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Sheep Farming in Kenya

Sheep Farming in Kenya

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Some of farmers in Kenya have started scaling down sheep farming in Kenya and increasing the stock of cows despite the increase in the price of wool over the past one year.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Breeds

Sheep breeds are classified as

1. Exotic wool sheep

2. Fine wool e.g. Merino

  • Medium wool breeds e.g. Corriedale, Hampshire, Suffolk, Dorset Horn
  • Improved hair sheep

3. Indigenous hair sheep

  • Thin tailed
  • Fat tailed e.g. Maasai sheep (Red Masai)
  • Fat rumped e.g. Blackhead Persian, Somali sheep

Merino originated from Africa but was developed in Spain then spread to other parts of the world. Merino is important for fine wool production in range areas because of their hardiness, excellent flocking instinct and efficiency in utilization of low quality forage.

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Crossbreeding Dorpers and Hampshires produces offspring with quality mutton and fast growth rates since they mature in five to six months. During selection, go for suitable quality breeds as per your desired production.

Merino Sheep

Although pure breeding is still done, cross breeds with dorpers and hampshires has offsprings with fast growth rates and quality mutton. The offsprings are ready for the market in 5 – 6 months.

This was developed from Lincoln and Merino in Australia and is known for long wool and Merino fine wool. It is a dual sheep important for both mutton and wool capable of competitively producing both at a ratio of 50:50.

Corriedale Sheep

They are hardy and can survive in semi arid areas. The dam breed is very fertile producing enough milk for the young ones and has good temperament. However breeding should be guarded against kempy fibre on the head and shoulders.


They are the smallest and oldest of the medium breeds. They give quality wool and provide fat lamb. They have a fast growth rate and can afford to lamb at weaning.

They are also highly prolific with about 125 – 150% lambing rate. But the very small body size limits the final weight of fat lambs and the fleece produced is light.

Because of their size cross breeding is not encouraged and the breed is dying in Kenya.

 Hampshire Down

This is the largest of the medium sized breeds after Suffolk. It has high growth rate with an average size of 80Kg. they are also quite prolific at 125 – 150% lambing rates.

The breed is good for cross breeding for upgrading purposes. The sire is very fertile, aggressive and big in size making them the most important sire breeds. But conformation is limiting by the heavy shoulders at the front quarters tapering towards the rear quarters. Wool quality is low with dark and black fibres in the face and neck.

Romney Marsh

The breed was developed for wool and mutton. The wool produced is long and coarse therefore of low quality and the mutton and fat lambs are also of poor quality.

Romney marsh can survive in marshy and wet areas because of their resistance to foot rot. The hooves are black and very hard making it difficult for pathogens to enter. They are efficient utilizers of pastures but the meat is delicate as it tends to retain tainting from pastures. Their cool temperament makes them easy to handle.


The breed was developed from a cross between black head Persian and Dorset Horn. By 1950 the first consignment of Dorper had arrived in Katumani Research Station. Rams were sold to Eastern Province.

This is an improved hair sheep and it is important for mutton in marginal areas. They are hardy and produce quality meat. They have a faster growth rate and fertility compared to the indigenous.

One limitations of the breed is the deposition of too much subcutaneous fat. The Red Masai is also an improved hair sheep used to cross breed with the Dorper.

Red Masai

The breed is popular in south west Kenya and north Tanzania. They are important for mutton in marginal areas because they are hardy. The coat color is distinguished.

They are good milkers and have high fertility. The size has large variations. Areas that need improvements in crossbreeding are size, fertility, fat distribution from the tail and behind the neck and growth rate.

Somali Sheep

They are fat ramped mainly found in Somali, North Eastern Province of Kenya and Sudan. They are hardy; the skin quality is higher than other indigenous hair sheep and is important for mutton production.

Sheep Farming in Kenya

Sheep Farming in Kenya

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Housing

The house should be clean and with dry beddings, proper drainage and be suitable enough to keep the animals safe from adverse weather conditions and predators. An adult sheep requires about 16 to 20 square feet floor spacing and lambing pens 16 to 25 square feet. Keep the roof at least 6ft high from the floor with good ventilation system to allow sufficient air flow and light. The house should also be easily accessible during deliveries and manure handling.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Feeding

High quality and nutritious feeds are mandatory for optimal growth, maximum production and have a disease-free healthy flock. Sheep requires a daily feed intake of about 3 per cent of their body weight and usually all types of grasses and plants make food for the animals, apart from hay. They should be fed according to their nutrient requirements, age and weight and stage or level of production. Generally, they require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water.

Flushing is done to ewes by providing better quality pasture to increase ovulation rate and subsequent lambing rate. Diet for sheep remains the same unless flushing to improve their body condition before breeding.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Breeding

Ewe lambs should not be bred until after puberty between five and 12 months or 70 per cent of their mature weight while ram lambs between five and seven months of age, at 50 to 60 percent of their mature weight. Testicle size is a good indication of a ram’s sperm-producing ability normally taking 49 days. Before breeding, ewes should be dewormed using anthelmintics, have their hooves trimmed and vaccinated if need be.

Mating may consist of using one ram per group of ewes. A ram to ewe ratio of 1:25 for ram lambs and 1:35 or more for mature rams is recommended. If natural breeding does not yield satisfactory results, it is possible to artificially manipulate the reproductive cycle of the ewe through using hormones like melatonin and prostaglandin or introduction of a teaser ram to stimulate ovulation.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Lambing

Overfed ewes experience lambing difficulties hence they should be assisted by extracting or repositioning the lambs. Allow ewes to lick, clean and suckle their lambs for colostrums. When lambs are several weeks old, identification through ear tagging should done, docking, castration and vaccination commonly anti-clostridial must also be done at about 10 to 12 weeks; and re-vaccinated annually about three weeks before lambing to provide high antibody concentrations in colostrum during the first several hours after lambing.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Parasites and Disease Control

Internal parasites include worms which are ingested during grazing and are controlled by oral anti-parasitic anthelmintics or drenches. External sheep parasites include lice, nose bots, sheep itch mites, and maggots. They are controlled using backliners, sprays or immersive sheep dips. External and internal parasites control and vaccination are the most efficient ways to keep sheep disease-free. They are controlled using backliners, sprays or immersive sheep dips. Crutching is also a common preventive method.

Vaccinations are done against deadly diseases like anthrax and foot and mouth disease, among others

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Marketing

Market for sheep is unlimited in form of whole carcass for butcheries or primal cuts due to the rising demand for mutton, foundation stock for breeding, wool whose price has also gone up lately and other hygienically value-added products. Exporting to international market where their products have a huge demand is also an option especially through Kenya Meat Commission.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Advantages of sheep Keeping

  • Sheep provide good source of income in barren, desert, semi-arid and mountainous areas.
  • A sheep enterprise requires little labour and small capital to start.
  • Sheep require little space and can be raised alongside other livestock.
  • They eat wide varieties of plants, thus, utilising even the available low quality forage sufficiently.
  • When properly managed, a sheep farming business can be a great source of income as products such as wool and meat are in high demand.

Sheep Farming in Kenya – Video