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ICARDA has a global mandate for the improvement of barley, lentil and faba bean and serves the non-tropical dry areas for the improvement of on-farm water-use efficiency, rangeland and small-ruminant production. In the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region, ICARDA contributes to the improvement of bread and durum wheats, kabuli chickpea, pasture and forage legumes and associated farming systems. It also works on improved land management, diversification of production systems, and value-added crop and livestock products. Social, [...]


Written Paper

Sheep husbandry at the cultivated margin of the north-west Syrian steppe  [1989]

Thomson, E.F.; Bahhady, F.A.; Martin, A. (ICARDA, Aleppo (Syria)); International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Aleppo (Syria) [Corporate Author]

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This report describes the results of a survey made from January 1979 to September 1981 among 17 semi-nomadic and settled sheep-owning farmers living at the margins of the north-west Syrian steppe to describe the prevailing sheep-dominated system and define levels of and constraints to productivity, and economic returns from sheep flocks. The results showed that the contrasting rainfall had a significant effect on sheep productivity, flock economics, and cereal yields. In winter, flocks were based in the steppe or village when ewes were pregnant or lactating and feed offered consisted mainly barley grain and cereal straw. In spring, native pastures supplied most of the nutrient needs of the sheep. Between June and September, cereal stubbles were the main feed resource, and in autumn, flocks grazed irrigated crop residues in the cultivated areas. The average milk performance for milk yield was 53 kg, lambing rate was 87, ewe mortality was 8, lamb mortality was 19, and wool yield 2.2 kg; Low input methods of cereal cultivation were practiced. Machine-harvested barley and wheat grain yields averaged 800 and 686 kg/ha, respectively; yearly differences in rainfall had a marked effect on farmers barley grain production, sales, and purchases. The wheat crop generated 211 kg/family member annually and made a substantial contribution to family bread needs. Negative gross margins of the sheep enterprise in the dry year changed to positive values in the next two years
because of yearly differences in rainfall and steadily increasing prices of live sheep. The survey emphasizes the key role played by barley in the systems and explains why farmers grow both barley and wheat in such a high risk environment. The impact of the survey findings on ICARDA's on-station sheep research strategy and the dangers arising from the continuation of inappropriate sheep husbandry and cultural practices in such a fragile ecosystem are outlined