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PROJECT TOPIC: GENETIC PARAMETERS OF GROWTH AND REPRODUCTION IN THE WEST AFRICAN DWARF GOATS REARED IN THE HUMID TROPICS

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CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

The 2006 national census gave the population of Nigeria as 144 million people (National Population Commission, 2006). With the rate of population growth and rapid loss of indigenous livestock species coupled with rising costs of production, the present gap in the supply of animal protein is bound to widen. To bridge the animal protein demand and supply gap, the Nigeria government since 1970s to date, has attempted to improve indigenous breed of livestock by importing exotic breeds. These efforts have failed principally because the exotic breeds could not adapt to the tropical Nigerian environment as the challenges of tropical pests and diseases were unbearable to them. Locally adapted breeds (indigenous breeds) are better able to survive and produce valuable products in low input and variable environments (AGRI, 2002).

            Maijala (1983) reported that genetic improvement is currently being conferred on indigenous breeds of goats because they have long been adapted to extreme harsh environmental conditions of nutrition, climate and disease. They might be more productive in their own environment than exotic breeds. They can also be valuable experimental animals in fundamental research and a potential store of unique genes, which may be useful especially when environment concerns necessitate changes in production system (Salako and Ngere, 2002). The indigenous small ruminant populations in Nigeria comprising sheep and goats are important genetic sources because of their adaptation characteristic such as hardiness to the stressful tropical environment and trypano-tolerance (Salako, 2004). Of the several breeds of goats in the world, the predominant breed in the humid tropics is the West African Dwarf goats. The majority of these are bred under the traditional management and their contribution to the total supply of meat in the region is enormous.

            The ability of farmers and buyers to relate the live animal measurements to growth characteristics is essential for optimum production and value-based trading system. This ability will also adequately reward livestock farmers rather than the middlemen that tend to gain more profit in livestock production business especially in developing countries (Afolayan et al., 2006). A study of linear body measurements on most farms in the tropics is important because most farmers lack weighing scales and the education to understand their manipulations (Gerald, 1994). Linear body measurements can be used as a way of estimating weight and market value in terms of cost of the animals (Gerald, 1994).



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