SHEEP BREEDING IN INDIA According to Live~tock Census 2003, there are about 61.47 million sheep in the country. About five million households in the country are engaged in the rearing of small ruminants (sheep, goats and rabbits) and other allied activities. Sheep are generally located in arid zones having low rainfilll and which are poor in agriculture. Average wool yield of sheep is less than one kg per head per year. As for mutton, the average weight of Indian sheep varies from 25-30 kg.
DISTRIBUTION Most of the sheep in India are rilised in regions which are too dry, too stony or too mountainous for other agricultural purposes or for cattle raising. The largest number of sheep are in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (and Uttaranchal). The best wool yielding sheep are concentrated in the arid region of the northern plains and the Joria region comprising Rajasthan and Gujarat. However, the sheep areas may be geographically divided into three distinct zones-northern temperate region or the Himalayan zone, the north-western zone, and the southern zone.
Nortllern Temperate Region or lfimalayall Region This zone comprises the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal, with nearly five million of medium to fine wool producing sheep. The sheep grazing on the lower altitude during winter hav~ coarse fleece, while the sheep maintained in drier and colder regions provide fine wool. The Chamba, Kulu and Kashmir Valley sheep are valued for superior fleece. Gllrij, Karl7lzah, Blzaharwal, Gaddi and Rampur Bushair are important breeds of sheep in this zone.
Dry Nortll-Eastem Region This zone comprises Rajasthan, south-east Punjab, Gujarat and parts of western Uttar Pradesh, and is noted for carpet wool. The sheep found here are well adapted to the intense heat and severe cold. In this zone, sheep are reared by a special class of herders known as Rebaris. The Rebaris move with their flocks during the rains in the desert or arid hills where the sheep graze on dry healthy land. After the rainy season the Rebaris move to the harvested field. La"i, Biktlllcri, Marwari, Kllte/li, and Katlziawari are important breeds of sheep in this zone.
Semi-arid Southern Region Comprising Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and parts of Madhya Pradesh, this region has about 21 million sheep. Of the total sheep in the region, 10-12 million produce no wool and the others produce very coarse and coloured fleece. Sheep are reared here both for wool and mutton. Sheep of this region have a furry coat. Important breeds of sheep in this zone are: Deccani, Nellare, Bdlary, Malldya and Bandllr.
Sheep Development Programme The principal objec tive is to make the country self-sufficient in wool and meilt production-through scientific breeding, and raise the status of sheep breeders and wool growers. Breeding policy envisages selective exotic cross-breeding. Exotic breeds are Meriono, Rambouillat, Cheviot, Southdown, Leicester ilnd Lincoln. There are five centrally sponsored, sheep-breeding farms in the country at Mamdipally (Andhra Pradesh), Challekeri (Karnataka), Daksum Oammu and Kashmir), Bhaisora (Uttar Pradesh) and Fatehpuri (Rajasthan).
There is~also a 'Central Sheep Breeding Farm' at Hissar (Haryana). It was set up in 1969 to breed and supply rare corriedale and cross-bred rams to various states for sheep development programmes. Two more sheep breeding farms are also located at Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh) and at Chatra (Bihar). In addition wool boards/sheep corporations have also bee!, established by different state governments to improve' marketing and grading system of wool in the