Abstract The small stock industry in South Africa is of crucial importance as 80% of the agricultural land is unsuitable for intensive agricultural production. The contribution of 19 resource sheep flocks and goat herds towards breeding objective formulation, genetic improvement and parameter estimation was summarized. Substantial genetic gains resulting from selection for a range of economically important traits were demonstrated, lending impetus to the development and extension of the National Small Stock Improvement Scheme (NSIS). Responses in monetary values in the respective participating small stock breeds ranged from R0.098 for the Dormer to R0.818 for the S.A. Mutton Merino per small stock unit per annum for animals born in the interval from 2000 to 2006. This response is well below what was attained in the resource flocks and in the best participating flocks and herds. Even with this less than optimal change on a national basis, the impact on the sectoral economy is substantial. When related to the cost associated with the NSIS, this improvement is highly cost-effective. The impact of research and development in the small stock industry is therefore substantial, and the small stock industry is foreseen to continue playing an integral role in the national economy.