Dairy production in Nigeria

More than 90% of total annual milk production is from cattle in low input, low yielding pastoral systems and traded in informal value chains.

Industry snapshot:

  • Nigeria has the 5th largest cattle herd in Africa, following Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad & Tanzania.
  • 5 million cattle – kept for meat, milk, savings and draught power.
  • The cattle population is concentrated in northern Nigeria.
  • 99% of cattle are indigenous breeds. The remaining 1% consist of exotic and improved dairy cattle, which are found primarily in the central region.
  • Gross production value of cow milk in 2016 was US $73 million.

Cattle population by geographic zones (NASS 2011)

Nigeria cattle population

Most cattle in Nigeria are indigenous breeds used primarily for meat and savings as well as milk production. Exotic breeds such as Holstein Friesian, Brown Swiss, Jersey and their crosses are common in more intensive, specialised dairy systems.

Nigeria cattle population by production system (FAO 2018)                               

Production system Number (heads) % of total population
Extensive 15,111,309 82.1
Semi-intensive 3,089,804 16.8
Intensive 203,548 1.1


Types of dairy production systems

Traditional meat-milk

  • Large herds of indigenous cattle in pastoral & agro-pastoral areas in northern Nigeria. Cattle graze on natural pastures, communal land and crop residues.
  • Milk and dairy products are consumed by producer households and sold through local community markets.

Improved family & specialised dairy

  • About 80% of the commercial dairy farms are in the central region.
  • Herd size ranges from 50 to 1000 heads.
  • Cattle are kept in sheds/indoors and fed in a ‘cut and carry’ system based on cultivated pastures and supplementary feed.
  • Most milk is sold into formal value chains.

 Value chains & market systems

  • Pastoralists account for 95% of milk production in Nigeria. Commercial farmers account for only 5% of local milk production.
  • Milk and dairy products produced by pastoralists are consumed by pastoralist households and/or marketed locally through informal value chains.
  • Milk produced by pastoralists is rarely processed before sale and consumption.
  • Milk may be processed into several local products such as nono (sour milk), Kindirmo (sour yoghurt), Manshanu (local butter), cuku (Fulani Cheese) and Wara (Yoruba cheese).
  • Milk from commercial dairy farms is traded through formal value chains in urban and peri-urban markets.
  • Average milk consumption is 20 to 25 litres per capita per year.

National milk production from cattle (FAOstat)

Milk yields

  • Average milk yield in traditional low-input systems is 6 l/cow/day.
  • Average yield of pure breed (Friesian) in a specialised commercial system is 30 l/cow/day.
  • The difference in yields is due to a range of factors including cattle breed, nutrition, animal health and farm management.

Opportunities for dairy production in Nigeria

Current milk production does not meet the market demand of 1.45 billion litres per annum.

Issues affecting milk production

Farm scale

  • Seasonal feed shortages (natural grasses, crop residues)
  • Decreased land area available for grazing
  • Cost and variable quality of purchased concentrate feeds
  • Genetic potential of cattle breeds currently used
  • Inappropriate breeds for local conditions
  • Cost and access to artificial insemination services
  • Diseases that cause mortality or affect reproduction

Dairy value chains, markets & processing

Seasonality of milk production makes it hard for producers to engage in formal value chains.


  • FAOstat www.fao.org/faostat.
  • NASS (2011). National Bureau of Statistics/Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Collaborative Survey on National Agriculture Sample Survey (NASS), 2010/2011.

Download our dairy production in Nigeria fact sheet here.

Header photo: Fulani cattle being driven into Lagos from the North (tsetse free area) for slaughter. West Nigeria. Photo credit: Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project is licensed under CC by 2.0. No changes were made to the image.