About the book
Sheep face a number of challenges on a global or local scale that play the roles of sustainability: people, our planet, and profitability, making it an important sector for many countries. This book focuses on assessing the sustainable performance of different types of farms in diverse geographical settings worldwide, through feeding strategies in regions of extensive livestock grazing systems, and the importance of using natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Sheep farming, as a traditional activity, has undergone significant changes in recent years, with more and more farmers trying to become sheep farmers because it is no longer seen as a simple backyard activity, a forced saving activity or a marginal use of pastures, but as a potential business. However, given this favorable outlook, trends in agricultural input prices, climate change, public policies, integration into production chains, as well as the dissemination of products and market niches must be taken into account. Sheep are mainly reared for their meat (lamb), milk, and fiber (wool) as well as certain by-products such as lanolin and skin. Most farms are managed so that sheep can be grazed either under the control of a shepherd or sheepdog, or they can be fed in pens and feedlots for finishing and sale, supplemented with green fodder, hay or silage or cereals. The existence of transhumance, which is a seasonal movement of livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures, has a traditional and cultural relevance in some countries (e.g. Spain, Mexico or Mongolia) or can nowadays be seen as rural tourism.
The main sources of income of a farm come from the sale of lambs, wool through shearing and skins and other systems such as the dairy system. Its main objective is the production of milk and its products (e.g. cheese, yogurt, sweets). The selection of various breeds suitable for the region (wool or hair and their crossbreeds) and the market conditions (live weight and slaughter age) are of vital importance for the market to function.
As for the sanitary system, good disease control (Brucella, tuberculosis, scrapie) or parasite control is of utmost importance. The anthelmintic properties of plants offer sustainable and environmentally acceptable alternatives to reduce the use of chemical anthelmintic drugs. Among the natural products used (plant extracts, essential oils, secondary compounds, tannins, polyphenols etc.) tannins are included in the category of antimicrobial phytochemicals with promising results in ruminants, reducing gastrointestinal parasites, and decreasing CH4 emissions to the environment.