6. Stable Milk Supply of Large-sized Livestock vs. Speedy Growth of Small-sized Livestock

Cattle and camels (large-sized livestock) are heavy and are long-lived. Once they give birth, they can keep supplying milk for a long period. Goats and sheep (small-sized livestock), by contrast, can grow in population in a short period of time. In a favorable environment, they quickly attain breeding age, and they have short gestation periods and intervals between pregnancies. When people lose their animals due to draught, for example, they sometimes adopt the following strategy: reconstructing their livestock by investing in goats and sheep in the short term, and once reconstruction is finished, shifting the direction of their investment to cattle and camels.

Physiological differences by livestock

    Cattle Camel   Sheep Goat  
  Age of first pregnancy (years) 3-4 5-6   1-2 1-2  
  Gestation period (months) 9-9.5 12-13   5 5  
  Interval between pregnancies (months) 14-18 24   8-9 8-9  
  Milk production (kg per day) 3-5 3-4   ? 0.1-1?  
  Available months of milking (months) 7-9 7-18   ? 3-5  
  Life span (years) 12 25   5-6 5-6  
  Weight (kg) 200-250 400-500   25-40 25-40  
Note: Amount of milk is milking and suckling combined
Based on Having Herds, by Dahl, G. & A. Hjort, 1976, University of Stockholm, Stockholm



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

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