1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Agriculture as defined by Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 6th edition is the science or practice of farming. It is the art, science business and industry of cultivating the land to grow crops, rear animals and preparing plants and animal’s product for mans use. Before recorded history, man depended on wild animals for food, clothing, shelter and transport. Due to increasing human population, the demand for food and animal protein had out weighed the supply from natural resources which fluctuated, became laborious and expensive. Therefore man had gone a little bit further as society made transition from hunting to pasturalism and cultivation, certain animal species were domesticated in areas other than their natural habitat. These farm animals are exhaustible resources but are renewable. Their renewability however depends on the level of management adopted. It is for this reason one has to learn the scientific techniques involved in the maintaining and improving these resources to maximum yield and their usefulness to mankind.
Agriculture is one of the core subjects in both junior and senior secondary schools in the Nigerian 6:3:3:4 system of educational programme (ONWUEGBUNAM 1993). Agricultural science teaching covers the following areas; 1. Animal science/production 2. Crop science 3. Soil science 4. Agricultural extension and 5. Agricultural economics. Animal science include the production and management of many different species of domesticated animals like cattle, sheep, goat, pig, poultry, rabbit, horses, fisheries and many others for human consumption. According to WAEC regulation (2002), schools presenting candidates for the examinations in addition to having a school farm where students should be trained in the art of growing various crops, should also keep the following livestock like cattle, sheep and goats, fish, rabbit, pigs or poultry birds. This will ensure that the students should be able equipped with the skills and management techniques involved in animal production. To improve the animal protein needs of the Nigerian populace, the Federal Government of Nigeria is making efforts towards increasing animal protein productions.
Apart from encouraging ministries of Agriculture at both state and local government levels to establish livestock unit, the National policy on education (1998) has emphasized the teaching of Agriculture at the secondary schools level. Among the objectives of teaching and learning of agriculture in secondary schools, Agricultural science curriculum for JSS and SSS 1998 revised include; stimulating and sustaining students interest to acquire basic knowledge, practical skills in agriculture, prepares students for further studies and occupation in Agriculture. To achieve the objectives of secondary school agriculture, agricultural science is taught as a single subject although divided into units as below: UNIT I – Soil science UNIT II – Crop production UNIT III – Animal production UNIT IV – Agricultural engineering UNIT V – Agricultural economics and extension In unit III which is animal production, WAEC has spelt out that practical and theoretical approach should be used to teach the topic. To this eect, the WAEC syllabus (1998-2000) stipulated that school farms where crops are grown with at least one species of livestock from each of the following two groups; pig, rabbit and poultry or goat, sheep, cattle and where feasible fish pond should be established.
In animal production, students are to cover the following topics as contained in the said WAEC agricultural science syllabus which is stated above; – Identification of parts and important organs of farm animal e.g. cattle, sheep, goat, pig, poultry, rabbit etc. – Functions of some of the organ of farm animal’s skin, feather, liver, kidney, lungs etc. – Digestive system, difference between the digestive system of monogastric and ruminant animals. – Circulatory system reproductive system and nervous systems. – Explanation of the following process under animal production: Oestrus cycle, heat period, mating, parturition, lactation and colostrums, gestation period, ovulation and artificial insemination. – The process of egg formation in poultry – Reproductive hormones and their function – Livestock management; housing, feeding and hygiene of at least one monogastric animal.