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