Sheep Farming in South Africa

© Lynn Rapson Koppiesfontein
Sheep farming is a vital source of income for commercial and subsistance farmers in South Africa, like this flock of Afrino sheep near Smithfield in the Free State Province.

Sheep farming is done all over South Africa, but is traditionally concentrated in the more arid regions of the country. Although the income derived from sheep farming is modest compared to other livestock produced here, e.g. poultry, the sheep industry is vital in the rural and arid regions of South Africa. 

In South Africa, sheep breeds are a mix of the hairy indigenous breeds, fat-tailed and fat-rumped breeds, and South African developed composite ‘exotic’ breeds, such as the SA mutton Merino. Depending on the breed, sheep can be used for fibre, using wool and hair, as well as for meat production, or are sometimes used to produce dairy products. 

Meat production is aimed at local consumption, although limited quantities are exported to neighbouring countries. The exact number of sheep farmed in SA is unknown, but according to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the number was around 28 million in 2011.

This series focuses on breeds, farming systems and feeding of sheep, in particular on the production of sheep meat - lamb and mutton.

By Marinda Louw

Breeds of Sheep for Meat in South Africa

Sheep are commercially farmed for either meat or wool, but certain breeds yield good quality and quantity of both. In this article, we will focus on sheep breeds used in South Africa for meat production only....more

Dual Purpose Sheep Breeds in South Africa

A dual-purpose sheep is an animal that can be farmed for both the production of wool and meat. South African studies have found that farming with a suitable dual-purpose breed for a specific climate can generate a higher income...more

Feeding of Sheep

Sheep obtain their nutritional requirements from the pastures they graze on or through feed when they are based in intensive farming systems....more

Indigenous Sheep Breeds in South Africa

In this article, we will focus on some indigenous sheep breeds used for meat production. Indigenous breeds are mostly animals well-adapted to extreme climates such as arid hot areas and are often of slender built with fat tails....more

Meat Grading Systems - Mutton and Lamb

Meat carcasses are graded after slaughtering to indicate the age and fat content of the meat. It also helps to determine the price of meat and makes it easier for consumers to identify their preferred quality of meat....more