The purpose of this National Research Council report is to raise awareness of the potential of small livestock species and to stimulate their introduction into animal research and economic development programs. It is geared particularly towards benefitting developing nations.
"Microlivestock" is a term we have coined for species that are inherently small, such as rabbits and poultry, as well as for breeds of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs that are less than about half the size of the most common breeds. These miniature animals are seldom considered in the broad picture of livestock development, but they seem to have a promising future. Wherever land is scarce it seems reasonable to assume that, things being equal, small animals would be more attractive than large ones. And land for livestock is becoming increasingly scarce.
In this report we have emphasized multipurpose species with promise for smallholders. In some species, the promise is immediate; in others, it is long term, and much research must be undertaken before that promise can be realized or even understood.
We have included wild species that seem to have potential as future livestock. Some are threatened with extinction but are described here because their economic merits may be the key to acquiring support for their protection. Also, we have highlighted rare breeds of domesticated species because the current tendency has been to concentrate on a small number of large breeds, and many potentially valuable breeds are becoming extinct through neglect.