Before the transformation of the economy by the discovery of oil, livestock was an important sector, providing transport, clothing, food, and skins for tents. South of the Jabal areas, a wide belt of drought-resistant vegetation extending across most of the country is still used by nomadic and seminomadic herdsmen for grazing. In the Fezzan, the nomads move about between oases or other places where vegetation is suitable for their animals. Libya's livestock are vulnerable to disease and drought, and in past years losses have reached as high as 60%.
The livestock population of Libya in 2001 included 4,125,000 sheep, 1,265,000 goats, 220,000 head of cattle, 72,000 camels, 46,000 horses, 30,000 donkeys, and 25 million chickens. Private dairy farms are allowed to operate, but their milk has to be sold to the state. The government maintains large poultry farms.
New strains of livestock and more efficient grazing practices are being encouraged. The government hopes its development plans will make Libya self-sufficient in meat supplies. Livestock products in 2001 included 143,000 tons of meat, 59,000 tons of eggs, and 137,000 tons of cow's milk.