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Animal husbandry


In addition to the pages in the “Livestock” section, the reader is also referred to pages elsewhere on this website like “Animal feeds”, “Animal health” and “Precision livestock farming”.

  • The livestock sector accounts for nearly 50% of the total value of agriculture (Sihlobo, 2024; BFAP, 2021).
  • From a food and income security point of view, animal agriculture is the primary income generator in the majority of rural areas domestically and in the developing world.
  • Animal food products are a major contributor to a balanced diet because of the high biological value of their protein and significant quantities of high bioavailable minerals and vitamins.
  • Animal fibre products quantitatively contribute significantly to the clothing, leather, housing and decorative industries.
  •  The natural resources of South Africa are far more suited to livestock farming than to growing crops (only some 11% of our soils are suitable for crops).
  • The bulk of increased production and rural development will come from livestock farming.
  • Livestock agricultural exports include wool, mohair, dairy products, meat, and live animals. A well-co-ordinated, efficient animal health and identification strategy is central to unlocking the value of the livestock industry (BFAP, 2021).
Source: Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline 2021-2030; “Challenges for the animal science industries and profession – a strategic perspective”, a paper by Dr Heinz Meissner

Statistics for herd composition, slaughterings etc can be found on

Animal husbandry: some issues

Animal identification

The Animal Identification Act (Act No. 6 of 2002) replaced the old Livestock Brands Act (Act No. 87 of 1962).

  • It is compulsory to mark all cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
  • Owners apply for a registered identification mark from the registrar of Animal identification.
  • A permanent legal mark is the first line of defence against stock theft.

Refer to the “Websites & publications” heading for Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) publications about the identification of animals in terms of Animal Identification Act (Act No. 6 of 2002). These set out information like how to register an identification mark, what is not included as an identification mark, alternative method of identification, parts on which animals must be identified etc. These are available  at

Marking operator training courses are run, which cover the theory and techniques of branding, tattooing etc. Contact the Registrar of Animal Identification in this regard.

The reader is referred to the “Role players” heading for details of role players who supply radio frequency identity tags (RFID) and other methods of animal identification.

Animal welfare

We might adapt the philosopher’s quote to read, “I feel therefore I am”, to increase an awareness of livestock – or living stock. Animals are sentient beings i.e. they are conscious and can feel.

Welfare codes do not negatively influence animals’ performance. In some cases, performance will be even better, giving producers a return on their money.

The producer should not have any problem with Webster’s five freedoms, adopted by professional groups including veterinarians, the World Organisation for Animal Health and animal welfare organisations:

  • freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
  • freedom from discomfort
  • freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • freedom to express normal behaviour
  • freedom from fear and distress

How far the science of animal husbandry has evolved has everything to do with how well we blend profitable livestock farming with those listed freedoms.

Codes of Practice and National Standards

Several South African National Standards (SANS) and Codes of Practice setting out the minimum requirements for the relevant sectors (e.g. the poultry, feedlot etc) have been drawn up. These include:

  1. The South African Code of Practice – Pullet Rearing and Table Egg Production (ii) The South African Code of Practice – Commercial Layers (iii) The South African Code of Practice – Broiler Production (iv) The South African Code of Practice – Breeders and Day Old Chick Production
  2. Code for Feedlots
  3. Duties and Functions of the Abattoir Manager regarding the welfare of animals
  4. A Guideline for the use of Prodders and Stunning Devices in Abattoirs
  5. SANS 994-1:2011 Ratite farming
  6. Code of Conduct for the Commercial Production of Ostriches
  7. Code of Practice for the Transport, Handling and Slaughter of Ostriches
  8. Code of Practice for the Handling of Livestock at Saleyards and Vending Sites
  9. SANS 1469:2014: Humane handling and facilities for the protection of livestock at shows, auction sales, vending sites and livestock pounds
  10. Code of Practice for the Handling and Transport of Livestock
  11. The Pig Welfare Code
  12. SANS 1488:2014: Humane transportation of livestock by road
  13. SANS 1694:2018: The Welfare of Dairy Cattle
  14. Milking Goats Code of Welfare

Interested parties can purchase copies of national standards from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) at 012 428 6102 or on Many of the Codes of Practice can be found on websites like those of the NSPCA and Livestock Welfare Co-ordinating Read about codes under development on the LWCC website.

Standards also exist which apply to the microbiology of food and animal feeding stuffs, and to stock remedies.


Find separate page in the Issues section.


Refer to the “Wildlife on farms” page.

Stock theft

Relevant legislation here is the Stock Theft Act 1959 (Act no. 57 of 1959) and Stock Theft Amended Act 28 of 1990. Find information and notes at and

Stock-theft hampers the profitability of the stock farmer. It also interferes with the Government’s land reforming process and the empowering of the emerging farmers. For each stock-theft incident at a commercial farm, three similar incidents take place amongst emerging farmers. What makes it worse is that many emerging farmers suffer a total loss of stock – kraals are literally emptied. These farmers have to resort to other means to care for their families and to make a living.

Stock theft has become a business and there are clear indications of syndicate involvement (Bloch, 2022). The days when a sizable portion of stock theft was ascribed to “pot slaughtering” are long gone.

Stock theft has a detrimental effect on the industry and on agriculture in general. Stock theft is estimated to cost around R1.4 billion, more if the estimated unreported cases are taken into account (BFAP, 2022). Solving the problem will make a huge contribution to the country’s self-sufficiency.

All buyers and traders of livestock should verify ownership and refuse to accept livestock that is not branded or which is without completed Documents of identification and Certificates of Removal.

A comprehensive document, Hints for the Prevention of Stock Theft, is available from the South African Police Service’s National Stock Theft Unit. It will help livestock owners to minimise their vulnerability, and to successfully lay charges against stock thieves. The Manual for the Prevention of Stock Theft is an updated second edition, published on behalf of the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum. Find it at and other websites. A third document, Addendum 3: Combatting stock theft, by the RPO and NERPO, can be found at


Role players

  • Several of livestock industry bodies like the Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) founded the National Stock Theft Forum. Visit
  • Find contact details for the various livestock industry bodies on the relevant Agribook pages.
  • The nearest police station. You are also invited to call Crime Stop 08600 10111.
  • Farmer unions like Free State Agriculture and Kwanalu (consult the “Organised agriculture” page).


Find the notes on stock theft at


Exporting animals by sea

Animal husbandry: useful information

Female reproductive data of our main farm animals

Livestock typeDuration of oestrus cycleDuration of heatTiming of ovulationDuration of gestation
Cattle18 – 24 days6 – 24 hours6 – 14 hours after oestrus278 – 290 days
Sheep and goats16 – 18 days24 – 48 hours12 – 24 hours before end of oestrus144 – 152 days
Pigs19 – 22 days18 – 48 hours at end of oestrus114 – 120 days
Horses18 – 24 days4 – 9 days36 – 48 hours before end of oestrus320 – 370 days
Source: Dr Reinette Snyman, Cape Peninsular University of Technology

Transporting animals

  • The better you handle your animals, the more money they’ll earn for you. Move your animals safely and you will prevent injuries and deaths. Minimise stress on them to prevent loss in production and reproduction.
  • Before you leave (or when you get to the other side), don’t let animals stand in wet, muddy kraals – they can get all sorts of diseases there, including foot rot.
  • Learn how to handle individual animals so that you don’t hurt them or break their legs or horns. Don’t chase them, hit them or crowd them into small places. When loading them and there isn’t a ramp, pick them up carefully (for small stock). If you work well with your animals, they’ll become tame and manageable.
  • Don’t load too many animals onto a vehicle (see the “Trailers” page). This is against the law, and you may hurt your animals – breaking bones and bruising their meat. Also, don’t put different sized animals into the same compartment.
  • Animals must be able to stand up and breathe without trouble during transport. Place non-slip material on the load area to stop animals from sliding around during the trip.
  • Drive carefully, especially around corners or on hills. Never brake suddenly as the animals will move forward and squash one another. Stop every few kilometres to check if the load is still okay.
  • The best time to transport stock is early morning or late afternoon. This is especially so in summer. If you have to park somewhere for awhile, do so in the shade as animals get heat-stressed quite easily.
  • When herding animals on foot or on horseback, don’t move too fast, especially if there are lambs, calves or pregnant animals in the flock. If you have to move them over a long distance, start early in the day so that you can rest them. Give them water along the way.
Source: The article “Handle your animals gently” by Roelof Bezuidenhout on 

The SABS National Standard Transportation of Livestock by Road and the Animals Protection Act, 71 of 1962 apply when animals are transported. Provisions include points like no animal may be transported for more than 18 hours without being offloaded and rested; and no pregnant animals may be transported. See also the Code of Practice for the Handling and Transport of Livestock.

Estimating the water required for livestock

To estimate the quantity of water required daily per animal, allow:

  • 6,5 litres per day per head of sheep
  • 45 litres per day per head of cattle or horses
  • 90 litres per day per head of dairy cattle
  • 9 litres per pig 18 litres per hundred birds (poultry)
Source: Southern Cross Industries
 National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA)

Initially formed to ensure the welfare of food animals at the abattoirs in South Africa, the Animal Farm unit at the NSPCA inspects, researches, educates, and promotes the welfare of all animals being farmed. Its extended functions now include:

  1. Assisting. Practical solutions to assist farmers and at the same time uplifting the welfare of animals.
  2. Education. Carried out in indigent communities at arranged outreach programmes throughout the country.
  3. Inspections. Law enforcement – educate and then prosecute.
  4. Legislation. To promote, research, initiate amendments, or new legislation to enhance animal welfare.
  5. Reactive. Reacts and deals with accidents involving livestock, or disaster situations.
  6. Training. Workshops are presented to state departments, and training is given to inspectors at local societies throughout South Africa.


Small Scale Farmers

An increasing number of Government and internationally sponsored small scale individual and co-operative farming projects as well as large commercial projects for previously disadvantaged people are being established in commercial farming areas. The NSPCA has worked reactively and proactively on such projects, trying to establish where they are and visiting to make contact, give guidance and monitor. Poor administration or ignorance can lead to considerable suffering of animals and deaths.

Veterinary Services Back-Up

State Veterinary Services do not exist in certain (usually remote and impoverished) areas and in other areas, they are inadequate to cope. The NSPCA has taken on the role of outreach – to provide a veterinary service back-up. Specific outreach programmes and projects are undertaken, in addition to any reactive or response work that may be required.

Find the NSPCA educational resources Take Care of your ChickensCarry your chickens correctlyTake care of your pigsTransport your pigs correctlyLook after your donkey, horse or muleTransport your cattle correctly (available in Afrikaans, English, Sotho, Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu) and Working Donkey and Farm Animal Welfare Guide at


The Farm Animal Unit of the National Council of SPCAs performs various workshops and lectures to relevant state departments to remind and enlighten teaching, research or production facilities on current animal welfare trends, legislation, moral and social responsibilities. If other organisations, departments, educational facilities wish to have similar workshops carriedout, please contact the NSPCA via email on nspca [at]

National strategy and government contact

The legislative framework that covers stock farming includes:

  • Animal Improvement Act, 1998 (Act. No. 62 of 1998)
  • Animals Protection Act, 1962 (Act No. 71 of 1962)
  • Performing Animals Protection Act, 1935 (Act No. 24 of 1935), amended by Act No. 4 of 2016
  • Animal Identification Act (Act No. 6 of 2002)


Several relevant standards and codes exist. See previous heading 2, “Animal husbandry: some issues”. The two general livestock National Standards which apply are:

  • SANS 1469:2014 Humane handling and facilities for the protection of livestock at shows, auction sales, vending sites and livestock pounds
  • SANS 1488:2014 Humane transportation of livestock by road


The National Livestock Development Strategy (NLDS) aims to enhance the sustainability of animal agriculture in South Africa across the entire production, processing and supply chain. Implementation includes establishing sector working groups, mobilising rural stock owners and keepers towards economic production, and supporting systems for the conservation of veld and livestock resources through sustainable use. Find the Livestock identification and traceability system (LITS) document on Also available on the website is the publication Livestock Development Strategy for South Africa, (take the “Resource Centre” and “General publications” options).

The Animal and Veld Management Programme (AVMP) focuses on bringing arable and grazing land into production by providing the entire required infrastructure like fencing, boreholes, irrigation systems, cattle handling and dipping facilities, dams etcetera. In addition the AVMP supports re-greening and soil rehabilitation.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

  • Directorate: Animal Production
  • Directorate: Animal Health
  • Import and Export Permits- Animals and Animal Products


Find information about the above directorates and contact details at

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) offers support to farmers to improve their herds and participate in the value chain. Read about Kaonafatso ya dikgomo (KyD) and other interventions like the Nguni Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) in the ARC annual reports and on its website,

 Role players

Note: Click to expand the headings below. To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

e-SHEPHERD – Collars that discourage predators from livestock
Havco Manufacturing Tel: 017 712 5355 Animal handling and feeding equipment
 Representative Bodies
 Training, Consulting & Research Service Providers
 Community, NGO and NPO Service Providers

Further reference:

Companies involved


Training and research

  • See the “Agricultural education and training” page, as well as the individual livestock pages.
  • Animal husbandry training is included in the diplomas as well as in short courses offered by Agricultural Colleges. Some of these institutions have a particular focus e.g. Grootfontein concentrates on small stock. Examples of some short courses presented at Cedara in KwaZulu-Natal are: poultry production, dairy production (basic); small-scale dairying; beekeeping (also presented in Zulu); goat production; pig production; and dairy processing. Find details of all Agricultural Colleges on the “Agricultural education and training” page.
  • Read about learnerships in animal production at (take the “ Skills delivery” option).
  • Included in the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)-accredited qualifications are titles like Assess the influence of the environment on sustainable livestock productionApply standard animal feeding proceduresRecognise defensive behaviour in animalsHarvest animal productsUnderstand animal nutritionIdentify basic breeding practices for farm animalsEvaluate external animal anatomy and morphology; and Minimise risk in animal management. Find the “Qualifications and Learning Material” option at
  • Animal Husbandry training is included in training offered by Universities and Universities of Technology. For the complete list, consult the “Agricultural education and training” page.


Associations and industry bodies

  • Each of our livestock pages gives details of relevant associations and other role players. Details of the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), for example, will be found on the poultry page.  Associations with an involvement across the livestock spectrum include the ones listed above.


Animal welfare role players

  • Among the listings above find Animal Voice, the LWCC and the NSPCA.

Websites and publications

See this heading on the different Livestock pages on this website. Refer also to the websites of the different livestock role players e.g. the Red Meat Producers; the South African Pork Producers etc.


Find the numerous livestock publications at These are referred to in the individual livestock pages on this website. Some Info Paks that refer to livestock generally include:

  • Importation of animals and animal products
  • Identification of animals
  • Identification of animals (Afrikaans)
  • Legal identification marks (isiXhosa)
  • Legal identification marks (sePedi)
  • Legal identification marks
  • Poisonous plants (don’t let your livestock eat them!)

A number of livestock publications are available from Kejafa Knowledge Works. These include Du Pisani’s Smart Drought Management for Livestock Farmers (2019). Visit

Visit and to find University of the Free State publications and articles like The role of livestock in developing communities: enhancing multifunctionality by Prof Frans Swanepoel and Prof Aldo Stroebel.

The South African Journal of Animal Science is the official journal of the South African Society for Animal Science. Find out more at

Find Guidelines for Livestock Farming and other publications on, website of the National Wool Growers Association.

Find the twice-monthly ABSA Livestock report at

Agri Orbit puts out livestock-related magazines like VEEPLAAS and STOCKFARM. Visit for more information.

Find the presentation “Practical Guidelines for Integrating Conventional and Technological Methods of Combating Stock theft in South Africa” by Dr Witness Maluleke of the University of KwaZulu-Natal on stock theft (2017, September).



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