A study was undertaken to identify the production system, breeding practices and major production constraints of common Tigray highland sheep in 16 rural kebelles from eight districts of Tigray Regional State. A total of 480 households (30 households for each rural kebelle) were selected purposively to collect data through personal observations and a detailed structured questionnaire. Mixed crop-livestock production system was the dominant farming system in all the study districts. The farmers kept a variety of livestock species including sheep, goats, cattle, chickens horse, donkeys and bee colony. Sheep, principally as source of income, meat for home consumption, production of manure and for socio cultural purposes, are commonly herded with other species in the open grazing fields by young boys in a family. Mating was generally uncontrolled. Body size, growth rate and adaptability were the major traits in selecting rams, whereas ewes were selected based on body size, twining ability and lambing interval. Majority of sheep across all districts are housed in structures known as Gebella which is built from stone and mud wall and tree/corrugated iron sheet roofing separated from the main family house. The major constraints hampering sheep production in the study areas were feed shortage (0.25), lack of capital (0.24), insufficient veterinary services (0.2), limited grazing land (0.2), water scarcity (0.06) and predators (0.05) with index value indicated in parenthesis. In order to improve the productivity of sheep, it is important to involve farmers and other stockholders in addressing these constraints and designing breed improvement interventions, considering the overall farming and breeding practice of smallholders.
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