Syria has a vast desert, the Syrian Desert, where large numbers of livestock are bred. It is well-known for a distinguished breed of sheep, Awassi sheep, which is esteemed throughout the world. Sheep from this breed were widely exported before the current crisis. The Syrian desert includes also many breeds of goats and dairy cattle. This livestock kept a sort of food balance as Syrians relied on red meat and white meat. However, there was a surge in the use of white meat and a decline in the use of red during the crisis due to the increase in the numbers of sheep and cattle which led to an increase in red meat prices. In addition, dairy products from this livestock contributed, in a different way, to the food balance.
With the onset of the Syrian crisis, smuggling to neighboring countries led to a decrease in the numbers of livestock. Vaccination of livestock stopped in NSAG held areas since vaccination was carried out by advisory units and livestock care centers in villages and towns. There was also a decrease in the number of veterinary pharmacies and vets, in addition to the scarcity of veterinary medications in NSAG held areas as checkpoints prevented transporting these materials outside the regime areas. Excessive slaughter of livestock also contributed to the decrease in livestock numbers.
In addition to the challenges to the breeding of livestock, a number of diseases emerged, the most important of which was scabies (a parasitic arachnid that attacks the skin of animals) which surfaced recently and inflicted large numbers of livestock in the countryside of Hama, particularly in the east. The lack of medications to treat scabies, coupled with malnutrition, led to the loss of large numbers of livestock. Insufficient numbers of vets in the countryside contributed to the spread of scabies and made it uncontrollable. Livestock owners were in dire need for direction to select the convenient medication, in proper doses, and timing.