Sustainability of Sheep and Goat Production Systems

Mariangela Caroprese, Marzia Albenzio, and Agostino Sevi

Abstract Sustainability of sheep and goat production systems has been investigated in this chapter in terms of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Strategies to reduce waste from animal husbandry activities and the negative impact of animal husbandry on environment have been described. Social sustainability has been analyzed in relation to animal welfare and human–animal relationship. Economic sustainability of sheep and goat production systems in the Mediterranean countries has been addressed in terms of animal management plans to improve animal health, quality of products, and increase profitability of animal production systems. In particular, strategies to change the basic standard for sheep and goat productions into high standard of nutritional, hygienic, and technological quality have been analyzed.

Introduction

Sustainable development aims to meet human needs by preserving the natural environment so that these needs can be met both in the present and in the future (Peacock and Sherman 2010). The field of sustainable development can be divided into three concepts: environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Environmental sustainability is linked to energy use, biodiversity and genetic conservation, and environmental management; when applied to farm animals, environmental sustainability is associated to the negative impact of husbandry on air, soil, and water pollution. Waste from animal husbandry comprises fecal and urinary output, and production of fermentation and respiration gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). In the waste usually high amounts of water, nitrogen (N), and other inorganic molecules are found.

The link between animal production and natural environment is acquiring more importance for the sustainability of the farm system (de Rancourt et al. 2006).

Consumer concerns about the quality and sustainability, including ethical aspects, of the production cycle of animal food products is increasing. Social sustainability concerns politics, social institution, culture, tradition, and civil society. In this chapter social sustainability is discussed as animal welfare and human–animal relationship. In particular, the concerns about life quality of farm animal in relation to human–animal relationship to optimize animal production are presented.

In the Mediterranean area small ruminant farming systems represent one of the most important agricultural activity connected to the utilization of marginal lands, with prevalence of pastoral system, low level of mechanization, and production of typical products, mainly cheeses. Although small ruminant farming systems are largely diffused in all the Mediterranean countries, the level of animal management is far from an acceptable level of animal health, quality of products, and profitability.

 
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