In Senegal, the XXL sheep business

In Senegal, the XXL sheep business

In his imitation marble tiled enclosure, Thiapathioly bleats with satisfaction. Moussa Sy, a breeder, massages his ribs. ” He loves it ! », says the young man, hidden by the ram's enormous rump. Massages, shea butter treatments, vitamin cures… Welcome to Ndao et Frères, a luxury sheepfold in the suburbs of Dakar.

At 5e floor of a plush apartment with a view of the ocean, the animals have first names and lead a pasha life that would make many Senegalese green with envy, 38% of whom live below the poverty line. Moldings and ceiling fans, cozy lounge equipped with a television… Priority to the comfort of animals and visitors. “It’s also marketing”, recognizes the manager Saliou Ndao, who posts videos on a Facebook page. On social networks, breeders spend fortunes to attract their wealthy customers. Air conditioning, colored LED lights and even a security guard at the entrance… Some stables almost look like nightclubs.

Named in homage to the former king of Morocco

In Senegal, the breeding of ladoums, a breed of sheep prized for its beauty and exceptional size, is booming. Born in the 1970s from a cross between the Mauritanian touabire and the bali-bali from Mali, this “super sheep” mainly used for breeding can sell for more than ten thousand euros. In 2017, Hassan II, a ram named in homage to the former king of Morocco, even reached the record of 52 million CFA francs, or more than €80,000! Its owner nevertheless refused to sell it, believing that it was worth more.

To treat yourself to Thiapathioly, one of his “grandsons”Saliou Ndao had to pay a small fortune, 40 million CFA francs (€60,000). “But it is a very profitable investment, it will bring me three to four times its purchase price, the ladoums produce a lot and improve the breeds”, explains the owner, who embarked on this “business” with his older brother twenty years ago with two sheep. They have had them for around fifty. At three years old, Thiapathioly already has around twenty lambs, each sold between “one to ten million” of CFA francs.

Social prestige of the family

When he is not lounging in his enclosure protected by an armada of surveillance cameras, Thiapathioly, 150 kg with a 140 cm chest measurement – ​​the model size for a ladoum –, goes through beauty contests and photo shoots. With his proud bearing, his two curled horns and his elegant white fleece, Thiapathioly, which means “the only one” in Wolof, is a celebrity. Competitions, television shows, fan pages on Facebook… In Senegal, ladoum is a source of national pride.

A few days before Tabaski (Eid-El-Kébir), June 16, the great Muslim festival during which each family slaughters a sheep to commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham, breeders exhibit their most beautiful animals in the streets. Each year, 800,000 sheep are sold in this 90% Muslim country. “It’s our biggest turnover of the year, everyone wants their sheep, some save for a year to buy one”reports breeder Alioune Badara Dieng, who hopes to earn €1,500 to €3,000 in profits in two weeks.

But in Senegal, where the annual GDP per capita is around €1,400, most will have to be satisfied with an ordinary sheep, at €150, for the traditional Tabaski barbecue. Treating yourself to a ladoum remains a luxury. At Ndao et Frères, most customers are “businessmen, politicians or celebrities”, lists the manager. Beyond the religious dimension, the sheep is also the symbol of a family's social prestige. “But they’re not toys!” You must respect them and love them like your own wife”annoys Alioune Badara Dieng, caressing Chérif, her 135 kg ladoum.


The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam

Eid-El-Adha (“feast of sacrifice” in Arabic) or Eid-El-Kébir (the “great festival”), also called Tabaski in West Africa and Central Africa (Chad, Cameroon), is the most important Muslim festival.

Celebrated this year on June 16, it corresponds with the hajj, the time of the great pilgrimage to Mecca. (western Saudi Arabia) which is one of the five “obligations” for the Muslim believer.

Last year, the hajj attracted more than 1.8 million pilgrims, after authorities lifted pandemic restrictions and removed age limits.

All Muslims are expected to perform the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, at least once in their life if they have the means.

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