Indigenous sheep play an important role in the livelihoods of communal farmers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and this underlines the need to curb the genetic erosion of these valuable resources. This contribution reports that the phenotypic performance and genetics gains of institutional and commercial sheep in Southern Africa are well recorded. In contrast, there is a dearth of knowledge as far as the performance and genetic gains of indigenous ovine genetic resources utilized by smallholder farmers are concerned. High levels of genetic diversity have been observed in exotic breeds, whereas low levels of genetic diversity were found in the Zulu and Namaqua Afrikaner breeds. Phenotypic measurements for indigenous resources include linear measurements indicative of size and reproduction for Zulu sheep. Lamb survival, reproduction and resistance to ticks of the indigenous, fat-tailed Namaqua Afrikaner sheep, as well as growth and reproduction have also been recorded for Sabi and Landim sheep. This review discusses ways to sustainably utilize ovine genetic resources, which includes the suggested implementation of structured breeding and conservation programs, marketing, improving feed resources, health and diseases, as well as gender and age issues. Clearly, there is ample room for further research and development as far as the performance and improvement of African indigenous sheep are concerned.
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