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Chapter 6 - Liberia

1. Background
2. Livestock numbers and distribution
3. Cattle
4. Sheep and goats
5. Research and development activities
6. Selected bibliography

1. Background

The Republic of Liberia lies on the west coast of Africa, with Sierra Leone and Guinea to the north and Ivory Coast to the east. The country is divided into nine counties, as shown in Figure 1, with the capital at Monrovia.

The National Livestock Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for government work in animal husbandry, including animal health, production and extension services.

Basic data for the country are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Background data for Liberia.


111 400 km˛

Latitude 40°-9° N
Longitude 7°-12° W

number 1 600 000

density 14.4/km˛
Livestock numbers

cattle 25 500

sheep 65 000

goats 120 000

Sources: For population, OAU, 1978; for livestock numbers, Ministry of Agriculture, 1977.

Liberia has a humid tropical forest climate with a rainy season from April to November. The average annual rainfall varies from 1 800 mm in the north to 5 000 mm at the coast.

Figure 1. Administrative divisions, location of research centres and multiplication herds, cattle numbers and breed distribution.

According to the OAU/STRC tsetse distribution map (1977), the entire country is infested with tsetse. G. palpalis, G. pallicera pallicera and G. fusca are distributed widely, while G. medicorum is found in the south and G. nigrofusca in the north. There is no more recent information on tsetse distribution, though work on trypanosomiasis has been carried out at Bong Mine by the Liberian Research Unit of the Tropical Institute, Hamburg and at Suakoko by the Central Agricultural Experimental Station (CAES).

2. Livestock numbers and distribution

Cattle production is not very important in Liberia, partly due to the forest environment which is very humid and not well suited to cattle. The density of the cattle population for the country as a whole is 0.23/km˛, which is extremely low. The distribution of cattle is depicted in Figure 1 and the number of cattle in each county is given in Table 2.

Table 2. Livestock numbers in Liberia (1976).


Area (km˛)





% of Total


% of Total


% of Total

Bong 11 770 4 845 19.1 16 275 25.0 22 268 18.7
Cape Mount 5 740 408 1.6 781 1.2 3 359 2.8
Grand Bassa 8 000 3 519 13.8 6 575 10.1 14 804 12.4
Grand Gedeh 16 200 3 850 15.1 7 812 12.0 12 316 10.3
Loffa 19 530 1 683 6.6 2 995 4.6 7 464 6.3
Maryland 4 560 5 278 20.7 651 1.0 6 718 5.6
Montserrado 3 000 561 2.2 3 515 5.4 3 608 3.0
Nimba 12 280 535 2.1 16 340 25.1 25 875 21.7
Sinoe 15 100 2 856 11.2 1 367 2.1 4 230 3.5
'Remote and Large Rural'
1 938 7.6 8 788 13.5 18 784 15.7
25 473 100.0 65 099 100.0 119 426 100.0

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, 1977.

Sheep and goats are found in nearly every village throughout the country. However, they are most numerous in Bong and Nimba Counties, which together account for 50% of the national herd.

3. Cattle

There are two main types of cattle in Liberia: the N'Dama and the Dwarf West African Shorthorn whose local name is Muturu. The boundary between the areas of distribution of Longhorn and shorthorn cattle groups is located in this country.

The distribution of the two types within the country is difficult to assess, particularly as there are numerous crossbreds in the rural areas. An estimate based on observations in the field is presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Distribution of cattle types (estimated numbers).




Bong 3 000 1 850 4 850
Cape Mount 410 - 410
Grand Bassa 2 500 1 020 3 520
Grand Gedeh 1 000 2 850 3 850
Loffa 1 700 - 1 700
Maryland - 5 270 5 270
Montserrado 500 60 560
Nimba 240 300 540
Sinoe 150 2 700 2 850
Remote and Large Rural 950 1 000 1 950
Total 10 450 (41%) 15 050 (59%) 25 500 (100%)

Source: Country visit information.

The N'Dama predominate in the north, mainly in Loffa County, which is adjacent to the breeding areas in Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Muturu are more numerous in the south, in Sinoe and Maryland Counties. In the intermediate area, the N'Dama are apparently increasing in numbers, as they are preferred by the more progressive stock raisers for private farms and plantation herds.


3.1.1 Liberian Dwarf

The southern cattle in Liberia are generally known by the name Muturu, but they are also called Lagoon or West African Shorthorn. It is difficult to identify the various types which occur within this population, which will be referred to as a whole as the Liberian Dwarf or Muturu of Liberia, belonging to the Dwarf West African Shorthorn sub-group.

Typical animals are found in relatively large numbers in the coastal savannas of Maryland and Sinoe Counties. These are of the characteristic dwarf type, measuring less than one metre at the withers. Their bodies are heavy and the heads strong; plain black or black-and-white coats predominate, and the horns are generally very short. Less characteristic animals are found in other parts of Liberia, particularly in Grand Gedeh, Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba Counties. These are in small, scattered herds and often show the influence of N'Dama blood.

There is apparently no information concerning the productivity of these animals, but they are known to be early maturing, fertile and well adapted to their habitat, surviving with a minimum of care.

3.1.2 N'Dama

The N'Dama population is also very small, but there is more information on the N'Dama than on the Muturu. This breed in Liberia is of the classical Guinean type, particularly on private farms or government stations - with uniform fawn coats and long horns. There is more variation among N'Dama in village herds because breeding is not selective and there is some crossing with the Muturu. Performance Traits. The only performance data available are from the herd kept on the Firestone Plantation. This herd was started at Harbel in 1947 with one bull and two cows, which, according to Weijer and Tappan (1965), may have been Muturu x N'Dama crossbreds. By 1956, the herd had reached 63 head. N'Dama cows were inseminated in 1961 with Jersey, Brown Swiss and Santa Gertrudis semen brought frozen from the USA. However, in 1967, the herd was disbanded, and some of the animals went to the College of Agriculture and Forestry.

This herd was raised on improved pasture without supplement. Performance was completely satisfactory: there was no trypanosomiasis and few other disease problems. McIndoe (quoted in Weijer and Tappan, 1956) recorded an age at first calving of 28 to 30 months, which was later reduced to 25 to 26 months. Fecundity was excellent: the first two cows each produced six calves between 1948 and 1953. From 1952 to 1956, offtake consisted of 14 steers at an average age of 33 months and average weight of 242 kg, 5 young bulls averaging 21 months old and 205 kg, and 2 cull cows averaging 8 years old and 215 kg (Weijer and Tappan, 1956). The crossbred calves weighed considerably more than the pure N'Dama - 18 kg at birth for Jersey crosses and 21 to 26 kg for Brown Swiss and Santa Gertrudis crosses - but there were no calving problems (Anliker, 1964).

The N'Dama herd kept by the Liberian Agricultural Company offers another example of the rapid rate of increase possible with this breed. This herd was reduced by contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and foot-and-mouth disease from 734 in July 1974 to 186 in December of the same year. But by June 1978 the herd had doubled without any introduction of new stock (see Table 4).

Table 4. Natural increase in the N'Dama herd kept by the Liberian Agricultural Company.


Total Number




% Deaths

% Offtake

January 1975 186 +92 -32 -27 12.9 15.9
January 1976 233 +120 -39 -17 6.6 15.1
January 1977 286 +113 -45 -18 5.9 14.7
January 1978 327

June 1978 360

Source: Country visit information.


The animal health situation is considered relatively favourable in Liberia due to the low density of the cattle population and the isolation of individual herds. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Agriculture notes that a number of diseases are present. Outbreaks of CBPP occur, related to the importation of infected animals. Vaccination is carried out against this disease and also against rinderpest. Brucellosis is present, but its importance has not been determined, and there was an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in 1974 (virus type SAT 2). Blackquarter and anthrax occur occasionally, and haemorrhagic septicaemia, pasteurellosis, piroplasmosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and theileriosis are also present but of unknown importance.

Trypanosomiasis is widespread throughout the country. Studies have been carried out at Suakoko by the CAES Veterinary Service and at Bong Mine by the Liberia Research Unit. The Liberia Research Unit has carried out epidemiological studies to assess the importance of the different types of trypanosomes and the role of different domestic animals as potential reservoir hosts for sleeping sickness (Mehlitz, 1977). From 51 samples taken from untreated N'Dama cattle in Bong, Nimba and Loffa Counties in 1974, positive serological reactions (indirect fluorescent antibody test) were observed in 41, or 80.4%. Parasitological examination (blood-smears) revealed that 9 of the 51 were infected with T. congolense, 3 with T. vivax and 1 with T. brucei, T. congolense, and T. vivax, altogether 25.5% of the sample.

The work at Suakoko (Pan, 1978) confirms the results obtained at Bong Mine. Both studies show clearly the strong resistance of N'Dama adults to trypanosomiasis. However, such studies often neglect the heavy mortality among calves due to this disease.


In addition to traditional cattle production systems under village conditions, commercial production is being initiated in Liberia on the rubber plantations (Liberian Agricultural Company and Firestone) and on private commercial farms, which are increasing in number. However, these operations still account for only a small proportion of the total herd.

According to a survey carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1977, only 9 100 households in Liberia, or 6%, out of a total of 152 100, keep cattle. Among these, the average number of animals per household is very low - 2.6 in 1975 and 2.8 in 1976.

Throughout the country, cattle are kept exclusively for slaughter on special occasions. Particularly in Maryland and Sinoe Counties in the south, where most of the cattle are Liberian Dwarf, the animals receive very little care. They are rarely herded or milked, and sometimes they are tethered, as small ruminants are, to avoid damage to crops.

4. Sheep and goats


Both sheep and goats are of the Djallonké or West African Dwarf breeds. Some coat variations in goats are illustrated in Figure 3.80, volume 1. Very little information is available on their productivity. For sheep, CAES at Suakoko reports an average body weight of 25.25 kg for two rams and 17.1 kg for five ewes. Birth weights averaged 1.46 kg for five single births and 1.06 kg for four twins. Corresponding figures for goats are 22.3 kg for adult males, 20.7 kg for adult females, 1.48 kg at birth for single births and 1.31 kg for twins.


Very little information is available on diseases among small ruminants in Liberia. Research work is now being initiated, however, at CAES in Suakoko, focussing, inter alia, on diseases among goats and sheep.

The epidemiological survey carried out by the Liberian Research Unit in 1974 included 257 goats and 64 sheep. Serological tests showed positive reactions for 86 of the goats (24.4%) and 17 of the sheep (26.6%). Evidence of parasites was found among 23 of the goats (8.9%) and 9 of the sheep (14.1%): 17 goats and 8 sheep were infected with T. congolense, 5 goats and 1 sheep with T. vivax and 1 goat with T. brucei and T. congolense.


Table 5 shows the average number of animals per household according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1976.

Table 5. Distribution of sheep and goats by household.

Number of Households with Animals

Percentage of All Households

Total number of Animals

Mean Number of Animals per Household with Animals


1975 13 500 9% 48 300 3.6
1976 16 700 11% 65 100 3.9

1975 32 200 21% 133 300 4.1
1976 30 400 20% 124 400 4.1

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, 1977.

5. Research and development activities


Two research centres are carrying out work on trypanotolerant livestock in Liberia, the Central Agricultural Experimental Station (CAES) at Suakoko, which is carrying out two separate projects, and the College of Agriculture and Forestry, near Monrovia. These activities are described in Table 6, and their locations shown in Figure 1.


The Liberian Agricultural Company (LAC), a subsidiary of the Uniroyal Group, owns a private rubber plantation 55 km north of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County. There is a farm of 160 ha within the plantation. A herd of N'Dama cattle, which numbered about 360 as of June 1978, is kept on the farm and grazed throughout the plantation. The location is shown by 3 in Figure 1. The purpose of the operation is to produce meat for the plantation staff. Calves are weighed every month and adult animals occasionally.

Table 6. Research centres in Liberia


Central Agricultural Experimental Station (CAES)

College of Agriculture and Forestry

Location (and reference in Figure 1) Suakoko, Bong County, 15 km from Gbarnga and 170 km from Monrovia (·) 1 23 km from Monrovia 2
Organization responsible Livestock Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture, Monrovia University of Liberia, Monrovia
Size 100 ha 100 ha (15 ha of pasture)
Breeds and numbers 150 N'Dama and 30 Holstein-Friesian cattle, 12 sheep and 17 goats 58 N'Dama x Brown Swiss crosses (from the Firestone Plantation)
Objectives Study possibilities of milk production. Select N'Dama. Study smallstock production as a project of the Mano River Union (grouping Sierra Leone and Liberia). Though performance is recorded there is no research programme on this herd.
External aid FAO and World Bank FAO
Comments It is anticipated that the Mano River Union Project carrying out precise animal health and related productivity studies on smallstock will be further expanded in the future.

6. Selected bibliography

Alder, F E (1975). 'Cattle development - Liberia'. Rome, FAO.

Anlicker, W L (1964). 'The cattle breeding programme of the Firestone Plantations Company'. Research Division Report No. 75. Monrovia, Firestone Plantations Co. 21p.

Liberia, Ministry of Agriculture (1977). Production Estimates of Major Crops 1976. Monrovia.

Mehlitz, D (1977) 'Investigation on animal trypanosomiasis in Liberia (1974-1977)'. Monrovia, Liberia Research Unit of the Tropical Institute Hamburg.

Pan, I J (1978). 'Brief report on the activities and achievements of the Veterinary Section, CAES, in the period 1971-1978. 2. Situation of animal trypanosomiasis in Liberia'. Suakoko, Central Agricultural Experimental Station.

Weijer, J and Tappan W C (1956). 'A genetic and commercial analysis of the Firestone plantation cattle herd'. Research Department Report No. 46. Monrovia, Firestone Plantations Company.

Worrall, G A (1967). 'Agricultural research of Liberia: A review and summary of publications' Rome, UNDP/FAO.

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