This short note presents the economic sustainability of food supplementation as an essential way to contrast the rapid rumen keratinization in sheep fed on the pasture during the summer in Apennine Mountains of Marche region, a region of Central Italy. Grazing is a main tool for biodiversity conservation, however, there is a risk of pasture abandonment due to the climate changes leading to an increasing summer aridity that negatively affect forage features; worsening in forage composition resulted in decline of sheep body status, mainly due to the rise of fiber content, which causes the increase of rumen keratinization degree. During summer, the deterioration of the body condition of sheep is the main cause of the declining milk yield and quality; this can have serious impacts on farm household income, enhancing the risk of pasture abandonment with consequent environmental and territorial degradation. A flock of 45 adult female sheep were conducted on pasture at the beginning of June 2016, where they were free to grazing until the moment of pasture maximum flowering. From this moment until the maximum pasture dryness the animals were divided in two groups: the control group fed only on the pasture, while the experimental group was also supplemented with 600 g/day/animal of corn and barley (1:1). The rumen epithelium keratinization degree, Body Condition Score and milk production were monitored at the beginning and at the end of the period of differentiated diets. The food supplementation didn’t affect the animal body state, but it slow down the growth of the rumen keratinization degree, allowing a better absorption of nourishing principles and then bringing to a significant increase of the milk production. An analysis of cost/benefit, attempted also considering the newborn numerousness, indicated that food supplementation could mitigate the productive loss induced by summer aridity preserving the economic sustainability of sheep milk production, thus avoiding land abandonment.
Keywords: Sheep, rumen keratinization, bcs, milk production, farm income
Jel Code: Q01, Q54, Q57, R11, Z32
Paola Scocco, Sergio Rivaroli, Francesca Mercati, Federico M. Tardella, Alessandro Malfatti, Elena De Felice, Andrea Catorci, in "ECONOMIA AGRO-ALIMENTARE" 2/2018, pp. 261-272, DOI:10.3280/ECAG2018-002010