A brief history of sheep production in Mauritius
Sheep production did not develop in Mauritius mainly for historical reasons. The earliest ruminants brought into the country were goats, principally by the Indian immigrants who traditionally reared goats as a backyard activity. This practice continues even today and the country has a herd of about 26000 heads. In Rodrigues, on the other hand, sheep flocks were brought into the island during colonial times and because of genetic isolation considerable in-breeding led to decreased production. The hairy, non-descript breed that developed there was called “La Rodriguaise". Exotic breeds were introduced in 1955 and subsequently to improve the genetic pools and fertility of the Rodriguan sheep.
The introduction of sheep in 1965-1966 and 1973-75 with temperate breeds such as Romney Marsh, Polled Dorset and Corriedale did not meet with much success, the animals did not thrive and reproduce under local climatic conditions. Between 1978 and 1983, 2 tropical sheep breeds, the Persian Blackhead and the Dorper were tested by the Animal Production Division and proved to be successful due to their resistance to diseases, their satisfactory prolificacy and their good meat yield. In parallel, the sugar estates also began producing Wiltshire Horn, which also showed promising results at the time.
Building on these successes, and with the assistance obtained from the “Commission Mixte Franco-Mauricien", the APD established the Bergerie de Salazie which started operation in 1987 with 10 rams and 90 ewes. The farm operated with an average of 200 sheep until its closure in 2006.
Salazie Sheep Reproduction Farm: a boost to sheep farming
Sheep production in Mauritius is characterised by small scale farms that reared up to 20 heads of sheep. In 2015, the total meat produced from sheep amounted to 25.5 tonnes (of which 15.4 tonnes was from rodriguan stock and only 0.8 tonnes from local stock). The national herd in 2018 was estimated at around 2900 heads. Per capita consumption of mutton is around 4.52kg/year. Mutton, unlike beef and pork, is consumed by most of the Mauritian population and is not subject to religious or ethnic restrictions. There is therefore significant scope for its development in Mauritius. An additional boost needs to be given to sheep farmers in order to increase production. The short supply of quality breeding stock is a major issue in sheep production. To address this issue, the Government provided funds to the tune of Rs 18M for the setting up of a reproduction farm for the supply of breeding stock to the farming community.
The existing farm of the Bergerie de Salazie were renovated to accommodate 200 breeding sheep with the objective of providing 150-200 fattening stock to the farming community.
Two pedigree-certified rams and thirty breeding ewes were imported on 01 September 2019 and following a quarantine period of 21 days were moved to the newly renovated farm. This flock shall gradually be increased to 200 ewes within the next three years. The first sheep will be available for sale in March 2020.
Link to video: Salazie Sheep Reproduction Farm
Inauguration of the Salazie Sheep Reproduction Farm
The Salazie Sheep Reproduction Farm was officially relaunched by the Hon. Mahen Kumar Seeruttun on the 26 September 2019. The Opening Ceremony was held at Salazie in the presence of several dignitaries of the Ministry and farmers. Mr. V.A. Punchoo, Director of the Agricultural Services and Dr. D. Meenowa, Assistant Director, Livestock and Veterinary also addressed the assistance on this occasion.
[Photographs by Mr. Luchoo]