Livestock production plays a vital role in the socio-economic life of the rural population at a number of levels. Animals and animal products contribute directly to food security by providing households with a source of protein in the form of meat, milk and eggs. They can be sold when necessary to raise cash for the purchase of food staples or to meet other urgent household needs. Livestock can also be harnessed to provide traction power.
Over 25% of rural holdings keep small ruminants (mostly goats). These are fairly evenly distributed throughout the country, but about one quarter of the total goat population of four million is found in a single province (Tete province).
Pigs are kept by almost 20% of rural holdings. The total number of pigs is over 2 million but they are also subject to disease with African Swine Fever being the most prevalent and destructive.
Only 4% of rural holdings keep a total of 720,000 head of cattle. Of these, over one third are kept on medium and large holdings.
Very few horses and donkeys are kept in Mozambique and what animal traction exists is usually provided by oxen. Just 11% of holdings use animal traction and the regional distribution is very uneven. While in the Southern and Central Provinces between 20% and 50% of holdings use animal traction, it is hardly ever used in the Northern provinces of Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Zambezia.
Diseases have an enormous impact on the stocks and productivity of animals with diseases such as Trypanosomiasis, Newcastle Disease, African swine fever and tick-borne diseases posing a major cause for concern to the livestock and veterinary services. Close proximity to the Kruger National Park and other protected areas that have a relatively high concentration of wildlife also results in the latent presence of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD); there have been recent outbreaks in the neighboring countries of Swaziland and South Africa.
Floods and heavy rains can also contribute to the loss of livestock and the outbreak and subsequent spread of epidemics.
The overwhelming majority of livestock in Mozambique consist of indigenous breeds that are well adapted to the specific agro-climatic conditions. The introduction of exotic breeds is limited and more likely to occur in medium and large holdings in urban areas (for example semi-industrial broiler and egg production units). Where exotic and improved breeds are introduced, they usually come from other countries in the region and most particularly from South Africa. An inventory of animal genetic resources in Mozambique is currently being drawn up.