• The term livestock is used to refer to all domesticated animals.
  • These animals include cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs, rabbits, camels, bees, fish and donkeys.

The importance of keeping livestock:

  • Source of food.
  • Source of income.
  • Cultural values.
  • Source of animal power.
  • Provision of raw materials for industries.
  • Farmyard manure from the animals is used in maintaining soil fertility.
  • Cattle dung is used in the production of biogas.

Cattle Breeds

  • Cattle can be classified into two groups based on their origin.

     These are;

  • Indigenous cattle.
  • Exotic cattle.

Indigenous Cattle

  • Zebus

They are small in size and with a distinct hump and  include:

  • Nandi,
  • Bukedi
  • Maasai cattle.

The Borana

  • These are the cattle kept in the Northern parts of Kenya.
  • They are larger than the Zebus.
  • Indigenous cattle are hardy hence able to tolerate the harsh environmental conditions in the tropics.
  • They are the major suppliers of beef in Kenya.

Exotic Cattle  

  • Foreign cattle from the temperate regions.
  • They have distinct breed characteristics and are classified into various breeds.

General characteristics:

  • They have no humps.
  • They have low tolerance to high temperatures hence popular in cool climates of the Kenya highlands ..
  • They are highly susceptible to tropical diseases.
  • They have fast growth rates leading to early maturity.
  • They are good producers of both meat and milk.
  • They cannot walk for long distances.
  • They have short calving intervals of one calf per year if well managed.

Exotic cattle breeds fall under the following groups:

  • Dairy cattle breeds.
  • Beef cattle breeds.
  • Dual purpose breeds.

Dairy Cattle Breeds

  • They include;
  • Friesian,
  • Ayrshire,
  • Guernsey

Characteristics of Dairy Cattle

  • Wedge or triangular in shape.
  • Large stomach.
  • Docile with mild temperament.
  • Large, well suspended udders and teats.
  • Lean bodies.
  • Lean and smooth neck.
  • Large and long mammary milk wells and veins.
  • Cylindrical; uniform and well spaced teats.
  • Wide and well set hindquarters to accommodate the udder.

Friesian-Holstein (largest of all dairy breeds)

  • Origin: Holland
  • Colour: Black and white
  • Size: Cow weighs 550-680kgs Bull weighs 950 kg.
  • Highest milk producers of all dairy breeds about 9150 kg per lactation but with least butterfat content; 3.5%


  • Origin: Scotland
  • Colour: White with brown markings.
  • Size: Cow weighs 360-590kgs Bulls weighs 500-720kg.


  • Straight top lines, horns are long and face upwards.
  • Milk production is second to Friesian about 61OOkg per lactation with butter content of about 4%.


  • Origin: Guernsey Island off the coast of France.
  • Colour: Yellowish brown to red with white legs, switch and girth ..
  • Size: Bulls 540-770kg. Cow weighs 450- 500kgs


  • Udders are less symmetrical.
  • Average milk production is about 5185kg per lactation with a butterfat content of 4.5% hence the yellow colour of milk.

Jersey (smallest of all the dairy breeds)

  • Origin: England
  • Colour: Yellow brown with black muzzle and switch.
  • Size: Bulls weigh 540-700kg. Cow weighs 350-450kgs


  • Dished forehead, have straight top-line and level rumps with sharp w
  • Have protruding black eyes.
  • Average milk production 1270kg per lactation of butterfat content 5%.
  • They tolerate high temperatures.

Beef Cattle


  • Aberdeen Angus,
  • Hereford,
  • Shorthorns,
  • Galloway,
  • American Brahman,
  • charolais
  • Santa Getrudis.

Characteristics of Beef Cattle

  • Blocky or square conformation.
  • Have thick muscles or are well fleshed.
  • Early maturing.
  • Deep chest and girth and short legs.
  • Straight top and lower lines.


  • Origin: North East Scotland.
  • Colour: Black
  • Shape: Cylindrical, compact and deep; It is polled.


  • Mature bulls weigh 900kg.
  • Mature cows weigh 840kgs.
  •  It is found in Timau area of Kenya


  • Origin: Engla
  • Colour: Deep red and white-faced.
  • Size: Average weight of bulls is 1000kg.
  • Cows weigh 840kgs.
  • It is found in areas such as Naivasha.


  • Origin: England.
  • Has easy fleshing ability
  • Colour: Red, Roan or white
  • Shape: Cylindrical, compact and deep.
  • It is polled.


  • Bulls weigh 700-900kg,
  • cows weigh 545-630kgs.


  • Origin: Scotland.
  • Colour: Black
  • Kept in the highland areas like Molo in Kenya.


  • Origin: France.
  • Colour: Creamy white.
  • Size: Bulls weigh 1200kg, cows weigh 1000kgs.
  • It is found in ranches in Laikipia District.

Dual Purpose Breeds

    Examples: Sahiwal, Red Poll and Simmental.


  • Origin: India and Pakistan ..
  • Colour: reddish brown.
  • Size: Bulls weigh 650kg,  and cows 400kg.
  • Milk production averages 2700-3000 per lactation with a butter fat content of 3.7%.
  • It has a pendulous udders which does not let down milk easily.
  • It is therefore said to be a difficult milker.
  • It is kept in semi-arid areas such as Naivasha.

    Red Poll

  • Origin: England.
  • Colour: Deep red with a white nose.
  • Conformation: Polled-deep girth and short legs.
  • Kept in semiarid areas such as Nakuru, Mogotio.


  • Origin:
  • Colour: Light red and white patches on the head.


  • It has broad and straight back, with well-sprung ribs and deep girth.
  • It is well fleshed at rear quarters, well suspended udders and large teats.

Sheep Breeds:

Purpose of Keeping Sheep;

  • Meat (mutton).
  • Wool production.

Exotic Sheep

  • Wool breeds -for example merino.
  • Dual purpose- for example Corriedale, Romney marsh.
  • Mutton breeds -for example Hampshire Down, Dorpers.


  • Origin: Spain


  • It has white face and its lips and nostrils are pink in colour.
  • Rams have horns which are spiral in shape.
  • It is susceptible to foot rot, worm and respiratory diseases.


  • Origin: New Zealand.
  • Size: Rams 85 – 90kg. Ewes 60– 85 kg
  • This is a dual-purpose breed with white open face and white spots on the legs.
  • It is hornless and hardy.

Romney Marsh

  • Origin: England.
  • Size: Rams 100 – 115kg.
  • Ewes 84- 100 kg
  • It is a dual-purpose breed which s hornless with wide poll and black nostrils and lips.
  • It is average in prolificacy.
  • It is resistant to foot rot diseases and worm infestation.

Hampshire Down

  • Origin: England.
  • Size: Rams 125kg.
  • Ewes 80-100 kg
  • It is a mutton breed which is early maturing, hardy and prolific.
  • Fleece is of poor quality because of the black fibres.
  • Lambing percentage is 125-140.


  • Is a crossbreed of Dorset horn and black head Persian sheep.
  •  It is mutton breed.

Dorset Horn

  • Dual purpose breed of sheep.
  • Indigenous Breeds of Sheep
  • Their bodies are covered with hair.
  • Their classification is based on their tails and their names vary according to different tribes.


  • Thin tailed sheep found in West Africa.
  • Fat tailed such as Maasai sheep.
  • Fat rumped sheep.

Maasai Sheep

  • Found in South Western Kenya and Northern Tanzania.
  • Size: Ram 38kg,
  • Ewe 20-30kg.
  • Colour: Red and brown.
  • These are early maturing with long legs and small pointed horns.

Black Head Persian Sheep

  • Origin: South Africa
  • Colour: White with black head and neck.
  • It is polled with a big dewlap, fat rump and a curved tail..


Goats well adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions because of the following characteristics:

  • They feed on a wide range of vegetation.
  • They require very little amount of water.
  • They are tolerant to high temperatures.
  • They are fairly resistant to diseases.
  • They can walk long distances without losing weight.

Indigenous  Goat Breeds

  • Galla (white in colour). Adult female can weigh 25kg.
  • Somali (Boran): Found in Northern Kenya (white in colour).
  • Turkana/Samburu: (Long hair and bearded.
  • Mubende: (Black) (40-45kg). These are small and hardy and are kept for meat and milked by the pastoralists. 

Exotic Breeds

Boer goat

  • Origin: South Africa
  • Colour: White
  • Has long ears and long hair on their bodies.


  • Origin: North East Africa
  • Colour: Roan and White
  • These have long legs, lopped ears and are polled.
  • They produce 1-2 litres of milk per , day.


  • Origin: India
  • Colour: White, black and fawn.
  • They are horned, have large lopped ears
  • Produce 1-1.5_litres of milk per day.


  • Origin: Switzerland
  • Colour: White patches on the body, white stripes on the face and neck.
  • Erect forward pointing ears and polled.
  • Can produce 2-3 of milk per day.


  • Origin: Switzerland.
  • Colour: White
  • They have erect, forward pointing ears and polled.
  • Can produce 2-3 Iitres of milk per day.


  • Origin: Angora in Asia.
  • Colour: White
  • It is kept for wool production.

French alpine. Pigs


  • They are sparsely haired and therefore cannot withstand cold.
  • Pigs wallow when it is hot due to absence of sweat glands.
  • They breathe fast when it is hot.
  • They have bristles instead of hair.



Large White

  • Origin: Britain
  • Kept for bacon and pork production.
  • Long, large and white in colour.
  • Ears straight and erect.
  • Has dished face and snout.
  • Most prolific and with good mothering ability.
  • Fairly hardy.


  • Origin: Denmark
  • White and longer than large white. _
  • Ears drooping.
  • Good for bacon production.
  • Very prolific with good mothering ability. _
  • Requires high level of management.

Wessex Saddle

  • Back Origin: England
  • Colour: Black with white forelegs and shoulders.
  • Straight snout and drooping ears. _
  • Good for bacon and pork.
  • Good for keeping outdoors.
  • Excellent mothering instincts.

Other pig breeds include:

  • Berkshire,
  • Middle-white
  • Duroc  Jersey pig.

Pigs can be crossed to obtain hybrids or crosses.

Advantages of Crosses

  • Increased litter size. _
  • Early maturing.
  • Increase in body length.
  • High proportion of lean meat to fat.

Poultry Breeds

There are three types of chicken breeds:

  • The light breeds kept for egg production.
  • The heavy breeds kept for meat production.
  • Dual purpose breeds – kept for both eggs and meat production.

Characteristics of Light Breeds

  • Never go broody hence poor sitters.
  • Excellent layers (over 220 eggs per year).
  • Poor meat producers (hens can attain 2kg; cocks 3kgs)
  • Very nervous and exhibit high degree of cannibalism.
  • Hen’s comb is large and bent over one eye and cock’s comb is large with 5 – 6 serrations.


  • Leghorns,
  • Anconas,
  • Silkies,
  • Minorcas.

Characteristics of Heavy Breeds

  • Can lay few eggs and provide good meat as broilers.
  • Can go broody.
  • Heavier and bigger in size.
  • Grow fast.


  • Light Sussex,
  • Cornish Dark
  • White.

Characteristics of DualPurpose Breeds

  • Go broody.
  • Have good meat.
  • Disease resistant (do not require high standard of management).
  • Rarely exhibit cannibalism.

        Examples: Rhode Island Red.


  • These are developed by crossing two different breeds.
  • They are superior in performance.
  • Can attain 2kg in 56 days for broilers and layover 200 eggs per year for layers.


  • Shavers,
  • Thombers
  • Isabrown.


Kept for the following reasons:

  • To provide meat, fur, hair or wool.
  • To provide skin for leather.
  • To provide manure.
  • As pet ani
  • Used for research purposes.


  • Californian white: white, very prolific black ears, nose and feet).
  • New Zealand white: (white with pink eyes – good for meat).
  • Flemish giant (dark grey – good for meat).
  • Angora rabbit (white, kept for wool production).
  • Chinchillah (greyish, kept for its fur).
  • Earlops (white with droopy ears).
  • Kenya white (white, smallest of breeds).


       Kept for;

  • Transport,
  • Racing,
  • To provide milk, meat and wool.

There are two species of camels.

Dromedary (Camelus dromedarius)

  • Origin: Arabia and Syria
  • Are single humped, have light body
  • Good for racing and rapid transport.

Bacterian (Camelus bacterianus)

  • Origin: Central Asia
  • Has double humps, heavier and has shorter legs.
  • Can live in cold regions hence its thick and long coat acts as insulation.
  • Capable of shedding the coat during spring.

Terms used to describe livestock in different age, sex and use.

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