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AN OVERVIEW OF ANIMAL PRODUCTION: CONCEPTS, ROLES, CONSTRAINTS AND STRATEGIES OF ANIMAL PRODUCTION

At the end of this unit, you should be able to: 
• explain the concept of animal production and your preference for 
application of scientific techniques rather than traditional techniques in animal production 
• identify the important roles and constraints in livestock production in Nigeria 
• suggest solutions to the constraints and chart way for advancing production of livestock particularly in Nigeria.  
 

3.1 Concept of Animal Production 

Animal production is an aspect of agricultural production. Agriculture is 
simply defined as the art and science of crop, animal and fibre production for human consumption. As a branch of agriculture, animal production deals with production of domesticated animals other than pets and game animals. 
As a subject matter it has roots in the natural sciences not only by the 
application of basic principles of science but also in theoretical foundations. Thus, animal production relates in certain aspects to zoology, pathology, genetics, microbiology, botany, biochemistry, 
chemistry, physics, statistics, mathematical and pharmaceutical sciences. 
 
Since animal production forms a central theme in the provision of essential human needs, the evolution of its practices over time has benefited from skills and knowledge acquired through cultural and 
scientific techniques. Both traditional and scientific skills have served useful purposes in the development and advancement of animal production. While the traditional technique often evolves slowly over several decades; conservative; limited to a locality or group of people 
and possibly extended by ancestral linkage; the scientific techniques has 
proven to be more versatile, and considered as a better alternative 
approach. It is more dependable in conveying knowledge and skills from 
an individual or from one place to another. Science-based skills much more than cultural skills are indeed more sustainable and profitable for individual farmers and nations applying them in their production 
activities or systems. Far beyond meeting social, economic, nutritional and profitability targets application of scientific principles in animal production has sustained productivity to barely satisfy the present level of world demands for animal products. 
Under the traditional practice and knowledge system, taboos, custom 
and beliefs are associated with production, processing and consumption 
of livestock and livestock products. The Hindus religious sect of India, for example, forbids the slaughter of cattle and consumption of beef. 
Similarly in Nigeria, the Fulani cattle owners derive social dignity in terms of number or heads of cattle owned by an individual rather than the productivity of the herd. 
In addition, same herders are traditionally bound to a specific coat colour or breed of animals inherited from their ancestors and may not permit introduction of a different coat colour or breed even if the latter 
offers superior desirable traits. Acceptance of certain beneficial 
technologies for adoption has suffered from rigid adherence to certain traditional beliefs or practices notwithstanding the potential advantages they hold. The use of artificial insemination as a cheaper means of cross�breeding exotic (foreign) bulls with the local breeds of cows for instance 
was resisted and rejected by local herdsmen because they considered it 
un-natural to inseminate animals by artificial method and processes. 
In some instances, the traditional skills have been of tremendous to support to the production and healthcare of animals especially in areas remote from access to orthodox drugs and healthcare services. The use of herbs and bark of trees for disease treatment or to lessen reproductive difficulties has been shown to be effective. Indigenous knowledge has in recent time become an interesting subject of research study. However, 
limitations of extending the practice for wider adoption, ascertaining the quantity of active ingredient, determining the application rate or preserving such materials have constituted a major constraint, besides the slow rate of their discoveries. 
The application of scientific principles and skills on the other hand has surpassed these limitations, and has greatly improved production and productivity of livestock with the aid of scientific principles; careful study of anatomy and physiology of the body systems of various 
livestock species; formulation of different feed and nutrient requirements for varying production purposes or targets have been 
determined, and are in use. On these principles diets are formulated and 
applied in accordance with body requirements of the class and specie of 
the animal. 
In animal breeding, genetic studies have made provisions for crossing two or more breeds of animal with near predictable characteristics of the offspring, obtain higher hybrid vigour or determine how much of the character is heritable. Closely related to this is the artificial insemination 
technology which evolved from the accumulation of scientific knowledge on reproductive physiology and anatomy of animals. It is possible to collect and extend genetic material from a productive and proven male animal to artificially inseminate several other female animals far away from the environment of the bull or its generation. 
New advances in biotechnology application in animal production suggest production of several offspring’s from artificial initiation of stem cell division into many units, each of which is capable to grow into individual animal. Several applications of scientific principles have 
evolved into skills and technologies with tremendous impact on improving animal production system, productivity and profitability. One beauty of the application of science is the ease with which it can be 
extended over a wide geographical area, its potency to solve the problem 
being targeted and the assurance to bring results if the procedures are carefully followed as well as the fast rate of generating new discoveries. 

3.2 Brief History of Animal Production 

Animal production perhaps began about 10,000 years ago, when man started domesticating animals from the wild for his immediate and continual needs. Man’s efforts in this regard deviated from killing and destruction of animals especially for their products. In man’s renewed attitude, captured animals were tendered through proper feeding, breeding and application of other management practices, which have led to favourable adaptation and multiplication within the confine of human 
environment. As man further realised the potentials of farm animals as sources of food, fibre, and income, greater attention and efforts began to evolve to improve production and productivity. 
Outstanding performance of measurable and quality characteristics started to manifest for identification and consideration for possible multiplication through selection, breeding and upgrading. Since then new advances began to unfold especially in the Western countries. The 
advances brought alongside; provision of proper housing, feeding selection and breeding methods resulting in the automation of various aspects of animal production and processing at the present time. The improvement in livestock production in the Western nations far outstrip the level of development in the sub-Saharan Africa, where over 90% of 
ruminant animals are still in the hands of peasants who use traditional production methods. Applications of modern production methods in Nigeria are largely restricted to institutional farms and a few commercial farms

3.3 Roles of Animal Production in Nigeria

The importance of animal production to the Nigerian economy derives largely from its provision of animal protein foodstuff, employment, industrial raw materials and foreign exchange earnings, and extends to several socio-cultural roles among different societies. 
The recognised role of animal production in the nutrition of Nigerians particularly as source of animal protein stems from the common knowledge that 35 per cent of the nation’s meat supply comes alone 
from sheep and goats not to mention supplies from cattle, swine and poultry. Failures to meet demand for the animal protein have resulted in continual importation of animal products with or without official permission. Optimum animal protein intake, without exaggeration, is required for optimum physical and mental development of every 
individual. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, 1985) of the United Nations recommended a minimum of about 56g of protein intake per person per day to be consistent with good living. About 50 per cent (or 28g) of this should come from such animal protein sources as meat, milk, eggs and fish. The British Medical Association recommended a 
higher minimum intake of 68g per person per day. Most Nigerians consume less than 10g of protein per person per day out of which only about 3.2g is animal protein compared to the recommended daily intake of 28g. The expected role of animal production is to fill the wide gap of about 25g of daily animal protein intake per person in Nigeria (Dafwang, 2006). 
Engagement in farm animal production activities provides gainful employment and means of livelihood to a large cross section of Nigerians as herdsmen, butchers, livestock specialists, manufacturers and suppliers of feeds, drugs and other production inputs, marketers and traders in the diverse animal products produced regularly and on daily basis. In certain part of Nigeria, animal production activities offer an 
alternative full employment during the dry season when other agricultural production activities are reduced or non-existent. The 
alternative means of employment at off season enables the people concerned to earn a living while discouraging tendency to engage in vice habits. 
The provision of primary industrial raw materials of animal origin is a major consideration for undertaking production of animals in most countries. Nigeria is known for export of the famous ‘Morocco leather’ obtained from the skin of Red Sokoto breed of goats in addition to the 
hides and skins from other livestock. Milk and eggs produced in large quantities in the developed nations form raw materials for large and long chain of assorted industrial firms upon which the economies of the countries depend. The economy of Holland is largely dependent on dairying activities, so also are nations of Australia and New Zealand whose revenues are derived substantially from live animals, beef and other meat products. 
Export of industrial raw materials of animal source naturally translates into huge foreign exchange earnings for the exporting countries. As a result, nations aspiring to earn large foreign revenue make specific plans to develop their livestock industries for optimum productivity. The potentials of the Nigerian livestock industry to develop in order to 
satisfy domestic demands and earn huge foreign exchange within the 
sub-Saharan African and West African regions are clearly indicated in the impressive contributions of the subsector to the economy. These important roles and benefits from a well organised livestock production system are yet to be tapped to the fullest in Nigeria. 
However, one role of animal production that seems to have been exploited perhaps to its maximum is the use of livestock production to meet socio-cultural obligations in marriages and festivals, where animals are used for sacrifices and as symbols of social status in the 
communities concerned. These cultural obligations are of tremendous social values to a large section of producers in Nigeria. There is a great task ahead to re-orientate and modify these values into the primary objectives of animal production which entail provision of animal protein 
food needed for growth development, gainful employment and improved 
livelihood. There is also an urgent need for repositioning the industry to earn foreign exchange for the nation as well as produce raw materials for industrial growth. 

3.4 Problems Confronting Livestock Production

A number of constraints confront the Nigerian livestock industry and 
impedes its growth and development. Some of the most limiting factors 
are listed and discussed as follow: 

(1) Nutrition and Feed Supplies:

 The provision of feed that is adequate both in quality and quantity and accessible to animals all year round is the most outstanding problem of livestock 
production in Nigeria. The natural range resources that form the primary source of nutrients have been observed to rapidly 
increase in nutritive value at the onset of rains and decline shortly thereafter. The state of poor nutritive feed quality often last longer during the year than the period of forage abundance and high nutritive quality. Supplementation with crop residues from cropped farmlands scarcely meets the requirements for animal growth. The unavailability of grazing feedstuff in the year round is aggravated by the widespread bushfire and imbalance between the stocking rate and carrying capacity of the range. The consequence of overstocking is simply high incidence of erosion and a reduction in the carrying capacity of vast land area with potential for high cattle production as in the Jos and Mambilla Plateaux, Sahel and Sudan ecological zones. In event of acute 
shortage of range resources during the dry season and extending for a period of 2 years as in 1972-1974 considerable losses in live weight and number of stock usually result. The cyclical occurrence of feed deficit year in and year out impairs animal 
growth rate and reproductive performance while instigating movement of stock from one place to another with its numerous 
attendant problems including high susceptibility of animals to diseases and pest attack and often fatal clash between herders and farmers. 

(2) Inadequate Breeding Programme: 

Adoption of haphazard breeding programme in which indigenous cows are crossbred with bulls by natural or artificial insemination at one time and massive importation of exotic breeds into Nigeria at another, have failed to make any tangible impact. The consequence of this 

is the proliferation of local breeds of cattle in their numbers not responding to improvement in quantitative traits. It is still not clear as to what means to categorise local breeds of cattle as dairy 
or beef type. They all exhibit dual or triple-purpose traits, with productivity far below the average expected. The reproductive 
performance of the cows which is an important consideration in breeding is hampered by long calving interval that is rooted in poor management and inadequate feeding. Worst still, Nigeria 
has no breeding policy programme for her livestock.

(3) Disease and Pest Infestation: 

Due to tropical nature of the Nigerian environment, a number of important epizootic diseases of livestock easily thrive. In cattle, for example; rinderpest, 
contagious pleuropneumonia (CBPP), dermatophilosis foot and mouth disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and trypanosomiasis. 
These diseases are so virulent that they limit production, increase morbidity and cause widespread death of cattle. Recently, Nigeria was officially declared free of rinderpest infection. However, 
other diseases of less epizootic nature are assuming increasing significance e.g. mastitis, brucellosis, dermatophilosis, heartwater etc. Together these reduce productivity of the national herd even 
if they are less virulent. Although much progress has been made in the diagnosis and control of some of these diseases, the increasing populations of vector-pests that transmit the diseases constitute a major hazard and threat to farm animal production in Nigeria. Infestation of tsetse fly alone for example, covers 75 per cent or 600,000 to 700,000 km2 of the entire country (FMA and GRNC, 1981) rendering areas with valuable feed resource nearly 
inhabitable for cattle. Other pests of significant economic importance are enteric and helmintic parasites of coccidian emeria, flukes, roundworm and hookworms as well as ectoparasites like ticks, mange, mites and lice. They cause 
diarrhoea, loss of appetite, slow growth rate, unthrithfulness, damages to skin and most often debilitating mortality among 
stock leading to grave economic losses. 

(4) Land Ownership and Usage:

 Land tenure remains a major obstacle to livestock development, for herders have no secured individual accesses or rights to land. Communities and individuals who crop the land often lay claim to ownership of the land. A concession to carry out agricultural activities is merely given to settled pastoralists rather permanent land tenureship. 
Little or no opportunity is available for pastoralists to invest and develop the land for a full return of benefits and expansion. 

(5) Low Investment Potential: 

The slow rate of growth of the livestock industry in Nigeria denotes a long gestation period for investment to mature. This is contrary to quick return on investment desired by financial institutions like banks and 
investment houses. Livestock projects are scarcely attractive unlike services and trades that have tendency to return borrowed funds and interest more quickly due to longer period of growth required and the high uncertainty it is associated. Collaterals and guarantee of substantial value are not easily available for livestock producers to secure sufficient loans to improve production even in few instances where financial institution may be willing to do so. 

(6) Institutional Problems:

 Lack of genuine institutional support and political will to muster required efforts to improve livestock production cannot be divested from problems confronting the industry. In countries of India, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand etc, deliberate action-packed programmes are outlined and implemented with very strong extension component that enables experts work in collaboration with native producers to 
find solutions to the problems of production. In Nigeria such plan 
programmes are tested within a limited area and frustrated by undue rivalry and competition for position, profession or 
financial benefits as well as poor implementation strategy. 
Policies are written and are never implemented before abrupt changes are introduced. As a result, Nigeria has as many policies as the number of commissions set up to assess part or all the teething problems militating against the growth of the livestock industry. As if the poor attitude on the part ofgovernment is insufficient, the greater undoing comes from producers who are largely uneducated, conservative and highly mobile. Meaningful extension outreach can rarely accommodate producers who 
harbor hatred, suspicion or reject and are nonchalant towards innovations put in place for adoption. 

3.5 Strategies for Advancing Animal Production in Nigeria 

Some strategies for purposeful development of the livestock industry in 
Nigeria are suggested as follows: 
(1) Change in value and attitude of livestock producers from the present consideration for number of stock as status symbol to more important objectives of higher productivity and socio economic benefits that are business oriented. 
(2) Careful selection of local breeding stock from breed and individual records. 
(3) National upgrading and breeding programmes involving exotic and local breeds, thereby mass producing the heterozygous offspring for production purposes. 
(4) Careful exploration of various farming systems to ensure availability of feedstuff throughout the year and intensification 
agricultural production system. 
(5) Feed quality improvement through deliberate supplementation and range exploitation to meet daily requirements for various nutrients. 
(6) Exploitation of the biological abilities of the stock to derive maximally from the available feedstuff. 
(7) Establishment of a responsive and resilient animal health system that is capable of quick intervention, continuous and effective management of animal diseases and their predisposing agents and conditions. 

4.0 CONCLUSION 

Animal production both in concept and practice is rooted in scientific principles upon which it has made substantial growth and development. 
The traditional methods of production, though still persistent and possibly played some roles in the past, are gradually fading out. The significance of livestock production is daily increasing with greater 
implications for human survival, economic and social advancement in the face of challenging constraints that need pro-active efforts to resolve. 

5.0 SUMMARY 

Animal production is defined as an aspect of agriculture which in itself is the science and art of producing crop, animal and fibre products for human use. Just as in wider agricultural activities, animal production 
depends on art (or traditional) and scientific principles in practice and 
theory. Current level of progress has indicated that scientific applications tend to be more amenable to meet present and future targets for animal products. The demand and usefulness of animal products for human health and survival economic and industrial growth as well as 
provision of other social services are ever increasing. Yet, challenges and constraints limiting Nigeria and other developing nations in fulfilling these demands for animal products are manifest. Perhaps, 
solutions lie in developing strategies around value and attitudinal orientation of the majority of producers, selection and upgrading of genetic pool for various desirable traits, and exploitation of the farming systems and feed resources for greater animal productivity while 
curtailing incidence of animal pests and diseases through a virile animal health management system. 

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT 
1. Briefly explain the concept of animal production 
2. Itemise rationales for your preference for the application of scientific principles rather than traditional techniques in animal production. 
3. Identify important roles and constraints to livestock production in Nigeria. 

7.0 REFERENCES/FURTHER READING 

Dafwang, I.I. (2006). “Meat, Eggs and Milk from Farm Wastes: 
Explorations in Animal Nutrition Research and Extension.” An Inaugural Lecture, NAERLS, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. 
F.A.O. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organisation, United Nations University (1985). “Energy and 
Protein Requirements.” WHO Technical Report, Series 724. 
Geneva, Switzerland. (http://www.afpafitness.com). 
 
FMA & GRNC. (1981). Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Green Revolution National Committee. “The Green Revolution – A 
Livestock Production Plan for Nigeria.” Pp. 40-47.

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