Livestock Research for Rural Development 21 (5) 2009 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Herd composition and management practices of cattle production by pastoralists in Oyo area of Southwest Nigeria

M O Daodu, O J Babayemi and E A Iyayi

Department of Animal Science, University of Ibadan, Nigeria


In southwest Nigeria, sustainable livestock production is practiced by agropastoralists who are scattered across the zone.  The traditional livestock husbandry is probably favoured by low humidity, less disease prevalence, ease of marketing, availability of feed and water all year round. Nevertheless, the herd composition and management practices for improved production among the agropastoralists are not well understood and documented. The study was therefore carried out using structured questionnaires in the three local Government areas of Oyo, Oyo State, Nigeria in order to highlight the problems and also the prospects of cattle production system in the area.


It was found that, the primary occupation of the pastoralist was livestock farming. In the herd composition of the pastoralist was mainly of cattle. The number of cows was more than bulls suggesting a dairy and also a breeding herd common among the farmers. The preferred breed was Bunaji accounting for 80% of the breed in the herd. Grasses and browse were the major feed for the animals during the wet season with an addition of crop residues in the dry season. The main feeding pattern adopted by the pastoralist was grazing and ‘cut and carry’.


Up to 70% of the animals was owner managed and 30% managed by the ‘care-taken’ system. All young bulls produced were fattened during the wet season. The prevalent adult ruminant disease was foot and mouth while diarrhoea was highly rampant among the young animals. Mortality recorded among the ruminants was considerably low compared to poultry. It is concluded that the pastoralists were more predisposed to keeping Bunaji cattle. Feeding was mainly by grazing and supplementation with crop residues, especially during the dry season when pasture is scarce.

Keywords: breeds, diet, household, husbandry, live-stock, peri-urban, supplementation


Livestock contribute about 12.7% of the total agricultural GDP of Nigeria (CBN 1999), but the supply of animal products has been declining over the past two decades, while demand has been increasing, due to increase in population and more urbanization. In Nigeria, ruminant livestock provide substantial quantities of animal protein due to their higher Tropical Livestock Unit (TLU). Though there are large-scale cattle farms, the pastoral system of production still remains an important feature in cattle production in the country.


Pastoralism, an age old system of livestock husbandry, entails grazing of animals as practiced in the ecological stratification of West Africa (Nuru 1988). Despite its dominance in the region, the traditional pattern of transhumance has been affected in recent years by a number of factors such as the drought in the Sahel and the increased arable farming in the semi-arid and sub-humid zones (Jabbar et al 1995, Okoruwa et al 1996). These factors are responsible for continued displacement of pastorals out of their traditional territories in the drier northern areas to the sub-humid and humid zones where they get pasture, water and crop residues. Over time the seasonal transhumance is gradually disappearing giving way to the process of sedentarization.


The pattern of livestock production among the settled Fulani has been shaped over time by both environmental and historical factors. Apart from keeping livestock, the Fulani now grow crops, thereby giving rise to a system of mixed farming. Jabbar (1995) reported that cattle owners who usually visit the humid zone for dry season grazing of their animals settle and become integrated crop/livestock farmers. The present study was designed to examine the herd composition and production management practices of cattle as practiced by peri-urban pastoralists in Oyo area of southwest Nigeria.


Materials and methods 

Study area


The study area is the derived savannah of Oyo consisting of Oyo West, Oyo East and Atiba Local Government areas of Oyo state in the South West of Nigeria, located between latitudes 6 10' and 9 10' North of the equator and longitudes 3 and 6 East of Greenwich. The area shared boundaries with Orire Local Government in the North, Akinyele Local Government in the South, Iseyin Local Government in the West and Osun State in the East. Vegetation in the area is made up of Guinea savannah and semi deciduous forest. Usually, the area experiences both fairly hot and dry season between the months of November and February and the cooler rainy season between the months of March and October. The annual precipitation of the area is between 1000 and 1350 mm. The temperature ranges from 22 C to 31 C and correlates negatively with humidity between the wet and dry seasons. The surface soil which is light textured sand or sandy loam is suitable for growing cereals (maize, millet, sorghum) and root crops (cassava and yam) which are particularly used as staple food by farmers in the area.


The predominant pastures in the area are Guinea grass, Andropogon species, Centrosema pubescens, Peuraria phaseoloides and Calopogonium mucunoides. The common browse plants that are available throughout the year are Leucaena leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium. During the rainy season, Tephrosia bracteolata, a shrub legume is rampant in the area. The area was purposely chosen for the study because of the adaptability of cattle and the favourable ecological niche being derived Savannah. The area has been noted and equally identified primarily for the high potential for the cattle husbandry and production. Furthermore, the process of Fulani sedentarization has been going on in the area for several decades.


Sample selection


A total of 50 Fulani farmers, representing households, were selected in Oyo area by using stratified random sampling procedure. With stratified random sampling, the livestock farmer’s population was in the first instance divided into two 'strata' namely crop-livestock farmers and livestock farmers only. In the survey, the variable of interest were herd composition, type of feeding, mode of feeding, livestock ownership, fattening systems and mortality rate. Selection was made from the existing frame list of the Fulani farmers obtained from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the area of study.  In the study area, either crop-livestock or livestock farmers only as the pastoralists were sedentary.


Sources and collection of data


Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources. The primary source involved the use of interview of the sampled farmers in the study area. The relevant secondary data needed to support primary data was obtained from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) annual reports, bulletins and previous studies done on cattle production in both the humid and sub-humid zones. A translator who spoke Fulfulde, Hausa and Yoruba languages fluently was engaged in the interview. A well structured and pre-tested questionnaire on production and socio-economic activities of the farmers was prepared and answers to the questions by the farmers were recorded on the questionnaire in English language. Prior to the interview, the farmer were visited, briefed, and acquainted with the purpose of the survey. Visit to farmer’s household was made in the morning, usually between 6.00 am to 10.00 am, before the cattle herd left for grazing. The interviews were held near the cattle pen and on farm where it was easy to count the animals and also observe various farm activities carried out by the farmers. Descriptive method of statistical analysis was used in the analysis of the data.


Results and discussion 

The size and composition of the herds are presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1.  Herd size and composition

The results showed that  cattle constituted 36% of the herd, poultry 26%, goats 17% and sheep 21%. This is an indication that poultry was not the choice animal in the herd. Of the ruminants (Figure 2), cattle were more with 48% of the population compared to sheep 28% and goats 24%. The number of sheep was however observed to be higher in the stock than goats, possibly due to the ease of handling, management and the practices of herding them along with cattle. 

Figure 2.  Average ruminant population per household

Suleiman (1998) reported that agropastoralist stock is comprised mainly of cattle and to a lower extent sheep and goats with little poultry especially as poultry cannot be herded along with cattle like other ruminants. The settling down of pastoralists is believed to be directly responsible for their rearing of poultry mainly for domestic consumption and at times sold to meet occasional financial obligation (Karakok 2007).


The results of the sex ratio of ruminants in the herd are presented in Figure 3.Cows consisted of 45% compared to bulls 21% of the herd population. The trend was similar for sheep and goats, because the herdsmen retain female animals for continuity of the herd. 

Figure 3.  Sex ratio of ruminants in the herd

Waters-Bayers (1985),  Mohammed (1990), Okoruwa et al (1996) and Iyayi et al (2003), reported that female cattle usually dominates the herd  due to the fact that they are reserved for breeding and milk production with few bulls retained to replace those sold.


The results of breeds of cattle reared by the pastoralist are presented in Figure 4. The predominant breed was the Bunaji with 80% and Keteku was the least with 5%.

Figure 4.  Breeds of cattle reared by the pastoralists in peri-urban area of Oyo

The Bunaji were the preferred breed because of her relatively superior milk production, faster growth rate, ease of management, high marketability and ability to consume a variety of forages, as indeed earlier reported by Waters-Bayers (1985) and Jabbar et al (1995). Mohammed (1990) also reported that the interest in the Bunaji breed in the zone despite their being susceptible to trypanosome infection is an index of less relevance of trypanosomiasis as a limiting factor to cattle production in the zone. The age long practice among the Fulani and handing Bunaji cattle over to succeeding generation could be a contributory factor to the dominance of this breed in the area.


The results of feed offered to the animals by the pastoralists in the wet and dry season are presented in Table 1.

Table 1.  Type of feed and mode of cattle feeding by the pastoralist in dry and wet season


Wet season

Dry season

 Number of respondent


 Number of respondent

Frequency, %

Type of feeding

Grass only





Grass and  browse





Grass, browse and crop residue





Mode of  feeding

Grazing only





Grazing, cut and carry





During the wet season, more farmers grazed their animals and also fed browse and grass supplemented by ‘cut and carry’. Grazing was limited in order to avoid destruction of arable crops because the area is peri–urban. Pressure on land from cultivation of crops, construction due to urbanization has made grazing only marginal and therefore grazing of the available herbages must be supplemented with grasses (Iyayi et al 2003). In the present study, the farmers interviewed responded that to avoid long travel by the animals, grasses were purchased especially during the dry season. Such grasses were harvested from natural pastures and more importantly around brooks, dams, rivers and streams.


The result of cattle ownership is presented in figure 5. ‘Care-taken’ (a practice of caring for animals in trust for someone else) constituted 30% while 70% of the animals were owned by the pastoralists.

Figure 5.  Pattern of cattle ownership in the peri-urban area of Oyo

The value for ‘care-taken’ in the present study was higher than the reported value of 25.6% by Iyayi et al (2003), but lower than 35% reported by Okoruwa (1994). Discrepancy in the percentage of cattle ownership is likely to occur as it is largely dependent on the number of cattle at the particular time of study. The sedentary rather than the itinerant pastoralist were always involved with the business of care-taken.


Table 2 presents the results of the type and season for fattening operation by the peri-urban pastoralist in Oyo area.

Table 2.  Type and season for fattening operation by the peri-urban pastoralist in Oyo area


 Number of respondent

Frequency, %

No. of respondents that fattens



No. that do not fatten



Type of animal fattened

Young bull



Young female










Of the respondents, 34% were engaged in fattening and animals fattened were only young bulls. This indicates that the herd structure was more of dairy and not for beef fattening as earlier reported by Waters-Bayer (1985), Jabbar et al (1995) and Okoruwa et al (1996). It was also observed that the fattening operation was done in the rainy season when feed of high quality was more availability.


From Table 3, it can be seen that 84% of the adult ruminants were affected by sores in the hooves and inflammations in the mouth and has been reported to be the most prevalent disease in the area (Iyayi et al 2003).  

Table 3.  Livestock diseases and management by the peri-urban pastoralist in Oyo area


Number of respondent

Frequency, %

Adult ruminant disease

Foot and mouth disease






Swollen joint



Young ruminant disease

Foot and mouth disease













It was observed during the survey that the animals were tethered at the spot where they defecated. This might have been responsible for the high occurrence of the disease. The disease is viral in nature and being contagious, the rate of spread is always high in the herd. Large scale movement of the animals in the case of pastoralists will also be an additional source of infection. Diarrohea, it was more common in the young animals, because they possess less immunity to combat the resurgence of the disease. The occurrence of swollen joint was minute because majority of the animals were on range. All the respondents vaccinated their animals against rinderpest, antrax and foot and mouth diseases with routine medication like antibiotics, multivitamins, dewormer administered.


Figure 6 presents the results of the mortality rate of cattle, sheep, goats and the domestic fowls with mortality least in cattle.

Figure 6.  Average mortality rate of the livestock

This suggests that the pastoralist were able to match the available resources in terms of feed and water to the production objectives such that the available input was balanced to obtain an optimal output. Also it might be an indication of a more conducive ecological zone for animals to thrive, suggesting the age long presence of the pastoralist in the area. Sandford (1982) reported that pastoralists are persistent in a place conducive for their animals and would quickly relocate from where problems and diseases are perennial.





The authors are grateful to Mr A Busari of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ibadan for his support in the collection of the primary data.



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Received 28 January 2009; Accepted 9 April 2009; Published 1 May 2009

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