This study is part of a multidisciplinary research to describe and analyze the small-ruminant production system in the Northeast of Brazil. Twenty-seven small-ruminant producers were studied in the sertao of the state of Ceara to identify and describe land-use and animal-management schemes. No two production systems studied were exactly alike. However, 16 different management strategies were identified and structured according to ecological environment, grazing resources, crop-residue availability and farm infrastructure. Two common features are the interaction of crop and livestock production and the multispecies character of animal herds. The study compares producer's strategies for coping with the drought in regard to the herd composition, stocking rates, animal condition, supplementation and water supply in both 1980 and 1983. It was observed that farms that had cattle, sheep and goat herds performed relatively better during the drought period than farms with cattle and sheep only.