Livestock Research for Rural Development 24 (5) 2012 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Small ruminant production characteristics in urban households in Ghana

J Baah, A K Tuah*, W Addah, and R M Tait**

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Centre, Lethbridge, AB Canada T1J 4B1
* University College of Winneba, Mampong Campus, Mampong, Ghana
** Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada


One hundred and twenty households in Kumasi and Effiduasi were surveyed for information on production system characteristics, constraints and opportunities in urban small ruminant production in Ghana. Financial consideration was the main reason why producers kept small ruminants. Majority of producers kept more goats compared to sheep. The main sources of feed for animals were agro-industrial by-products, wastes from household food preparation and forages along roadsides and undeveloped plots in the cities. The majority (>55%) of livestock owners routinely dewormed and vaccinated their animals to control internal parasites and common livestock diseases. Animal losses were due mainly to diseases (34%), theft (17%), accidents (12%), and complications arising from castration, pregnancy, parturition and poisonings (34%). Producers (20%) identified lack of credit as the single most important constraint to the industry, while the remaining cited multiple factors, including credit plus health (15%), health plus inadequate feed (18%), and credit plus inadequate feed (21%). Despite the challenges, 92% of producers indicated they would never give up raising small ruminants, and are willing to increase their flock sizes.

Keywords: Goats, sheep, smallholder production systems


Small ruminants have been an integral part of most urban and peri-urban households in Ghana for a long time, and it is unlikely that their role, current production systems, and the resources used to support them will change substantially in the near future. Urban and peri-urban dwellers raise approximately 25% of the 13.3 million small ruminants in Ghana (Oppong-Anane 2011), and although the production of these animals is a minor agricultural enterprise, it is complementary to activities of food processing and brewing industries and often adds value to agricultural by-products by converting them into animal products. In recent times, urban livestock producers have therefore emerged as an important and distinct sector of the industry and their contribution towards the provision of animal protein to the urban community is substantial. In spite of these contributions, only rarely are these producers mentioned in descriptions of farming systems in Ghana. It is therefore not surprising that there has been no systematic attempt by government or development agencies to understand the small ruminant production system in these communities and to assist these farmers to increase their productivity.

In order to optimize outputs from this important production system, a systematic identification and analysis of production variables and constraints would have to be undertaken first. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to describe the small ruminant production systems in selected urban communities in Ghana; identify the opportunities and constraints of urban livestock development; and make recommendations to improve the system. 


A diagnostic survey of small ruminant production activities was conducted in two urban centres in the Ashanti Region of Ghana (Kumasi, 6 40’ N 1 37’ W and Effiduasi, 6  60’’ N 0 - 17’ 60’’ E). The methods used in data collection during the diagnostic survey included interviewing producers with a semi-structured questionnaire and direct observation of their households. A more detailed questionnaire containing structured and open-ended questions was developed from results of the diagnostic survey and used to gather household (socio-economic) and animal rearing information. 

Forty-eight households (24 in each of Kumasi and Effiduasi) were interviewed during the diagnostic survey. Sampling of suburbs and households in the two cities was purposeful, i.e., only suburbs with a significant livestock population were sampled in each city, and within each suburb only households engaged in small ruminant production were sub sampled. A list of suburbs and households that fell into each group from each city was obtained from the Ashanti Regional Office of the Department of Animal Health and Production in Kumasi. The questionnaire was tested, refined, and finally administered to 120 households. This consisted of 58 households from 12 suburbs in Effiduasi and 62 households from 10 suburbs in Kumasi. Households were selected randomly from the list of households compiled during the diagnostic survey in the two centres. All data, except open-ended questions, were coded and analyzed with SPSS (2006) software. Differences were deemed as significant at P < 0.05. 

Results and discussion

There were no differences in any of the variables measured between the two locations (Kumasi and Effiduasi), except the types of small ruminants kept by producers and the feed resources available to the animals. Therefore, all data from the two locations, except those on livestock species and feed resources were pooled and analyzed together.

Location differences

Approximately 52% of producers in Effiduasi kept only goats while 17% kept only sheep; compared to Kumasi where only 11% kept goats and 36% kept sheep. The proportion of producers who kept sheep and goats only (21%) was similar between the two locations. However, the proportion that kept sheep and goats with other livestock including poultry was higher in Kumasi (32%) than in Effiduasi (10%).

The proportion of producers in Effiduasi who kept goats only was similar to goat ownership patterns in other regions of southern Ghana where 58% of producers kept only goats compared to 37% who kept sheep (Adjorlolo et al 2007). Although both Kumasi and Effiduasi are in the southern part of Ghana, it appeared that availability of browse plants and natural pasture determined the type of small ruminants kept by producers. Browse plants and natural pastures were readily available in Effiduasi compared to Kumasi, and may have accounted for this difference. A similar pattern of small ruminant ownership distribution was reported in the northern savannah zone of Ghana where browse plants and pastures are readily available (Karbo et al 2007). The ownership pattern in Effiduasi was also similar to that in the humid zone of Nigeria where a higher proportion of households (37%) raised only goats compared to those who kept only sheep (8%; Ibrahim 1986).

The major reason given by respondents for their preference for goats was that goats are hardier and required less care i.e., they are better browsers than sheep and can therefore obtain all their nutrient requirements from browsing or scavenging. Wilson (1991) also noted that livestock owners in tropical Africa keep a higher proportion of goats compared to sheep because goats are generally more prolific and capable of foraging more widely and on more feed types than sheep. This makes goats easier to manage for people with little experience with animals.

Characteristics of small ruminant owners

The proportions of small ruminant owners who were over 60 years old, women, without formal education or unemployed were; 27%, 33%, 43%, and 6% of respondents, respectively (Table 1). Only 20% of respondents identified themselves as full-time farmers, i.e., derived total household income from the sale of crops and/or animals only. The majority of respondents therefore worked full-time in other enterprises. This is an indication that small ruminant production in the urban centres is a secondary household activity. The implication of this for development is that any planned change in the practices of producers should take into account their allocation of labour for off-farm work. Furthermore, any activity that would require substantially greater expenditure on inputs might involve sacrifices of opportunities for off-farm employment or acquisition of household necessities that would make the changes seem impractical to these producers.  

Table 1. Characteristics of small ruminant owners


Proportion of owners (%)#

Age (years)


















Educational level


            No formal education


            Up to High school


            Above High school






            Civil servants








          Others (e.g. dependent           children of household head)




#Number of respondents in each category = 120

The present data indicate that individual members of households, rather than domestic units owned the animals within households. This characteristic represents a unique resource in terms of empowerment of women and other disadvantaged groups such as the aged, unemployed and those without any formal education. Another positive aspect of this observation is that small ruminant rearing activity in these areas is not exclusive to one gender or age group as found in other agricultural activities such as cocoa farming and food processing (Sarris and Shams 1991). This ensures a broad base for the supply of labour.


Reasons for keeping small ruminants and flock/herd structures

“Financial considerations” underpinned producers’ reasons for keeping small ruminants, with 28% of goat owners and 25% of sheep owners identifying it as the most important single reason for keeping their animals (Figure 1). Some of the financial reasons given were; provision of cash for paying school fees of dependants and meeting both anticipated and unanticipated expenditures like hospital bills and household emergencies. Earlier researchers often used the term “prestige” derogatorily to describe the rationale behind the rearing of livestock by traditional livestock owners (Wilson 1991). This implied that traditional livestock owners were not motivated by economic or profit considerations. While the studies of Ntifo-Siaw and Ghartey (1988) and Adebowale et al (1993) appear to support that position, the present study does not. Both earlier studies reported that only 7% of producers in rural households kept livestock for purely commercial reasons as opposed to the more than 25% reported in the present study. Economic and social demands made on urban dwellers may be different and may probably account for the different production objectives.

Only 7% of respondents kept goats for religious and social reasons while the corresponding figure for sheep was 25%. The higher figure for sheep could be a reflection on the role of this species in the religious activities of Moslems who invariably kept more sheep than goats. During celebration of some Islamic festivals, all families are required to slaughter rams so each household tends to keep sheep with the aim of not having to buy a ram at the time of the celebrations. Approximately 6% of owners kept livestock for the sole purpose of either providing meat for the household or for social reasons. Provision of meat for the household was an important consideration in the Islamic and more affluent households which slaughtered and consumed animals during religious festivals including; "Id dir Kabir", Christmas and Easter holidays, and on social occasions like naming ceremonies and birthday celebrations.

Figure 1. Reasons for rearing small ruminants

Table 2. Flock/herd structure and marketing



Proportion of owners#



Herd/flock sizes



            1 – 5



            6 – 10



            11 – 15



            > 15



 Preferred age (year) for marketing animals












        > 3



Preferred time of marketing animals



            Religious or social



            Financial need



            “When price is right”



Sex of marketed animals












#Number of respondents = 120



The number of male animals was higher in flocks of less than four animals (81% in goats and 84% in sheep). However, the proportion of females was higher when herd or flock sizes exceeded four animals. Although the number of males in herds/flocks was generally in excess of those required for breeding purposes, there was a preponderance of females in larger flocks (those with more than 4 animals). Therefore, most of the animals in the herds/flock were "productive", i.e., giving birth to young, or undergoing the process of growth until they begin to reproduce or sold. The main management practice used to obtain stability in the flocks was culling and preferentially disposing (selling) of males not required for breeding (Table 2). Similar flock structures in small ruminants exist among the Moors in Mauritania, the Fulani in Mali, and the Arabs in Chad (Wilson 1991). There was no preferred time for selling animals with majority of respondents (66% of goat owners and 57% of sheep owners) selling their animals when they were offered the “right price”.


Although it appeared there was no particular time for selling animals, producers preferred to sell their animals during religious and social occasions because buyers were more inclined to pay higher prices for the animals than during other times of the year. The major route of marketing of animals was by direct sale by producers at the farm gate. Buyers were mainly local restaurant (chop bar) operators, butchers, individuals from other households, and intermediaries. Restaurant operators used the meat to prepare meals in their businesses while butchers slaughtered the animals and sold the meat on the local market. Intermediaries (wholesalers) on the other hand resold the animals, usually on the local small ruminant market at exorbitant prices. Occasionally, producers slaughtered their animals, and all or a portion of the carcass was sold or consumed in the household. The rapid increases in population, rural-urban migration, and income are all factors that point to the fact that the demand for sheep and goat meat will continue to increase. Goat meat is a delicacy among the urban elite and middle class so demand for it is very high.


Feed resources


Table 3. Sources of feed, handling and methods of feeding


% of respondents#

Source of feed


            Forages (pasture/browse) only


            Cereal + root by-products


            Household garbage from food preparation


            Pasture/browse + cereal  root by-products


            Pasture/browse + cereal and root  by-products+household  garbage


Feed handling





Method of feeding


            Hand feeding/cut-and-carry


            Free range (grazing/browsing/scavenging)


            Free range plus hand feeding


            Herding (along roadside and abandoned plots)


            Herding plus hand feeding     


#Number of respondents = 120


Some livestock owners practised the cut-and-carry system in which forage was brought into the household to feed animals. In some situations, this feed served a supplementary role, whereas in situations where herd/flock size was small it served as the only source of feed. This system, however, required a high investment in labour and was subject to seasonal fluctuation. However, because the supply of feed was sporadic, and in most cases inadequate, animals raised under such a system faired worse than under the free-roaming and other feeding systems. Differences between levels of confinement were a function of population density, vis a vis availability of undeveloped lands or available natural pasture/browse in the locality.

Management practices and labor requirements

Major management decisions, including health, marketing and flock structure maintenance were by animal owners themselves (79% of respondents) or by the household head in situations where owners were dependants on household heads (10%). Spouses were responsible for taking management decisions in 6% of the cases while in 5% of the cases, decisions were taken after consultations between the owner and household head (Table 4). A significant proportion of goat (95%) and sheep (78.9%) owners vaccinated their animals (Figure 2).


Culling was practised to remove unproductive females and slow growing animals. The incidence of culling was heavier in goats because they were deemed more difficult to confine so owners tended to keep mainly productive ones. The reasons given for the higher incidence of castration in bucks compared to rams was to remove the taint associated with goat meat and to make the animals more manageable. In addition, intact rams fetch premium prices during Islamic religious festivities hence the low incidence of castration of rams.

Table 4. Management decision making and allocation of labour within households



Proportion of respondents (%)#

Person responsible for decision






      Spouse of owner


      Owner and household head


Labour for feeding


       Owner  only


       Children/family members only


        Hired-hand only


        Family members and hired -hand


Labour for sanitation duties


         Owner only


         Children/family members only


         Hired-hand only


         Family members and hired-hand


#Number of respondents = 120


Figure 2. Frequency of some management practices among smll ruminant farmers

The practice of cleaning feeding and drinking troughs at least twice weekly was classified as feed sanitation in this study. Animal sanitation involved washing animals periodically to control ectoparasites (ticks, mites, lice and fleas). Housing sanitation was identified as the practice of cleaning pens and holding areas of animals at least twice a week. Goats were, however, not washed as frequently as sheep because of the belief that goats do not like to get wet. Most producers used domestic detergents and water to wash their animals while a few prepared solutions with Lindane-based insecticides such as Gammalin-20.

The present data suggest that most livestock producers were very much aware of some of the prevalent animal health problems including,  peste de petits ruminants (PPR), diarrhoea, worm, and ectoparasite infestations and therefore undertook health management practices and precautions including routine vaccinations, deworming, and washing (dipping) of their animals. Producers were of the opinion that sheep were more susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases; something they believed was caused by worms, hence the higher deworming rate of sheep. However, producers could not give any reason for the higher vaccination rate among goats compared to sheep. The present observations support earlier observations that traditional livestock producers are very much aware of the role of management in the avoidance and control of diseases (Ntifo-Siaw and Ghartey 1988). This contrasts with the study of Addah et al (2009), who reported that smallholder livestock farmers did not practice routine parasite control programmes but used anthelminthes or acaricides only when animals continuously lost weight or shed worms in their faeces, or when animals were heavily infested with ectoparasites.  

Majority of owners did not practice controlled mating (90% of matings were random). The reason given for this was that animals from different households moved together therefore breeding among them could not be controlled. The problem with this practice is that producers had no means of preventing or controlling inbreeding. Controlled mating was only possible when animals were in total confinement throughout the year.  

Owners who said they were solely responsible for feeding their animals constituted 55% of respondents while children, family members, and hired-hands were responsible for feeding animals in 32%, 12% and 1% of households (Table 4). According to majority of respondents (62%), sanitation related duties are menial chores and were therefore mainly performed by minors (children), hired-hands, or family members of lower social status. These duties included sweeping of pens, and cleaning of feeding and drinking troughs. Only 38% of livestock owners said they performed all sanitation related duties by themselves.  

The closer one gets to the centre of the cities, the more intensive the system of production and the greater the labour requirements for feeding and sanitation related duties. The low labour requirements and the limited skill required to maintain a small flock made it possible for some urban households to generate an economic return from family labour that has little or no opportunity cost. 

Losses in production


Approximately 56% of respondents reported losing between four and ten goats the year preceding the study while 67% lost between four and ten sheep. Table 5 shows production constraints and causes of losses of small ruminants. The main cause of these losses was diseases (34%). Miscellaneous causes including poisonings, complications arising from castration, pregnancy and parturition accounted for 37% of losses (Table 5). “Health related” causes (miscellaneous plus diseases) accounted for 71% of all losses. The potential to increase production (flock/herd sizes) would be tremendous if measures can be put in place to reduce the huge health-related losses in animals.

Table 5. Production constraints and causes of losses of small ruminants


Proportion of respondents (%)#









            Health and credit


            Health and feed


            Credit and feed


            Others (e.g. space, theft, labour, etc.)        






            Motor vehicle accidents




            Miscellaneous (poisonings, dystocia etc)


#Number of respondents = 120


Epidemic diseases of small ruminants including PPR and contagious caprine pleuropneumonia, and mite and worm infestations are nation-wide animal health risks. In a study of the causes of mortality on farms in a district near Kumasi, Tuah et al (1988) found that PPR was the disease that caused the most deaths while parasitic gastro-enteritis was the most widespread disease among small ruminants on farms. PPR is a viral disease of sheep and goats characterized by fever, diarrhoea, and pneumonia. Infected animals usually die within a week after the start of the fever (Koper-Limbourg and Oyeyemi 1993). The disease cannot be treated effectively but it can be prevented through yearly vaccination with the Tissue Cultured Rinderpest Vaccine (TCRV). Helminthiasis is also a major cause of mortality among goats (Baffour-Awuah et al 2007) and sheep (Addah and Yakubu 2008) under semi-intensive systems even in research stations where animals are managed by competent technicians. Sixty-nine percent of respondents had taken measures, including vaccinations, to control their losses. Among those who had taken measures, 76% had found the measures to be effective. It is pertinent to note that most measures taken to reduce losses were in consultation with veterinary officials.

It is to the credit of producers that they practise routine vaccinations, however, there have been occasional reports of lack of vaccines and/or ineffective vaccines being used. This is the result of ineffectual quality control and/or monitoring of the companies engaged in the importation and distribution of veterinary drugs (Addah et al 2009). For example, the TCRV imported into the country comes in vials with doses for 100 to 200 animals and once opened has a life span of only one hour. The small number of animals and the spread of households in the urban centres meant that fewer than 100 animals could be vaccinated within the one-hour period. The need, therefore, exists for producers to organize themselves especially for PPR vaccinations.

The loss of animals through accidents and poisonings usually occurred when producers allowed their animals to wander without supervision or stray onto people’s properties. Although respondents did not blame drivers for livestock losses resulting from collisions with motor vehicles (accidents), they considered most losses due to poisonings as deliberate acts. They believed that neighbours opposed to their keeping animals, deliberately poison the animals in retaliation for the destruction of their food and ornamental crops or for what they consider as the nuisance (e.g., noise, smell of manure and fouling of their compounds) they have to put up with most of the time. Quarrels and litigations are common occurrences between producers and neighbours over these complaints. According to local government officials, these complaints are the main reasons free-roaming animals are restricted within municipalities. In some suburbs, local government officials impound animals found wandering outside their owners’ premises and the owners have to pay fines before animals are returned to them. 


Respondents prioritized small ruminant production constraints without prompting by enumerators (Table 5). Lack of credit or working capital was cited as the single most important constraint by producers (20%) followed by health (8%) and lack of feed (5%). The proportions of respondents citing health plus credit, health plus feed and credit plus feed were 15%, 18% and 21%, respectively. Those who considered space, theft of animals and labour as the most important combination of constraints constituted 13% of respondents.

Credit or capital was required to (1) improve existing infrastructures (e.g., build pens/barns), (2) purchasing more animals to increase flock/herd sizes, and (3) purchase drugs for routine drenching and vaccinations of animals. Respondents noted that credit from the formal sectors of the economy (financial institutions) was almost impossible to obtain because they lacked the collateral usually demanded by the institutions. The problems in supplying credit to small ruminant producers are similar to those for smallholder credit problems in general (FFTC 2004). Some of the problems usually cited include: (1) commercial institutions are reluctant to extend loans because of high administrative costs; (2) lack of viable technologies needed to provide high rates of return needed to repay the loan; (3) loan proceeds are used for other purposes and; (4) loan security and loan repayment difficulties. Because of the small herds/flocks owned by producers in urban centres, providing direct credit and extension services to them may not be technically or economically feasible in most cases. Therefore, innovative schemes (co-operatives) at the community level should be encouraged among producers so that they can handle some of the routine vaccination and disease control measures themselves. While it will take a considerable amount of time and goodwill on the part of producers and lenders to resolve these difficulties it is pertinent to note that the government and aid agencies could alleviate this situation by providing assistance in the form of production system support activities, i.e., research, extension and marketing infrastructure.

One major advantage of sheep and goats is their ability to reproduce rapidly and build up herd/flock numbers quickly. To some extent, this obviates the need for large amounts of capital for flock/herd expansion. Another argument in favour of capital investments in small ruminant production systems is that the breeds of sheep and goats in Ghana have very good ability to respond to higher levels of feeding, management and health. Past opinion in developing countries considered local animals to be low producers and therefore needed to be replaced by superior breeds whenever development strategies were formulated (Karbo and Bruce 2000). Such thinking resulted in the failure to see the potential of optimizing the use of indigenous breeds and locally available feed resources. Fortunately, the inherent potential of indigenous breeds has now been recognized.  Small ruminants have been an integral part of most urban and peri-urban households for a long time and their small sizes and low cost of production make them a unique resource particularly suited to the limited resource base of these households.

The feed constraint has both quantitative and qualitative dimensions. In most cases, producers provided feed in ad libitum quantities to their animals (as evidenced by large amounts of orts in most feeding troughs in households), however the quality of the feed was questionable. As noted earlier, 40% of producers fed only agricultural by-products such as cassava peels, plantain peels, milling and brewing by-products. These feedstuffs are in most cases nutritionally inadequate or unbalanced in terms of essential nutrients. Apart from this, during the dry season producers who relied solely on natural pastures and browse found it difficult to provide adequate feed for their animals. However, they indicated that they could obtain cassava peels from the local restaurants and “gari” factories when necessary. It therefore appears that if emphasis is placed on simple practices like processing (cutting and drying) and storing of the most available feedstuffs (peels of cassava, plantain, yams etc), as well as strategic supplementation to provide deficient nutrients, the feeding problem could be alleviated. The impact of attending to the feed problem is often spectacular as evidenced by a comparison of goats fed under traditional village systems with those adequately fed in an experimental group that showed more than a 50% increase in live weight at comparable age (Devendra 1989).

Although constraints in the small ruminant production system were identified and discussed as if they were discrete factors, it is necessary to consider the system as a whole to enable identification and resolution of multiple and interacting constraints. For example, reduction in animal losses due to better disease control measures and adequate supervision to prevent accidents, and incidences of poisonings and theft would dramatically increase animal numbers and would require higher management inputs. This could pose other problems since most producers are already engaged in other economic activities outside the household and may have to consider the opportunity cost of labour and the extra inputs.



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Received 19 November 2011; Accepted 14 April 2012; Published 7 May 2012

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