Small Ruminants in Sri Lanka

Jaffna Local Sheep Farm Small ruminant population represents 23.5% of the total ruminant population of Sri Lanka, where goats and sheep contribute 23.0% (500,000) and 0.5% (8,900), respectively. The precise statistics are not available, but the overwhelming majority of the population of small ruminants belong to indigenous types and their crosses.

Although the contribution of small ruminants to the rural societies is well recognized, the recorded financial contribution of the sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Production is small, as this contribution is difficult to quantify.

The population distribution

A Kottukachchiya Goat When the population distribution of goats is considered, 72% is concentrated in drier areas of the country, as indicated in the map of the country. The majority of these goats are non-descript-type indigenous animals. The only identified native breed, known as “Kottukachchiya”, is currently endangered, in part due to the lack of a properly organized breeding program.

The “Sri Lankan Boer” is a stabilized crossbred introduced to the breeders two decades ago. The indigenous sheep, Jaffna Local (90% of the total population) are found only in Northern tip of the country, on the Jaffna Peninsula.

A Non-descript type Goat A number of exotic breeds of goats and sheep have been introduced into the country with the state’s involvement, in order to improve the productivity of the national herd. The Jamnapari goat is one of these breeds, and is used extensively at present.

The farming System

The rearing small ruminants is usually done at a subsistence level and mainly confined to smallholder farmers. The system of farming is extensive with low input levels with flock sizes ranging from <5 to 150 animals per farm.Subsistence level goat farm The system of sheep farming practiced in northern Sri Lanka is quite different from the set of approaches typically applied to small ruminants in the rest of the country. In this region, sheep are farmed in a custom that is similar to transhumance, but within a small area.

The status of Utilization

Small ruminants are an under-utilized genetic resource in Sri Lanka. Proper evaluation regarding the value of this genetic resource, including genetic and phenotypic characterization is one of the most important steps forward in sustainable utilization of the resource. Characterization will allow Sri Lankan farmers and breeders to understand the value of their animals and to more efficiently plan breeding programmes designed to make the livestock more productive.