Brief Historical Development and Roles of Animal Production in Nigeria


Brief Historical Development and Roles of Animal Production in Nigeria

In this article, you will be introduced to the concept of animal production and its relationship with other branches of agriculture and science. You will discover application of scientific principles as compared to traditional methods of production and their influence on current level of animal productivity.

You will learn a brief historical development of animal production. You will also recognize and appreciate the various roles of livestock production in Nigeria.


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 crossbreeding 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.


Brief Historical Development of Animal Production

Brief Historical Development and Roles of Animal Production in Nigeria

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 favorable adaptation and multiplication within the confine of human environment.

As man further realized 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.


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 recognized 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 Organization (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 sub-sector to the economy.

These important roles and benefits from a well-organized 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.


Conclusion on Brief Historical Development and Roles of Animal Production in Nigeria

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.

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