The most common of the large domesticated ungulates are cattle. A team of researchers mapped the bovine genome in 2009; the first among livestock animals. Cattle are raised to provide food (meat and milk), labor (draft animal) and products like horn, leather and manure. Cattle are now considered one species and cattle domestication was as early as 9,000 BC. Its origins can be traced to Europe, Asia and Africa, and it is often considered as the first symbol of wealth. Stocks of cattle worldwide are the largest among livestock (1.37 billion), followed by sheep, pigs and goats (840 million). Of the world stocks, 40% are found in the Americas, followed by Asia and then Africa, with 270 million or about 20%. The ranking of cattle meat production is the same. However, Africa only produces 8% of the total world production. In sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia has the largest stocks with about 50 million or 20%, closely followed by Sudan (41 million) and Tanzania (19 million). The largest meat producers in sub-Saharan Africa are South Africa (16%) followed by Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania (each around 7%). The pattern of milk production is slightly different. Europe produces 36% of the world’s cow milk, the Americas 29%, Asia 26% and Africa 5%. Within sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan is the largest producer with 25%, followed by Kenya (19%) and South Africa (15%). Livestock in general contributes to about 80% of AgGDP in developing countries and about 90% of them are owned by small farmers. In the tropics and sub-tropics efforts to increase productivity are constrained by diseases, lack of appropriate animal feed, shrinking pastures and many other common constraints in agriculture. South Africa is the largest meat exporter in sub-Saharan Africa, but it still only amounts to 1% of its agricultural exports. In Botswana, meat makes up 30% of the agricultural trade and in Namibia 14%. Angola imports meat products in the amount of 9% of its agricultural imports, in South Africa it is 3% and in Benin 12%.

Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008

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