributes to nearly 7% and 16% of the production of meat respectively. The average meat production from sheep is highest in the state of Andhra Pradesh with 0.199 million tonnes per year. Andhra Pradesh ranks first in sheep (263.7 lakhs) and fifth in goat (90.65 lakhs) (BAHS, 2014). Kadapa possess 15.04 lakhs sheep and 5.06 lakhs goat (Socio Economic Survey, 2014-15).
Kadapa has a tropical wet and dry climate characterized by year round high temperatures. In these climatic conditions majority of the farmers are engaged in animal husbandry because crop production is not economical. Sheep and goats constitute a good source of family income and livelihood for smallholder farmers (Iyayi et al., 2004; Salem-Ben and Smith, 2008; Shittu et al., 2008). Sheep and goats are efficiently reared on marginal lands and are good users of crop residues (Fakoya, 2002 and Sanni et al., 2004). Small ruminants have been reported to be prolific and need only short gestation periods to increase flock size (Otchere, 1986). This thus makes traditional small ruminant production system a low input but high output enterprise with predictable profitability and economic returns (Nwafor, 2004).
Sheep farming is one of the major sources of economic sustenance for marginal farmers and landless laborers due to low initial investment and easy rearing (Sanni et al., 2004, Mbilu, 2007. Sheep are well adapted to critical climatic conditions even in inadequate water supply and fodder availability conditions. During periods of unpredictable food shortage, sheep have proven very useful to human beings in the supply of meat and milk products (Gatenby, 2002, Iyayi et al., 2004). Sheep also contribute enormously to the protein requirements of most developing countries (Mandal et al., 2007 and Muhammad et al., 2008). Besides short generation time (gestation period) and high fecundity, sheep are generally known to have high production efficiency.
Hence the present study was aimed at assessing the management practices of sheep production in terms of housing, feeds and feeding, breeding as well as the major constraints to production in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh.
Materials and Methods
The present survey was conducted in Kadapa district, located at 14.47°N 78.82°E in the Rayalseema region of the south-central part of Andhra Pradesh, India. It covers an area of approximately 164.08 per sq.km with human population density as 2,100 per sq.km. A multistage cluster sampling was employed to select the farmers in rural and peri-urban areas in and around Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, India. In the first stage, five mandals were selected randomly from the district and in the second stage five villages from each mandal were selected and in the third stage six households maintaining sheep were selected randomly. Thus 150 sheep farmers rearing sheep were selected for the present study. Information on preferred breed, breeding methods used and on various managemental practices followed like feeding, housing and healthcare were collected through formal interviews using a structured questionnaire. The data on different managemental practices were tabulated, frequency and percentages was calculated as per standard procedure.
Results and Discussion
Among the total shepherds surveyed, 72% were maintaining Nellore brown sheep and was the most preferred breed in the region and 28% were maintaining goats also along with sheep. The results of present survey showed that majority (64%) shepherds rear their animals under extensive system of management, while 34% shepherds rear under semi intensive system and remaining shepherds (2%) maintain under intensive system. It was also found that majority (96%) of the shepherds preferred to have kaccha housing. Similar observations were also reported by Dass et al., 2012, Kailash and Kavita, 2015. Generally this type of flooring lead to unhygienic conditions during the rainy season that makes the animals susceptible to various diseases (Suresh et al., 2008, Rajanna et al., 2013).
Sheep are mainly grazers, they prefer 50% grasses, 30% forbes and 20% shrubs. All the shepherds were allowing sheep for grazing early in the morning in summer and late in winters. It was observed that 86% of the shepherds were landless and were allowing them for grazing in the open lands, nearby forests and hilly areas for about 10 hrs in the winter and 6 hrs in summer, whereas remaining shepherds were using their own lands for grazing. These findings were in accordance with earlier reports (Yadav and Tailor, 2010; Rao et al., 2013). Only 6% shepherds were feeding concentrates after returning from grazing. It was reported that majority (98%) of farmers followed deworming to control parasites. Most of the farmers practiced deworming four times in a year, where majority (68%) of them dewormed their flocks on their own while remaining (32%) shepherds dewormed their flocks by veterinarian. The survey revealed that approximately 96% of shepherds were adopted vaccination of animals to protect them from infectious diseases. These findings were collaborated with the findings of Mehta et al., 1995 in Malpura sheep and Devendran et al., 2010 in Coimbatore sheep.
More than 86% shepherds were aware of heat symptoms in sheep like continuous bleating, mucous discharges and frequent urination. Only 28% shepherds were maintaining 2-3 rams per flock for practising flock mating, while only 18% shepherds were aware of exchange of rams for every 2 years. Majority of farmers (92%) were aware of the importance of ram in bringing out the progeny and maintenance of purity. Of the total farmers surveyed 70% preferred pure Nellore brown ram for mating indicating their awareness. Nearly 96% shepherds were unaware of flushing before breeding. The present survey found that major diseases that were encountered in sheep and goat in this region were Enterotoxemia, PPR, Haemorrhagic septicemia, Footrot, Blue tongue, ecto and endo parasites and more than 92% shepherds were seeking the help of a veterinarian for the treatment and vaccination of these diseases. 78% shepherds sell the animals based on demand for meat during festivals when they can fetch a higher price. Among the shepherds surveyed, 74% are going for direct marketing for the sale of animals of which 70% are selling the animals directly in the shandies and the remaining to other farmers. The overall survey revealed that the diseases (28%), lamb mortality (25%), lack of feed resources (22%), fertility problems (12%), lack of veterinary aid (10%) and miscellaneous (3%) are the major constraints faced by shepherds in this region.
The present survey revealed that sheep production system is predominantly extensive and semi intensive system of rearing and these systems may mitigate availability of veterinary aid and inadequate nutrition of animals.