Semi-natural Mediterranean pastures are an important resource in traditional systems of land use, namely in the Serra da Estrela region, located in the centre of mainland Portugal, where livestock activity is performed, mostly based in the dairy sheep farming. It is a region of rugged and mountainous relief, composed of shrub and herbaceous strata, usually associated with the sheep diet while they are grazing. These pastures take on some typologies, mainly in the mountain areas, including meadows, mesophille perennial Nardus grasslands and other perennial pastures of high ecological and scenic value. The floristic composition is predominantly composed of grasses (Poaceae), and legume (Fabaceae) species. The implementation of adequate cultivation techniques for the pasture management allows an increase in its productivity and nutritional value, resulting in increased stocking rate and reduced supplementation needs. In addition, these techniques promote the maintenance of biodiversity and landscape mosaic supporting the environment programmatic indications of the Common Agricultural Policy. Thus, the characteristics, potentialities and management practices of grasslands in the Serra da Estrela region are described, based on a literature review. This chapter aims to provide useful information, to the farmers who intend to make their pastures management more efficient while promoting environmental sustainability.
Part of the book: Sheep Farming