The Small Ruminant Research Programme started as a Department of Small Ruminants on October 1, 1982 before it metamorphosed into Small Ruminant Research Programme in 1987 when the then DIFRRI (Directorate of Food Road and Rural Infrastructure) gave huge intervention fund for the transformation and expansion of the Department. Research on sheep and goats actually started in 1972 and 1974, respectively, in Shika Stock Farm which later became NAPRI in 1976.

The mandate of the Programme remains, essentially, as that of its precursor and it falls within the broad mandate of the Institute (NAPRI). The mandate is to assist the livestock industry by improving the productivity of indigenous sheep and goats, providing new and improved technologies which can boost the economic efficiency of sheep and goat production, and providing management techniques which can enhance the survivability of sheep and goats, especially before weaning. The broad research objective of the Small Ruminant Research Programme is to improve the production characteristics that are capable of having major impact on the efficiency of sheep and goat production. The Programme therefore, places emphasis on research to improving traits like reproductive performance, growth and milk production through short and long-term research projects in the areas of nutrition, reproduction, genetics and husbandry. To accomplish its mandate, the research programme is organized on a multi-disciplinary approach with prime focus on finding solutions to problems that represent the greatest constraints to production efficiency and to generate technology which is practical and can easily be adopted by resource-poor farmers.

Specific Research Objectives
The research of the Programme is divided into five broadly-based projects, each of which deals with areas of major concern to the Small Ruminant industry in Nigeria. The projects and their objectives are:

A. Breeding
1. Evaluation of indigenous breeds of sheep and goats.
• Determination of production characteristics.
• Estimation of genetic parameters.
2. Genetic improvement through selection and crossbreeding for litter size and growth rate.
3. Genetic improvement of Red Sokoto goats for milk production.

B. Nutritional Studies
1. Determination of nutrient requirements for various production functions.
2. Development of feedlot fattening technology.
3. Use of agro-industrial by-products, crop residues and farm waste in sheep and goat feeding.
4. Determination of energy values and utilization of commonly used feed ingredients in sheep and goats rations.
5. Development of complete feeds for fattening sheep and goats.
6. Development of complete feeds for milk production in goats.

C. Management
1. Identification of factors causing lamb/kid mortality and development of lamb/kid management procedures to reduce mortality.
• Development of artificial rearing systems for kids and lambs.
2. Comparison of different management systems.
3. Development of grazing management systems.
4. Grazing/supplementation strategy for optimum performance and feeding cost reduction.

D. Flock Health Management
1. Development of procedures to optimize flock health maintenance including practical solutions to reduce economic loss from specific sheep and goat health problems especially gastro-intestinal parasites.

E. Socio-economics Studies
1. To specify personal, sociological or any other factor that limit or enhance traditional sheep and goat production.
2. To study economics of sheep and goat production under different systems.
3. On-farm performance evaluation of NAPRI improved sheep and goats.

The Programme Leader (PL) of the Programme serves as the administrative head and leader for research. He assists the Executive Director and Assistant Director (Research) in matters relating to research. The Programme leader coordinates all research activities in the Programme and he is assisted by a Research Committee in research formulation, screening and initial approvals of projects. The Programme is structured into four research units, namely Goat Project, Sheep Project, Experimental Unit and Health Unit. The first two are concerned with breeding and genetic research on the indigenous breeds of sheep and goats for breed improvement. The Experimental Unit is the place for conduct of nutrition research, performance test and fattening activities in the Programme. The Health Unit is concerned with routine health management of the Programme’s animals. Each of these units is headed by a Project Manager (PM), a research staff, who is assisted by Assistant Project Manager (APM), a technical staff whose main duty is to ensure that all the routine and periodic or strategic farm operations in his unit are carried out good and promptly.
In addition to the above units domiciled at the Headquarters, the Programme has an Outstation at Ubiaja, Edo State headed by a Station Manager. The Station is to improve the productivity of trypano-tolerant small ruminants found in the humid zone. The initial emphasis at the Station is to breed, select and supply improved males to interested farmers, but at the moment it also provides alternative breeds for production research to the breeds of sheep and goats available at the Northern part of the country where the Headquarters of NAPRI is located, thus widening research scope, applicability and relevance of research findings by the Programme.
The Programme provides extension services by advising both practising and would-be farmers, supplying of improved sheep and goats for breeding, taking part in scientific conferences, seminars, workshops, technology review meetings, agricultural shows, trade fairs and assisting industries and farmers in practical application of results. In terms of research activities, it collaborates with Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology (NILEST), Institute for Agricultural Research, Department of Animal Science and Faculty of Veterinary medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, and assists the latter two in the teaching and supervision of under and postgraduate students.
The Programme has staff strength of 54 members, with six research staff, four-HND-holder technical staff and other support staff with varying middle level manpower qualifications. It requires more research staff to meet the establishment requirements. The Programme was a host to one of the Competitive Agricultural Research Grant Scheme Projects in the Institute sponsored and funded by the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN). The Project titled: “Development of Commercial Feed Supplements for goats” has enabled acquisition of a bomb calorimeter for the laboratory, and a dramatic upgrading of research facilities in the Programme which many postgraduate students from Ahmadu Bello University and some other universities in the country use for their research work. A project titled: “Genetic Variation of Resistance to Gastrointestinal Parasites in Red Sokoto and Sahelian goats” and funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was also domiciled in Programme.

Among our important achievements to date are:
1. Basic information packages which are considered necessary for the optimal utilization of local genetic resources are now available for the indigenous sheep and goats breeds found in the Savanna zones of Nigeria.
2. Information on non-genetic factors affecting animal performance is available. These factors are important in eliminating environmental effects and hence the improvement of selection efficiency especially for meat production.
3. Energy and protein requirements have been established for weaned lambs and ewes during pregnancy and lactation.
4. Diets have been formulated to regulate inputs of supplementary concentrate feeding during late pregnancy and enhancing satisfactory lambing performance and subsequent growth rate.
5. In view of the scarcity and high prices of conventional energy/protein feeds, research on the use of agro-industrial by-products, and farms waste has shown that Brewers’ dried grains and dried poultry waste can be used in rations up to 50 to replace maize and 30% to replace cotton seed cake, respectively, with substantial growth response and reduction in feed cost.
6. The grazing of improved pasture at stocking rates of 20-30 heads/hectare is optimum in terms of liveweight gain per hectare. However, improved pastures can be used to advantage by extending their use far into the dry season either for grazing or for hay.
7. Herding of animals over large stretches of shrub savanna with little concentrate supplementation gave satisfactory liveweight gains.
8. Commercial fattening is feasible and profitable with the indigenous breeds of sheep especially the Yankasa. The feedlot technology has, as yet, little application with goats. Profit margin depends largely on feed cost and market price of rams. Hence cheap feed and fodder resources should be used and sales should be synchronized with periods of highest demand.
9. As fattening diets, legume hay gave better gains than grass hay. Also, the use of crop residues (cereal stovers) has shown promise.
10. Under the traditional system of management, the potential of the indigenous breeds has been marked by quantitative deficiencies in management and feeding.
11. Factors responsible for high lamb/kid mortality have been identified and a package developed for breeding and lambing/kidding management.
12. Strategic drenching of lambs and kids is fully justified. The better weight gains and reduced mortality of lambs and kids more than compensate for the cost of drugs and labour.
13. It has been proven that with adequate dietary energy concentration, lactation length in Red Sokoto goats can span 20 weeks as against 12 weeks earlier reported with the does showing impressive post-partum weight gain and milk yield.
14. Pendulous udder has been selected against and eliminated from our flock of Red Sokoto goats.