Livestock Farming in Nigeria is an old farming practice which has stood the test of time and is one way of regularly ensuring the availability of meat for human consumption. The need for food by man can never be overemphasized and as long as humans continue to multiply on the earth, there will always be an endless need for the consumption of food.
It is important to note that humans are omnivores, that is, they get their food from two major sources which are plants and animals. We will not go into plants and plant consumption in this article as what we are generally interested in is the food derived from animals, hence the need to treat this topic: Livestock Farming in Nigeria.
Livestock farming in Nigeria is the most common method of deriving food from animals and it is the process of rearing animals mainly for consumption as food, either in small scale or for commercial purposes but the keyword to note is that the general aim for livestock farming is for food.
The most popular animals reared as livestock, for consumption in Nigeria include cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, fish, especially the catfish (Clarias gariepinus) breed to mention but a few.
Importance of Improving Livestock Farming in Nigeria.
Do you know that Nigeria currently imports foreign milk at a rate of 1 million dollars per day? With this alone, it is noteworthy to say that the country is failing in the area of satisfying it’s daily demand for dairy products.
One of the major reasons why Nigeria has failed to satisfy its demand for milk is the hesitance on the part of investors. Potential investors in this sector are always overwhelmed with diffidence and indecision.
They fear failure and are mostly uncertain about what they are about to step into. This is mostly due to lack of enlightenment, the dwindling economy of the country and the amount of time taken before profits are made in livestock business.
Another reason is the failure of livestock owners to embrace modern techniques and innovations. In Nigeria, cattle accounts for 50% of the nation’s meat supply, while sheep and goats accounts for 20 and 5% respectively. Cattle also provides 90% of the total annual milk output, while sheep and goats account for less than 10%.
This statistics leaves cattle as the most sought after source of animal protein. 90% of Nigeria’s cattle population are predominantly owned by nomadic pastorals who are normally oblivious of modern techniques and innovations.
Other reasons why Nigeria has failed to satisfy its demand for milk is the costs of input and hybrids.
Highly productive animal breeds and modern livestock farming equipment are not very affordable, most rural farmers are not always able to acquire them, therefore they stick with the less productive local breeds and productivity is undermined.
Also, lack of milk collection centers in the rural areas discourages people in rural areas to take up commercial livestock farming as s readily available market isn’t always close.
Having pointed out all the reasons why livestock farming needs to improve in Nigeria, here are eight ways to go about improving livestock farming in Nigeria.
8 Ways to improve livestock farming in Nigeria
1. Enlightenment Programmes
Prospective livestock farmers and those in the business already should be enlightened on the latest and most modern ways to improve livestock farming and they should be empowered with the knowledge of new innovations in the business.
Government, non-governmental organisations and financial institutions can help organise these enlightenment programmes and fund it.
Adequate attention should be paid to the education of rural livestock farmers, especially the fulani herders.
2. Government Support
Adequate government support is necessary and instrumental to the development of livestock farming in Nigeria. Government needs to put adequate infrastructures in place to aid the growth of the livestock farming sector.
Infrastructures like good roads, good rail system and electricity will all boost the current level of productivity.
3. Adoption of modern Livestock farming methods
Efforts needs to be put in place by the government to persuade rural livestock farmers and fulani herders to adopt modern innovations and technologies that have been tested and proven to boost production in the livestock sector.
The countinous reliance on traditional methods have led to the nations inability to meet its animal protein needs therefore there is a need to encourage livestock farmers to embrace biotechnology techniques to improve the breed of their cattle through artificial insemination so as to obtain optimal productivity.
4. Settling the Nomads
One of the most reliable solution to improve livestock farming in Nigeria is to settle the nomads. Since the Fulani nomads holds and control more than 90% of the cattle population in the nation, efforts should be made towards settling by the government. This will make them easily accessible to veterinarians and livestock scientists.
This exposure will help the nomads embrace the best modern practices in animal agriculture. If this is successfully achieved, it will no doubt enhance milk and meat production in Nigeria.
5. Provision of Livestock Feeds and Nutrition
To improve livestock farming, the government and interest based organizations in the country should invest more on animal feeds production. Poor quality feed severely cripples the development of livestock in Nigeria. For example, natural grass and herbage in northern Nigeria, where the bulk of the livestock are raised, produce less than the minimum of 6% protein.
The low protein isn’t enough to meet the nutritional needs, therefore, there is an increased weight loss within the animals.
Animals that feed from this pasturage also have low-quality and quantity of meat and milk. In order to improve livestock production in Nigeria, adequate attention should be paid to nutrition. Low cost feeds and supplement should be made available to farmers.
6. Provision of Livestock Health Care Plan
If Nigeria really want to improve livestock farming, adequate attention should be paid to the health of livestock and also, the rural livestock farmers and herders should also be educated on the importance of employing the services of a certified veterinarian whenever there is an outbreak of diseases.
This will help curtail morbidity as well as reducing the spread of livestock diseases whenever there is an outbreak.
7. Livestock research
Livestock research can improve livestock farming in Nigeria. Research programmes carried out by tertiary institutions and government research institutes should be encouraged so as to enhance the discovery of useful technological methods and innovations that will improve livestock production.
Livestock farmers should also be made to embrace biotechnological techniques available in research institutes across the country to improve the breed of their cattle through artificial insemination.
Research institutes should be encouraged and empowered by the government and relevant agencies to enable them find lasting solution to animal diseases and also the production of vaccines to control or eradicate them.
8. Livestock credits
To improve livestock farming, there should be readily available bank credits to facilitate the production. Nigerian banks hardly gives out loans to the Fulani herders.
Since the Fulanis control the majority of the bulk of livestock in the country, efforts should be made towards making loans available to them so as to help them increase productivity as well as enabling them to acquire input facilities needed for optimum productivity.
Financial institutions in Nigeria should also help create credits and make them available to prospective livestock farmers. This will help reduce unemployment rate as well as encouraging willing investors to dabble into livestock farming.
These processes, if duly followed, will help improve livestock farming in Nigeria and provide Nigerians with more than enough animal food products to consume.