All system of livestock production is related to their environment. An understanding of way a system has developed with its particular local characteristics is essential to any study of livestock production or attempt to improve on it.
Two broads system of livestock production are found in the tropics- the traditional and modern production systems.
Each has several subdivisions depending on the prevailing climatic condition and other factors; environment, farm system, legislation, level of urbanization, degree of adaptation, carrying capacity of the grazing land.
Extensive System of Livestock Production
The traditional systems of livestock husbandry have evolved in a response to climate and environment factor. In the dry part of the tropics flocks or herd are large and often travel long. These are also known as extensive system.
Under extensive production system, livestock graze and browse and browse large area of land that usually of a marginal nature, and unsuitable for other agricultural use. The distance herds or flock move daily to reach out for water shelter at night and pastures dictates the degree sedentarization or normadism.
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A sedentary system is one with fixed homestead and steady grazing area. A large proportion of tropical stock of mixed or individual species of cattle, sheep and goats may be grazed at same time. Within the extensive system two traditional subsystems are recognized, both of which have utilized marginal areas successfully for very long time. These are nomadism and trashumance.
Namodism was widespread until recently, when it is gradually transforming into sedentary and transhumance system. Camps are fixed at different points along their route of movement, depending upon the amount of water and pastures available in an area.
Political boundaries are often ignored in the course of movement, which often pose legal constraints and other bottleneck.
Transhumance is a common feature in the tropics involving movement and seasonal pastures as well as between different r regional areas. Apart from wide cycle movement, altitude transhumance also occurs between lowland areas and mountain top in response to temperature.
Shuttling occur specially between very dry and wetter are to avoid pest infestation and in search of good quality and abundant forage and water as well which vary with change of season between north and south in the sub-Saharan Africa. The practice is also found in other parts of Africa, South East Asia, Near and M idle East, Mediterranean Europe and South America.
Several reasons other than a search for forage and water accessibility are given for transhumance practice that often take different modes. Animals from different families may be grouped together as one large flock or herd for transhumance expedition at a season, hired herder may be employed and mixed species could be involved.
Goats are often move to pasture at higher altitudes than cattle because they are more agile and can better utilize sparse vegetation rather swampy in river or lake basins.
The migratory movement is not an aimless wondering as erroneously misconstrued in the past, and number of reasons may be adduced, namely:
- To find feed and water throughout the year for stock
- To avoid flooding in wet areas
- To permit cropping of homestead for food production
- To avoid discuss and pest infestation known to be prevalent in a particular place
- To afford full utilization of grazing resources perhaps lying waste in the marginal land areas
- To conserve and improve soil fertility for seasonal agricultural production, in which crop residues are consumed by livestock and in return they give manure
The Fulani in West Africa are transhumant. Their permanent bases are in areas of seasonal crop production. In rainy season they move into tropical savanna and desert scrub. In the dry season they return to cultivated areas where their animal feed on crop residues; they may even extend further into the fringes of the forest zone.
Herd and flock sizes may range from 50-300 heads per herder with a herd or flock composition of 55 per cent mature female, 25 per cent mature male and 25 per cent young female of sheep, cattle or goats.