Sheep Farming in South Africa

© Lynn Rapson Koppiesfontein
Afrino sheep near Smithfield in the Free State Province.

Sheep farming is practiced in all provinces throughout 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 South African sheep breeds, farming systems and feeding of sheep, in particular on the production of sheep meat - lamb and mutton, as well as Karoo meat.

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

Dual-purpose sheep breeds in South Africa refers to an animal that can be farmed for both the production of wool and meat....more

Feeding of Sheep

The feeding of sheep is an important component of sheep farming, as sheep obtain their nutritional requirements from the pastures they graze on...more

Indigenous Sheep Breeds in South Africa

Indigenous sheep breeds of South Africa are mostly animals well-adapted to extreme climates such as arid hot areas and are often of slender built with fat tails, used for meat production....more

Karoo Meat

Karoo Meat of Origin has so far made several attempts to register Karoo lamb as a geographical indicator in the meat industry in South Africa, similar to Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese....more

Meat Grading Systems - Mutton and Lamb

The meat grading systems of mutton and lamb in South Africa are in place to ensure quality meat production. Meat carcasses are graded after slaughtering...more