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Livestock Production in Nigeria – A thriving Industry

livestock animals

Contributors – Drs Edward Olajide and Samuel Akpan

Livestock refers to animals that are domesticated primarily for food. They can also be referred to as “food animals”. In Nigeria, the common livestock animals are Poultry birds (Chicken, Turkey, Quail, Duck), Cattle, Small ruminants (Goats, Sheep), Pigs, Rabbits, and in some parts of the northern region of the country, Donkeys, Camels, and Horses. The most commonly reared ones are Chickens, Cattle, Goats, and Sheep. According to a Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD, 2017) report, the number of livestock animals produced annually in Nigeria was as follows – 180 million poultry birds; 76 million goats, 43.4 million sheep, 18.4 million cattle, 7.5 million pigs, 1.4 million Equids (horses, donkeys, etc.). Of these numbers, the majority of the animals were reportedly raised in free-range production systems which comprise of smallholders and nomadic herders.


In Nigeria, chickens are more common than other poultry birds. They are of different categories ranging from pullets (layers), broilers, and noilers. The broilers are mostly used for meat production while the layers are for egg production. The most preferred breeds in Nigeria include the Marshall, ISA Brown, Cobb, Bovans Black, Cornish Cross, Arbor Acre Plus, K-22 Moyer, and the Cornish Giants. Farmers acquire stock from hatcheries either from day-old (DOCs), or 2 weeks of age, or point-of-lay pullets (15-17 weeks of age) from trusted good pedigree grower farms.

The poultry management systems in use are:

Due to availability and affordability, eggs and meat obtained from poultry birds are major sources of nutritional protein in an average Nigerian home. By-products such as feathers are used in some communities for cultural and beautification purposes, and their manure is widely preferred for use as organic fertilizers in agricultural crop production.


Like poultry, they are ubiquitous throughout Nigeria but most common in the northern region. Breeds of cattle in Nigeria are grouped into two: Indigenous and exotic breeds. The indigenous breeds are further subdivided into the Zebu and Taurine. Zebus are characterized by long horns, large humps, and tallness. Examples include Bunaji (also known as white fulani), Rahaji, Adamawa Gudali, Wadara, Azawak, and Sokoto Gudali (which have short/rudimentary horns and prominent dewlap). The Taurines are humpless, short-horned, and short-legged. Examples are N’dama, Keteku, and Kuri (robust horns). Keteku breed is more common in the southwestern part of the country and Kuri breed is common to the northeastern parts of the country. The exotic breeds are majorly acquired for breeding and milk production purposes. Examples are Holstein Friesian, Jersey, and Brown Swiss

Also, there are three systems of cattle management in Nigeria: the extensive or pastoral system, the semi-intensive or agro-pastoral system and the intensive or commercial system.


Sheep are raised for their wool, mutton (meat), and milk. Indigenous breeds are low milk-yielding and are seldom milked; hence sheep milk is largely unpopular in Nigeria. Mutton is eaten regularly as good source of protein, predominantly in the north. The four common breeds of sheep are the Balami, West African Dwarf (WAD), Yankasa, and Uda. The WAD is prominent in the south, while Balami and Uda are more in the semi-arid regions of the country. The males (rams) are highly-priced due to their believed religious significance and preference by Muslim faithfuls for religious celebrations (Sallah).


There are three major breeds of goats in Nigeria: the West African Dwarf(WAD), Sokoto Red/Maradi, and the Sahel. The WAD is more common to southern Nigeria while Sokoto Red and Sahel are more in the northern regions of the country. They are mostly raised for mutton (meat) and milk. Foreign breeds such as the Boer and the Kalahari are bred by institutions and ranches solely for research purposes.


They are raised for their pork (meat). In Nigeria, the exotic breeds including Duroc, Large White, Hampshire, and Landrace are gradually replacing the traditional black hairy pig. Pig population is more in the southern part of the country in comparison with the northern part of the country, due to religious beliefs and taboos (see our earlier published article Common Myths About Pig Farming dispelled).


Socioeconomic Importance of Nigeria’s Macro Livestock Industry

In our subsequent article, we shall be discussing micro-livestock production in Nigeria, and practical ways to utilize it as a tool for fighting nutritional deficiency and poverty eradication.

Sources: FMARD Report 2017, IntechOpen, Livestock Survey, FAO

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