Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (10) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Incidence of foetal wastage in sheep and goats slaughtered at Tanga city abattoir, Tanga, Tanzania

E S Swai, H Ayubu1 and B S Mhina1

Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, (MLFD), Veterinary Complex, 131 Nelson Mandela Road, Box 9152, 15487Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
1 Tanga District Livestock Office, Box 478 Tanga, Tanzania


Within East Africa region, information on the level of foetal wastage in small ruminants is scarce and not adequately documented. This study evaluated the level of foetal wastage in goats and sheep slaughtered at Tanga city abattoir, Tanga, Tanzania. A 3-month active abattoir observational study was carried out to determine the number of pregnant ewes and does slaughtered during the period July-Sept 2014. The total number of goats slaughtered during the study period was 1072 representing a monthly and daily kill average of 357 and 12; whereas the number of sheep slaughtered was 403 representing a monthly kill average of 134 and 4.5, respectively. The results in this study showed that more female goats and sheep (n = 860; 57.12%) were slaughtered than males (n = 615; 42.88%). Of the slaughtered does and ewes, (38.5%) were detected to be pregnant and that over 77.8% of the retrieved foetuses in the 2 species were in their advanced stage (≥2 months) of pregnancy. Over the three months of the study foetal wastage rate ranged from 33.3-44.4% (average 37.8%) and 35.5-44.2% (38.6%) in ewes and does, respectively. The study established that one-out-of-every-three ‘ewes’ and ‘does’ respectively, presented to the abattoir, with a single, twin or multiple foetuses are slaughtered daily and there was no significant difference observed across the months.

The result of this study demonstrated cases of significant flock wastage and losses in future replacement stock due to slaughter of pregnant animals. Moreover, this practice further limits the availability of animal protein for Tanga City populace. It is therefore recommended that appropriate measures including legislation enforcement, capacity building on pregnant diagnosis for abattoir staff be put in place to control the slaughter of pregnant stock. Stock owners and traders should be sensitized on the implication on losses of genetic materials and sustainability of meat production associated with continued slaughtering of pregnant animals.

Key words: abattoir, animal production loss, caprine, ovine


Goats and sheep represent the second and third largest proportion of livestock population in Tanzania, respectively. In common with other developing countries, small stock (sheep and goats) production is widely practised and plays a vital role though not well recognised in rural development and food security. Tanzania has 15.9 million goats and sheep put together, with households owning an average between 8 to 9 sheep and/or goats. It’s estimated that 1,732,863 households keep goats (URT 2012a). Women often have access to and have control over small stock making it an important resource for them. Despite its great leverage potential, productivity is often hindered by low investment, diseases and inadequate nutrition. These hindrances are more pronounced and felt by the resource-poor traditional farmers and pastoral communities that largely depend on livestock for their livelihood.

Small stock is one of the main sources of animal protein for the currently estimated 44 million Tanzanian human populations (URT, 2012b). According to recent FAO estimates, the per capita consumption of red meat protein in Tanzania is 82 gm/capita per day, an estimate which is very low compared to the industrialized world figures of 262.2 gm per capita per day (URT 2013; FAO 2003). Demand for animal protein which is propelled by population growth, urbanization, eating behavior and increased income is not matching with the slow annual growth rate of domestic livestock production, currently estimated at 2.5% compared to 2.7% human growth (URT 2012ab). As a result of this slow growth and high demand, such trend attracts movement and trade of small stock within and outside the country and undesirable practices including slaughtering of breeding stock and pregnant animals is common (Cadmus and Adesokan 2009;Alhaji 2011; Fayemi and Muchenje 2013)

In Tanzania, the knowledge on proportion of slaughtered pregnant females is limited. There is scarcity of data on losses due to wastage of small ruminant foetuses and this affects planning and making decision on food security. Country specific information on the slaughter of pregnant does and ewes is important in order to have a clear understanding of the potential impact of slaughter of pregnant animals on small stock reproduction in Tanzania. In order to assess the extent to which pregnant female small stock are slaughtered; an abattoir survey was conducted in Tanga city abattoir of Tanga Region. The objective was to determine the proportion of foetuses destroyed due to the slaughter of pregnant small stock and generate baseline data that will contribute towards devising appropriate control measures including policy and legislations reforms.

Materials and methods

Study location

The city abattoir, constructed in 1982, is located in Tanga district, Tanga region. The region is situated at latitude 40 21′ and 60 14′ S and longitude 36011′ and 380 26′ E. The city abattoir receives slaughter ruminant stocks from various parts of Region, mainly north western (Handeni and Kilindi districts) and from other districts bordering the region including Kiteto, Simanjiro, Same and Mwanga (URT 2002). The abattoir provides small stock meat to a cosmopolitan population of the city of Tanga and her surburbs. At full operation, the abattoir has a daily maximum handling capacity of 120 heads of cattle, 150 small stock, however, due to the lack of essential facilities, it presently operates with the slaughter of around 40 heads of cattle, 12 goats and 6 sheep daily.

Data collection and examination protocol

Routine meat inspection is done by para-professional veterinary officers and supervised by a resident city veterinarian and the pregnancy statuses of the goats and sheep are often not recorded. Data were collected daily between 05:30 hr and 10:00 hr. Greenwich Mean Time, for a period of three months (July-Sept 2014). Before slaughtering of the animals, data related to the sex, age (classified as medium to mature based on teeth dentition) and breed (classified as indigenous or genetically improved through crossbreeding) of the animals were made by observation, counting and tallying at the main entrance as the animals are led into the slaughter point and appropriately posted into data collection forms. Inspection or examination procedure employed visual inspection and palpation. Upon retrieval, the uterine horns were opened and inspected for the presence or absence of foetuses. The crown rump lengths (CRLs) of the foetuses were measure as estimate of the gestational ages (Sivachelvan et al., 1996). Recovered foetuses were counted (single, twins, triplets) and stratified as early pregnancy when below or equal to 2 months and advanced pregnancy when above 2 months.

Data analysis

Data for this study was entered, stored and analyzed using Microsoft Excel statistical software. Descriptive statistics such as the proportion of all slaughters, frequency of pregnant slaughtered does and ewes and the extent of foetal wastage was generated. The percentage of foetal wastage was defined / calculated as the total number of foetuses recovered divided by the total number of ewes and does slaughtered. For analytical purposes, pregnancies with multiple foetuses (twins and triplets) were considered as a single case.

Ethics statement

The permission to carry out this study was granted by the City Executive Director (CED) of Tanga. The Director of Veterinary Services (DVS), Tanzania issued a research permit letter to conduct this active abattoir surveillance work in Tang City. Verbal consent was obtained from each of the trade stock owner after explaining the purpose and importance of the study prior to start of data collection.


Over the period of July to September 2014, 1072 goats and 403 sheep were presented to the abattoir and slaughtered. The majority of the small stock was local breeds (Small East African goats and crosses of Red Maasai and Blackhead Persian sheep) and of medium to mature size. In goats, the average monthly and daily kill were 357 and 11.78, respectively. Consistently, the average monthly and daily kill in sheep was 134.3 and 4.42.

The results of the proportion of males, females and pregnant does and ewes slaughtered are shown in Table 1. Out of the total slaughtered goats, 606 (56.5 %) were females of which 241 (39.77%) were pregnant. Consistently, of the total slaughtered sheep; (n=254, 63.02%) were females and 98 (38.5%) were pregnant. Overall, (n=860; 57.12%) female goats and sheep were slaughterd than males (n=615; 42.88%) during the study period.

Table 1. Proportions of small stock (goats and sheep) slaughtered in an abattoir, Tanga, Tanzania (July-Sept 2014)




Proportion (%)


Total goats slaughtered


Female goats slaughtered



Male goats slaughtered



Pregnant goats slaughtered




Total sheep slaughtered


Female sheep slaughtered



Male sheep slaughtered



Pregnant sheep slaughtered



Results of the proportions of males and females foetuses and stage of gestation are shown in Table 2. In goats, 123(51.03%) of the foetuses were females and 118(48.9%) males. A total of 181 (75.93%) of the retrieved foetuses were estimated to be in their advanced stage (≥2 months) of gestation. In sheep, 56(57.2%) of the foetuses were females and 42(42.8%) males. 81 (82.65%) were at the advanced (≥2 month) stage of gestation while 17(17.3%) were in their early stage of gestation (≤2 month). In both species, there were more female foetuses than males. Over the 3 months of the study, the rate of foetal loss ranged between 33.3-44.6% and 33.5-44.2% for ewes and does, respectively.

Table 2. Proportions of foetuses retrieved by age and sex at an abattoir Tanga, July-Sept 2014




Proportion (%)


Male foetuses



Female foetuses



Male fetuses = 2 months



Female foetuses = 2 months




Male foetuses



Female foetuses



Male foetuses = 2 months



Female foetuses = 2 months



The proportion of the retrieved foetuses and their sex according to the gestational age across the three months period (July– Sept 2014) is shown in Figure 1a and b. There was no convincing monthly trend differences based on the sex and the age of the retrieved foetuses. The numbers of foetuses retrieved by animal species were as follows: in goats: 12 had twins and one goat had triplet. In sheep: 2 had twins.

Figure 1a. Proportion of retrieved foetuses under the age of
<2 months by month.(G =Goats; S=Sheep)
Figure 1b. Proportion of retrieved foetuses by spp, sex and month (G =Goats;
S=Sheep; Fs,g=Female sheep and goats; Ms,g=Male goats &sheep )


The results in this study show that more female goats and sheep (n=860; 57.12%) were slaughtered than males (n=615;42.88%). Of the slaughtered does and ewes,(38.5%) were detected to be pregnant and that more than 77.8% of the retrieved foetuses in the 2 spp were in their advanced stage ( ≥2 months) of pregnancy. The higher rates of female stock slaughtered in this survey is comparable to other studies carried elsewhere (Bokko 2011; Borji et al 2011; Simenew et al 2011; Zulu et al 2013). In an abbatoir survey of sheep and goats in the Gambia, West Africa, 60% of the 1,248 female goats slaughtered at an abattoir over a period of 1 year were pregnant (Goossens et al 1998). Both the sample size and the duration of study in that survey were different from the present study.

The average foetal wastage rate of 39% in goats and 38% in sheep revealed in this survey is lower than other observed rates of 57% reported by Mohamed et al (2009) in Nigeria. The reason for the rates observed is that pregnancy diagnoses are not routinely conducted during anti-morterm inspection in the abattoir due to various reasons including poor infrastructures and staff competency in carrying out pregancy diagnosis.

A study on the Ethiopian Highland sheep showed that 70.1% ewes in the process of slaughter were found pregnant and 24% of them carried twins (Mukasa-Mugerwa and Tekelye 2003). The record from a semi-arid abattoir in Nigeria, also confirmed that 34.3% (of the 0.26 million) ewes were pregnant at the point of slaughter (Muhammad et al 2009). Earlier report in the same region, indicated that of 0.21 million goats that are slaughtered yearly, 26.1% of these ‘does’were pregnant (Sanusi et al 2006). The variation between reports and survey could be due to volume of stock slaughtered, location, seasonal and demand of small ruminant meat (Fayemi and Muchenje 2013).

The ever increasing slaughter of pregnant ruminant stock in their various stages of gestation has some additional motives other than lack of competency on Pregnancy Diagnosis (PD) or gross ignorance. It is also possible that livestock keepers/ or traders sell pregnant females because, phenotypically they appear heavier and presentable and consequently sell at better prices as opposed to non pregnant ones. Financial resources limitation in time of crisis such as dry season may motivate indiscriminate sale of females for slaughter.

The high volume of foetal wastage encountered poses a significant threat not only to meat and livestock production but also to the economy of the country.


Conflict of interest statement

We have no conflict of interest related to this work


The authors are grateful to Tanga Municipal authority for permission to undertake this study. Abattoir attendants are thanked for cooperation and help. This work was supported by MLFD through surveillance funds. We would also like to thank the Director of Veterinary Services for the kind permission to publish this work.


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Received 24 June 2015; Accepted 9 September 2015; Published 1 October 2015

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