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Socio-Economic Status of Small Ruminant Farmers in Different Agro-Climatic Zones of Karnataka, India

Ramesh H. R. Meena Y. P. Singh
Vol 2(2), 129-136

Small ruminants play an important role in the development of rural mass and contribute to the livelihood of millions of poor by offering immense opportunities and potential for improvement of income and employment generation. They have maintained almost steady growth rate over the years. The socio-economic status of small ruminant farmers of three different agro-climatic zones of Karnataka was studied using a structured interview schedule. This study confirms that small ruminants are most suitable livestock for landless and small farmers. Majority of the farmers belonged to backward castes, illiterates, had small family size and gaining handful of income from small ruminants. Sheep and goats act as cash buffer and reduce the risk of crop failure in mixed farming systems. So, these species have an impact on livelihood of the rearers.

Keywords : socio-economic status small ruminants


Small ruminants are an important but neglected resource in developing countries. They are frequently associated with crop production, mainly because of its buffer function for crop failure and crop surpluses (Slingerland, 2000). Special advantages of small ruminants over large ruminants include higher production efficiency, easier marketability, lower risks, broader adaptability to different environments and smaller absolute feed requirements per animal. Rearing of sheep and goats, which mainly depend on common property resources for meeting their feed and fodder requirements are a preferred option as self-employment by many rural resource poor (Tailor et al., 2005). Information on the existing small ruminant farming system and farmers involved in this particular system helps in formulating the strategies for better adoption of husbandry practices. Though information regarding status of small ruminant farmers and their farming systems are covered in majority of the surveys by different researchers, the changing scenarios of farming systems, advances in small ruminant management technologies and increasing accessibility of farmers to various infrastructures and extension facilities necessitates continuous monitoring of socio-economic status of farmers involved in this sector. Hence an effort has been made in the present study to collect information regarding socio-economic status of small ruminant farmers of three different agro-climatic zones of Karnataka.


The present study was carried out in three districts which represented three different ago-climatic zones of Karnataka state, viz. Bijapur (represented Arid zone), Gulbarga (represented Semi-arid zone) and Udupi (represented Coastal zone). Multistage sampling procedure was used to select a total of sixty small ruminant farmers. The data were obtained from the farmers by the investigator with the help of a structured interview schedule. The data were scrutinized, collated and analysed using SPSS-11.0 software.

Results and Discussion


In rural social system caste plays a vital role and influences various aspects of social life. Castewise distribution of respondents as shown in table 1 indicates that majority of them (55%) were from Other Backward Castes followed by SC (25%), General Category (13.3%) and ST (6.6%). Regionwise also it was evident that Other Backward Castes (OBCs) were the major sheep/goat keepers across the selected zones. The proportion of OBC families was higher in arid zone when compared to other two zones.

Family type 

The social system was predominated by nuclear families as it is evident from the table 1 that out of total families selected 75 per cent were nuclear. The nuclear families were highest (85%) in coastal zone.

Family size

Majority of the pooled respondents (76.6%) had small size family (3-7 members). Regionwise also similar type of findings were observed. Highest number of farmers belonged to small size family was observed in coastal zone (85%) whereas highest number of large size families was found in semi-arid zone. Highest average family size of 6.6 was found in arid zone, whereas it was lowest in coastal with average size of 5.35.

Educational status

The educational status among the respondents revealed that 31.6% of the respondents were illiterate followed by 16.6% educated upto Pre-University level, 15% each upto primary and high school level, 11.66% upto middle school and 6% upto graduation level. This figure indicated that small ruminant farmers were mostly illiterate. Highest illiterate farmers were found in semi-arid zone (45%) whereas highest number of farmers (20%) educated upto graduation level were observed in coastal zone. In coastal zone educational status was encouraging as percentage of illiterates was less.


All the small ruminant farmers contacted had both animal husbandry and agriculture as main occupation

Land holding

Data presented in Table 1 revealed that majority of the respondents (45%) were marginal farmers followed by small (31.6%), landless (13.3%) and medium farmers (10%). Zonewise figures indicated that average land holding was highest in semi-arid zone (4.84) closely followed by arid zone (3.06) and lowest was observed in coastal zone (1.75). The highly significant difference (P<0.5) was found in the land holding among the respondents of three zones.

Experience in small ruminant farming

Majority of the farmers (53.3%) had low i.e.2 to 11 years of experience in small ruminant farming. Highest number of respondents having low experience was found in coastal zone (60%) whereas farmers with high experience were highest in arid zone (25%). Farmers of arid zone had highest average experience of 14.44 years followed by farmers of semi-arid zone with13.66 years of average experience. Coastal zone stood last with 9.1 years of average experience in small ruminant farming.

Flock size

A perusal of table 1 shows that about 55% of the respondents had small flock size followed by medium (31.6%) and large flock size (13.3%). Highest number of respondents having small flock size was found in coastal zone (65%) whereas farmers having large flock size were equal (20%) in remaining two zones. Average flock size per farmer was highest in semi-arid zone (10.85), whereas lowest was observed in coastal zone (7.35).

Total annual income

Majority of the farmers (55%) fell under medium category with total annual income between Rs. 24,667 and 37,332. Highest number of farmers (20%) with high annual income i.e. between Rs.37,333 and 50,000 was found in semi-arid zone whereas highest number of farmers (40.0%) who fell under low income category with annual income between Rs. 12,000 and 24,666 were from Udupi. Average annual income per farmer was highest in semi-arid zone (Rs.29,550)  and lowest was in coastal zone (Rs.26,000)

 Annual Income from Small Ruminants

About 47 per cent of the respondents accrued between Rs.1,300 and Rs.5,866 per annum from small ruminants and around 30 per cent respondents managed to accrue between Rs.5,867 and Rs.10,432. Remaining respondents (23.3%) managed to earn between Rs.10,433 and Rs.15,000. Average annual income from small ruminants was highest in semi-arid zone (Rs. 7,400) and was lowest in coastal zone (Rs.5,265)

Table 1: Regionwise distribution of small ruminant farmers according to their socio-economic characteristics

Variables                           Semi-arid Zone (n=40) Arid Zone


Coastal Zone




General 4 (10) 4 (10) 8 (20) 16 (13.3)
OBC 22 (55) 26 (65) 18 (45) 66 (55)
SC 12 (30) 8 (20) 10 (25) 30 (25)
ST 2 (5) 2 (5) 4 (10) 8 (6.6)
Family Type
Nuclear 28(70) 28 (70) 34 (85) 90 (75)
Joint 12 (30) 12 (30) 6 (15) 30(25)
Family Size
Small (3-7 members) 30 (75) 28 (40) 34 (85) 92 (76.6)
Medium (8-12 members) 6 (15) 10 (25) 4  (10) 20(16.6)
Large  (13-15 members) 4 (10) 2 (5) 2 (5) 8(6.6)
Illiterate 18 (45) 16 (40) 4 (10) 38 (31.6)
 Primary 8(20) 4(10) 6 (15) 18 (15)
Middle 2 (5) 4 (10) 8 (20) 14(11.6)
High school 4 (10) 8 (20) 6 (15) 18 (15)
Pre- university 6 (15) 6 (15) 8 (20) 20 (16.6)
Graduation 2 (5) 2 (5) 8 (20) 12 (10)
Land holding (in acres)
Landless (nil) 2 (5) 6 (15) 8 (20) 16 (13.3)
Marginal (<2.5) 14 (35) 18 (45) 22 (55) 54 (45)
Small ( 2.6-5) 18 (45) 12 (30) 8 (20) 38 (31.6)
Medium (>5) 6(15) 4 (10) 2 (5) 12 (10)
Experience in small ruminant farming  (years)
Low (2-11) 18 (45) 20 (50) 28 (60) 64 (53.3)
Medium (12-21) 16 (40) 10 (25) 10 (25) 38 (31.6)
High  (22-31) 6 (15) 10 (25) 2 (5) 18 (15)
Flock size
Small  (2-9 animals) 24 (60) 16(40) 26 (65) 66 (55)
Medium  (10-17 animals) 8 (20) 16 (40) 14 (35) 38 (31.6)
Large   (18-25 animals) 8 (20) 8(20) 0 (0) 16 (13.3)
Total annual  income
Low  (12,000-24,666) 14 (35) 10(25) 16 (40) 40 (33.3)
Medium  (24,667-37,332) 18 (45) 28 (70) 20 (50) 66 (55)
High ( 37,333-50,000) 8 (20) 2 (5) 4 (10) 14(11.6)
Annual income from small ruminants
Low  (1300-5866) 18 (45) 16 (40) 22 (55) 56 (46.6)
Medium  (5867-10432) 10 (25) 12 (30) 14 (35) 36 (30)
High ( 10433-15000) 12 (30) 12(30) 4 (10) 28 (23.3)

(Figures in parenthesis are percentage)


Table 2 Difference in the mean values of socio-economic variables of small ruminant farmers

Semi-arid Zone Arid Zone Coastal Zone
Family size (number) 6.4 6.6 5.35
Landholding* (acres) 4.84 3.06 1.75
Experience (in years) 13.6 14.4 9.1
Total income (in Rs.) 29,550 27,600 26,000
Income from small ruminants (in Rs.) 7,400 7,350 5,265
Flock size (number) 10.85 10.6 7.35

* Significant at P<0.05;


Table 3: Regionwise distribution of respondents according to reasons for keeping small ruminants

Reasons Semi-arid Zone


Arid Zone (n=40) Coastal Zone




Income 38 (95) 40 (100) 36 (80) 114 (95)
Ceremony 10 (25) 10 (25) 8 (20) 28(23.3)
Manure 12 (30) 6 (15) 4 (10) 22 (18.3)

(Figures in parenthesis indicate percentages)

Difference in the mean values of socio-economic variables of small ruminant farmers

The difference in mean values of socio-economic characteristics of respondents according to the studied variables of the selected small ruminant farmers is presented in table 2. In order to determine the differences, if any, data from three zones were subjected to ANOVA.

Reasons to keep small ruminants

The farmers were asked to offer different reasons for rearing small ruminants. The overall data depicted in table 3 shows that source of income got the highest response (95%) followed by ceremony (23.3%) and manure (18.3%).

Irrespective of the zones small ruminants were perceived as a source of income mostly by sale of animals. Those with the land perceived manure from small ruminants as more important. Few respondents kept sheep/goats to sacrifice them during ceremonies and festivities.


Small ruminants make an important contribution to the sustenance of small and marginal farmers as production of these animals is more concentrated around marginal farmers and those belonged to OBCs as more than half (55%) of the respondents contacted belonged to OBC category. Majority of the respondents were illiterate and marginal farmers. The study also revealed that Average flock size was 9.6 and average income from small ruminant farming was Rs. 6671.67. Small ruminant farmers were getting handful income from their animals which act as source of income during economic crisis and also they invest in these smallstocks as current stocks. Small ruminants as source of supplementing income is getting more attention as it is clear from the fact that rearers of these animals  rated this reason first among others.


Tailor, S. P., Dangi,,P.C., Yadav,C.M., Meena,R.K. and Bunker, N.K. 2005. Socio-economic status of shepherd in sonadi breeding tract . Indian Journal of Small Ruminants 2005, 11(2):198-204.

Slingerland, M., 2000. Mixed Farming: Scope and constraints in West African Savana. PhD Thesis, Wageningen University, 289 p.

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