5. The Food Habits of Different Livestock

Each type of livestock has its own unique food habits, and thus for pastoralists raising several sorts of animals has great merit. For instance, different animals eat very different kinds of plants. The table (below) shows the ratio of plants eaten by each type of animal. A distinction is made between herbaceous plants and trees (including tree leaves and small branches). We can see that animals eat a wide variety of plants in a different manner. Camels eat from trees in both the rainy and dry seasons. On the other hand, sheep rely on herbaceous plants even in the dry season, when these plants die out. Goats and donkeys eat herbaceous plants in the rainy season, when they are fresh, and trees in the dry season, when the herbaceous plants die out.

Food habits of different livestock (%)

    Rainy Season Dry Season
    Herbaceous plants Trees and shrubs   Herbaceous plants Trees and shrubs  
  Camel 16 84   0 100  
  Sheep 98 2   81 19  
  Goat 93 7   8 92  
  Donkey 94 6   10 90  
  Cattle 71 19   43 57  
Estimated by stomach contents of slaughtered animals.
Source: M. D. Gwynne, 1977. Land Use by the Southern Turkana. Paper presented for seminar on Pastoral Societies of Kenya, Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi.
(Though the total of cattle in rainy season does not sum up to 100%, we left it as stated in the original data)



OHTA Itaru
Living in the Arid Zone: Ecology of Pastoral Societies in Africa

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