Archivos Latinoamericanos de Producción Animal, Vol 23, No 6 (2015)

Tamaño de la letra:  Pequeña  Mediana  Grande

Present and future role of small ruminants in animal agriculture

Gregory S. Lewis


Understanding the role of small ruminants is essential for developing business plans, government policy, and research and educational programs. “Small ruminants” include sheep, goats, cervids, and New World camelids. Worldwide, sheep and goats are the primary small ruminants in animal agriculture, but llama, alpaca, and farmed deer are important in some countries. This presentation will be on sheep and goats in westernized countries. The “traditional” role of sheep and goats is to provide meat, milk, fiber, pelts, and wealth. “Traditional” refers to westernized production systems (i.e., influenced by Europe and North America) developed since the late 1800’s, and not to subsistence agriculture. Traditional sheep production includes ewe and lamb production, feeding and grazing systems, and sale of feeder or slaughter lambs, replacement stock, culls, wool, and, for dairy sheep, milk through an established value chain. Specialized industries process lamb, wool, pelts, and milk, and the products are moved along the value chain to end-users. Thus, a reliable supply of sheep products is required to sustain each link in the value chain and satisfy consumer demands. The future role of sheep will include supplying products to the traditional value chain, but the value chain must be expanded to include emerging roles, such as serving immigrant communities with increased discretionary incomes and different preferences for sheep products. Goat production and marketing in some countries is as organized as westernized sheep production. But in the U.S., for example, the goat value chain is not well developed, although there are opportunities for a robust goat value chain. For example, immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean to the U.S. have already increased demand for goat meat through direct marketing to consumers and in local food stores. The traditional role of small ruminants in many westernized countries may be expanded to include “nontraditional” production (e.g., organic), direct marketing to consumers, pay-for-service sheep and goat grazing to manage vegetation and remediate pasture lands, biomedical applications (e.g., producing therapeutic proteins in transgenic goats), and with, new wool processing technologies, additional uses for medium wool. Small ruminant producers must transition from traditional production and marketing systems to new systems that will satisfy established demands plus demands of new populations of consumers.

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