The West African Dwarf sheep is a breed of domestic sheep. It is the dominant breed of sheep from the southwest to central Africa.
Currently the breed is mainly found in West Africa, and it’s range extending from Senegal to Chand, Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo.
It is adapted for life in humid forested area, sub-humid areas and savannahs.
It is known by some other names such as West African Maned, Southern, Savannah-type, Pagan, Nigerian Dwarf, Lakka, Kirdimi, Kirdi, Guinean, Futa Jallon, Fouta Djallon, Forest-type, Djallonke and Cameroons Dwarf.
The West African Dwarf sheep breed is a dwarf meat sheep breed, and it is classified as being one of the savannah-type of West African Sheep.
Currently the breed is most common and numerous in the southwestern region of Nigeria and a significant part of the herd is under modern management systems for meat production. Read some more information about this breed below.
West African Dwarf Sheep Characteristics
As the name suggests, the West African Dwarf sheep is a smaller sized breed of domestic sheep. It is usually white or piebald. The front half is black and the back half is white.
Although, blackbelly pattern and tan on white variety are also found. The Rams have a well-developed throat ruff and they are horned.
Horns of the rams are wide at the base, curve backwards, outwards and then forwards again. While the ewes are usually polled, but some may have slender short horns.
Ears of the West African Dwarf sheep are short and pendulous and their neck is long and slender. Their chest is deep, back is long and dished and the legs are short. They have pretty long tail which can reach the hocks.
Approximate live body weight of the mature West African Dwarf ram is around 37 kg. And the mature ewes on average weight around 25 kg.
The West African Dwarf sheep is a meat sheep breed. It is raised mainly for meat production.
The West African Dwarf sheep are very strong and hardy animals. They are highly tolerant of trypanosome. The ewes are thought to go into oestrus throughout the year. And on an average, the ewes can produce 1.15 to 1.50 lambs per lambing.
Growth rate of the West African Dwarf sheep is relatively show, but they can be bred at their age of 7 to 8 months. They are very docile animals in term of temperament.
They are very easy to handle and can easily interact closely with humans. Currently the breed is mainly raised for meat production. However, review full breed profile of this breed in the following chart.
|Breed Name||West African Dwarf|
|Other Name||Called by many names such as West African Maned, Southern, Savannah-type, Pagan, Nigerian Dwarf, Lakka, Kirdimi, Kirdi, Guinean, Futa Jallon, Fouta Djallon, Forest-type, Djallonke and Cameroons Dwarf|
|Special Notes||Very hardy and strong, highly tolerant of trypanosome, on average produce 1.15-1.50 lambs per lambing, relatively slow growth rate, docile, good temperament, very easy to handle|
|Weight||Vary from 25 to 37 Kg|
|Climate Tolerance||All climates|
|Color||Usually white or piebald|
|Country/Place of Origin||Africa|
West African Dwarf Sheep Facts
West African Dwarf sheep are versatile, hardy, and highly adaptable animals that play an important role in the economy of many West African countries. They are easy to maintain, highly productive, and able to thrive in a range of environments with limited resources.
While they may be vulnerable to predators, these sheep are generally docile and social animals that form close bonds with other members of their herd.
With ongoing breeding programs aimed at improving the genetic potential of the breed, it is likely that West African Dwarf sheep will continue to play an important role in livestock production for years to come. Here are some interesting facts about this sheep breed.
- Origin: West African Dwarf sheep are indigenous to West Africa, specifically Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire. They are also found in other parts of Africa and the Caribbean.
- Size: West African Dwarf sheep are small in size, typically weighing between 20-50 kg.
- Coat color: The coat of a West African Dwarf sheep can come in a range of colors including black, white, brown, and grey.
- Adaptability: West African Dwarf sheep are highly adaptable to different environments, including harsh conditions. They are generally able to survive in areas with limited resources.
- Climate preference: These sheep are well-suited to tropical and subtropical climates with high humidity and rainfall.
- Diet: West African Dwarf sheep are herbivorous animals that mainly feed on grasses, leaves, herbs, and shrubs.
- Reproduction: The breeding season for West African Dwarf sheep takes place between September and February. They usually give birth to single or twin lambs after a gestation period of five months.
- Lifespan: West African Dwarf sheep have an average lifespan of about 10 years.
- Milk production: West African Dwarf sheep produce a significant amount of milk, with an average yield of about 0.5 to 1 liter per day.
- Meat production: The meat produced by West African Dwarf sheep is lean and tender, making it a preferred choice for many consumers.
- Disease resistance: West African Dwarf sheep are resistant to many diseases that affect other breeds of sheep, including worm infections.
- Fertility: West African Dwarf sheep are highly productive and have a relatively high fertility rate. They can breed throughout the year.
- Docile nature: These sheep are generally docile and easy to handle, making them popular with small-scale farmers.
- Low maintenance: West African Dwarf sheep require minimal care and management, making them ideal for small-scale farming.
- Economic importance: West African Dwarf sheep play an important role in the economy of many West African countries, providing food and income for local communities.
- Grazing habits: West African Dwarf sheep are known for their grazing habits, which help to control the growth of weeds and promote the growth of grasses.
- Resilience: West African Dwarf sheep are resilient animals that can withstand extreme weather conditions, including droughts and floods.
- Wool production: While West African Dwarf sheep do produce wool, it is typically of low quality and not suitable for commercial use.
- Social behavior: West African Dwarf sheep are social animals that prefer to live in groups. They form close bonds with other members of their herd.
- Predators: West African Dwarf sheep are vulnerable to predators such as dogs, hyenas, and leopards.
- Breeding programs: There are several breeding programs aimed at improving the genetic potential of West African Dwarf sheep. These programs aim to increase milk and meat production while maintaining the breed’s hardiness and disease resistance.
- Crossbreeding: West African Dwarf sheep are often crossbred with other breeds to improve their productivity and adaptability.
- Exportation: West African Dwarf sheep are exported to many parts of the world due to their hardiness, adaptability, and economic importance.
Tips for Raising West African Dwarf Sheep
Raising West African Dwarf Sheep is relatively easy and simple. You can easily raise these animals even if you are a beginner. Here are some important tips for raising these sheep breed.
1. Provide adequate shelter
West African Dwarf sheep require shelter to protect them from extreme weather conditions. A simple roofed structure with walls on three sides can provide adequate shelter for these sheep.
2. Ensure proper ventilation
While shelter is important, it’s equally important to ensure that there is proper ventilation in the shelter. This helps to prevent the buildup of harmful gases and moisture.
3. Keep the shelter clean
It’s important to keep the shelter clean and free of manure and other debris. This helps to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites.
4. Provide adequate grazing area
West African Dwarf sheep require adequate space to graze. Generally, a minimum of 0.25 acres per sheep is recommended.
5. Rotate grazing areas
Rotating grazing areas helps to prevent overgrazing and promotes the growth of new grasses.
6. Provide clean water
Clean water is essential for the health and well-being of West African Dwarf sheep. It’s important to ensure that they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
7. Feed a balanced diet
West African Dwarf sheep require a balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Consult with a veterinarian or animal nutritionist for guidance on feeding your sheep.
8. Supplement with hay
Hay can be used as a supplement to grazing during periods of low forage availability. Alfalfa hay is a good source of protein for West African Dwarf sheep.
9. Avoid feeding moldy feed
Moldy feed can be toxic to West African Dwarf sheep and should be avoided.
10. Provide mineral supplements
West African Dwarf sheep require mineral supplements to maintain good health. Consult with a veterinarian or animal nutritionist for guidance on which supplements to provide.
11. Vaccinate against common diseases
West African Dwarf sheep are susceptible to a range of diseases, including pneumonia and foot rot. Vaccinating your sheep can help prevent these diseases.
12. Deworm regularly
Parasite infestations can be harmful to West African Dwarf sheep. Deworming should be done regularly to prevent parasite buildup.
13. Provide adequate bedding
Adequate bedding helps to keep West African Dwarf sheep clean and comfortable. Straw or wood shavings can be used as bedding material.
14. Monitor body condition
Monitoring the body condition of your West African Dwarf sheep can help you identify potential health problems early on.
15. Keep records
Keeping detailed records of your West African Dwarf sheep herd can help you track their growth and development, identify potential health issues, and make informed breeding decisions.
16. Practice biosecurity
Biosecurity measures should be taken to prevent the spread of disease within your herd. This includes quarantining new animals and practicing good hygiene practices.
17. Trim hooves regularly
Overgrown hooves can be painful and lead to lameness in West African Dwarf sheep. Hooves should be trimmed regularly to prevent this.
18. Shear wool when necessary
While West African Dwarf sheep do produce wool, it’s typically of low quality and not suitable for commercial use. However, if you do choose to shear your sheep, it’s important to do so when necessary to prevent overheating.
19. Maintain a healthy breeding program
A healthy breeding program is essential for maintaining the genetic diversity and health of your West African Dwarf sheep herd.
20. Plan for lambing season
Planning for lambing season involves ensuring that your pregnant ewes have adequate nutrition and shelter, and that you have a plan in place for assisting with difficult births.
21. Monitor for signs of illness
Early identification and treatment of illness is essential for the well-being of your West African Dwarf sheep herd. Signs of illness may include lethargy, loss of appetite, and respiratory distress.
22. Keep a clean environment
Keeping a clean environment helps to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites, which can lead to disease.
23. Seek professional advice when needed
If you’re unsure about how to properly care for your West African Dwarf sheep, seek advice from a veterinarian or experienced livestock farmer.