Organic production systems are based on natural processes, the use of local feed resources, and the maintenance of biodiversity in all senses. Several studies have noted the positive effects of organic sheep milk production systems on animal welfare, animal health, product quality, and environmental impact. On the other hand, it has been reported that dairy sheep organic farms show lower milk yields and increase the susceptibility to environmental impacts compared with conventional farms. The standards that regulate feeding management in organic systems are one of the most critical factors that influence milk production performance. Lower milk production is also associated with poor ability to adapt specialized dairy breeds to organic management, low genetic potential for milk production in native and local breeds, and elevated dependence on environmental conditions. However, the aim of organic dairy production is not to reach maximum dairy productivity but rather to integrate animal and crop production and to develop a symbiotic relationship between recyclable and renewable resources; furthermore, organic production positively affects the employment rate and quality of life in rural communities. Organic dairy sheep production is one means of improving the balance between society’s demand for food and the ecological impact of the agro-alimentary industry.
Part of the book: Organic Farming
The constant increase in the demand for dairy products and their derivatives has generated a higher consumption of dairy products (113.5 t/year). Chile has not been the exception; in 2017, it presented an average per capita consumption of 11.1 kg of cheese, making it the largest consumer in Latin America, followed by Argentina (7.5 kg) and Uruguay (5 kg). Although Chile does not have a strong tradition of consuming sheep’s milk cheese compared with other (European) countries, in recent years, there have been changes in the demands and expectations of cheese consumers, who demand higher quality and a wider range of varieties, thus establishing the potential for further products to enter the market. The global cheese industry has taken charge of these trends through the phenomenon of granting a premium value to certain products, adding new ingredients and flavors, producing limited editions of certain products, favoring traditional recipes and craft methods, and highlighting specific localities of origin. Given a greater appreciation for and popularity of locally produced cheeses and value-added products, particularly those with the highly valued “Designation of Origin” label, this would offer a potential for expansion in the Chilean market.
Part of the book: Milk Production, Processing and Marketing