THE POTENTIALS OF SMALL RUMINANT PRODUCTION IN CROSS RIVER RAIN FOREST ZONE OF NIGERIA: A REVIEW
Small ruminant animals include Goats (Capra hircus) and Sheep (Ovis aries). Some tropical breeds of goats are the West African Dwarf (WAD), Sudanese Desert /Nubian, Maradi (Red Sokoto), Black Bengal and Barbari. While sheep breeds include Y’ankassa, Ouda /Uda, Balami and WAD sheep. The commonest breeds of goats and sheep in Cross River Rain Forest Zone are the West African Dwarfs for both species. These animals are compact with a special attribute of being trypanotolerant. Some northern breeds e.g. Red Sokoto goats and Y’ankassa sheep as trade animals abound in major towns in the zone. The animals are highly priced in the area as they provide household meat for consumers and skin for the local leather industry. Goats have been reported to contribute 16.0% and Sheep 5.0% of total domestically produced meat in Nigeria, which has been estimated at 813,000 tonnes per annum. Sheep and goat skins have been estimated at 7,500 tonnes and 20,400 tonnes annually respectively. Milk from Sheep and Goats has been accepted in most developed countries as an alternative to cow milk and their contribution stands at 46% of the world total production of 7.3 million tonnes for sheep and 40% of the total world production of 7.2 million tonnes for goats in both the tropics and subtropics. Goat milk for instance has been reported to contain more β-casein and less α-casein than cow milk. The milk is easily digestible, because it contains a higher proportion of short and medium chain fatty acids with smaller globules than cow milk, which makes it promising in relieving stress and constipation. These small ruminants can be raised through the traditional free range, semi – intensive and intensive systems in the Cross River Rain Forest Zone so as to mitigate the common problems of protein deficiency, poverty and unemployment among the populace in the area and Nigeria in general.