Animal husbandry, a major activity in the traditional economy, grew rapidly during the 1960s because of a successful animal health campaign and, prior to 1968, favorable weather conditions. Indeed, cattle herds grew well beyond the number that could be supported by the natural vegetation. Thus, the land was already vulnerable when the drought years of 1968–74 reduced the cattle population from 2.6 million head in 1970 to1.6 million in 1973. There were only 1.5 million head in 2001, while sheep and goats numbered 12.7 million and camels 1.2 million.
The Moors tend to regard their cattle as symbols of wealth and prestige; this attitude discourages the herders from selling or slaughtering the animals. Total meat production in 2001 was estimated at 65,500 tons, with mutton accounting for 27% and beef for 16%. Reported figures are incomplete, however, since animal smuggling is common and much trade is unrecorded.