Reliable statistics on livestock holdings did not exist, but careful estimates suggested a total of 10 to 11 million cattle in the early 1970s and, after the severe drought, 8.5 million in the late 1970s. Although an epidemic of rinderpest killed more than a million cattle in 1983, production recovered by the end of the 1980s. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that in 1987 there were 12.2 million cattle, 13.2 million sheep, 26.0 million goats, 1.3 million pigs, 700,000 donkeys, 250,000 horses, 18,0000 camels found mostly in the Sahel savanna around Lake Chad, and 175 million poultry nationally, owned mostly by villages rather than by commercial operators. The livestock subsector accounted for about 2 percent of GDP in the 1980s
Until the 1990s, cattle-raising was limited largely to the northern fifth of the country that was free of the tsetse fly. A program of tsetse-fly research and eradication was somewhat successful during the 1970s and 1980s, but 90 percent of the national cattle herd was still found in the northern states in 1990. About 96 percent of these animals were zebu-type cattle, most of which were tended by Fulani pastoralists. Traditionally, the Fulani moved their herds during the dry season to pasture in the moister Guinea savanna, returning northward when the rains began and danger from the tsetse fly increased. During the 1970s and 1980s, the expansion of cultivated areas and irrigation seriously obstructed this migration by cutting off access to usual travel routes.
Most of Nigeria's remaining cattle, 3 to 4 percent, are smaller than the zebu type and less valuable as draft animals. However, they possess a resistance to trypanosomiasis that makes it possible to raise them in the tsetse-infested humid forest zone. The government improved these herds in early 1980 by importing breeding stock of a particularly disease-resistant strain from The Gambia.
By the early 1970s, as the general standard of living improved, the demand for meat in Nigeria exceeded the domestic supply. As a result, 30 to 40 percent of the beef consumed in Nigeria was imported from Niger, Chad, and other neighboring countries. In the mid-1970s, Nigeria began importing frozen beef in response to export restrictions initiated by its neighbors. The National Livestock Production Company established domestic commercial cattle ranches in the late 1970s, but with poor results.
Most of Nigeria's sheep and goats are in the north, where the Fulani maintained an approximate ratio of 30 percent sheep and goats to 70 percent cattle. About 40 percent of northern nonFulani farming households are estimated to keep sheep and goats. Most pigs are raised in the south, where the Muslim proscription against eating pork is not a significant factor.
Almost all rural households raise poultry as a subsistence meat. Chickens are predominantly of indigenous origin, and there is some crossbreeding with foreign stock. Egg production is low. Private commercial poultry operations increased rapidly during the 1970s and 1980s near urban areas, providing a growing source of eggs for the cities. But commercial operations remained largely dependent on corn and other feeds imported from the United States.
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