Mediterranean pasture areas are characterized by a great variety of environmental conditions which produce many different management systems. These systems have in common the difficult environment where they are located and their low productivity. Due to this their only chance to survive is to receive the EEC subventions. The disappearance of these farms would produce the desertification and degradation of the ecosystems.
The project will study the management strategies to optimize the utilization of grazing resources by ruminants to assure a satisfactory animal production and the conservation of the ecosystem. The specific objectives are :
1. To improve pastures, including new species and varieties
2. Use of different animal species and genotypes
3. Improvement of grazing management
Food resources afforded to sheep and goats by various types of plant cover have been studied with a view to improving productivity. Research focussed on the animals themselves (genetic potential and possibilities for improving it) and the different aspects of flock management (feed, reproduction, pathology). The studies have led to the formulation, of standards regarding the quantity of feed provided by the different types of vegetation and to the design of technical procedures on plots of woodland, combining mechanical operations and grazing, with a view to limiting the danger of forest fires.
Research has also shown that cattle are more efficient than small ruminants in keeping down scrub vegetation on woodland provided it has been cleared mechanically beforehand. Production of herbaceous vegetation can be increased 3 to 5 times by manuring and by clearing low growing woody plants (maquis). The quality of the vegetation itself can be improved by the introduction of new forage species.
Research has also highlighted the advantages of using the prolific Chios dairy ewe in mainland Greece as an alternative to the example of unsuccessful technology transfer consisting in importing large numbers of Friesland rams from Germany every year, despite the breed not being suited to conditions in Greece, where it is prone to disease. The use of the grazing resources available at different altitudes and improved control of the reproduction period of the flocks has also been studied.
The experiments included in this project are :
- study of the nutritional value of Mediterranean resources,
- determination of the requirements and the intake of livestock under Mediterranean grazing systems,
- influence of stocking rate, flock size and type of pasture on animal productivity,
- interaction animal-pasture on improved pastures,
- utilization of shrubs grazing areas,
- supplementation of sheep under extensive mountains systems,
- comparison of sheep grazing to mixed grazing (sheep- beef),
- sheep reproduction systems under grazing using local breeds and improved ewes,
- influence of stocking rate, lambing season and supplementation on the productivity of milking ewes,
- comparison of dry pasture utilization with grass hay and efficiency of the utilization of straw,
- strategy to optimize grazing in goat-intensive systems,
- replacement of cereals crops for pastures grazed by milking ewes.
33010 Pagnacco Udine