Sitzia, Maria and Bonanno, Adriana and Todaro, Massimo and Cannas, Antonello and Atzori, Alberto Stanislao and Francesconi, Ana Helena Dias and Trabalza-Marinucci, Massimo (2015) Feeding and management techniques to favour summer sheep milk and cheese production in the Mediterranean environment. Small Ruminant Research, Vol. 126 (Supplement 1), p. 43-58. eISSN 1879-0941. Article.
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Sheep milk production in summer can lead to a diversification of milk products and to a more regular product distribution in the market throughout the year. However, in Mediterranean countries small ruminant production cycles are subjected to seasonal variations in forage resources. During summer, a key period for out of season production systems, nutrition plays a fundamental role in regulating the quantity and quality of milk production. In this review, feeding strategies and techniques that could be applied for out of season production in dairy ewes under different Mediterranean conditions are described for intensive, pasture-based and mixed systems. The most common feeding strategies used during the dry season are based on grazing post-harvest by-products or forage produced under irrigation. The criteria used to choose the appropriate forage species and to optimize the grazing technique are discussed here. In addition, types of forages and feeding techniques to be adopted for indoor systems, along with a series of feed supplements best suited to cope with heat stress, are described. The influence of feed resources and environmental conditions on milk and cheese production are also discussed. Overall, in order to be cost-effective, out of season sheep milk production systems must take into consideration the availability and price of feed resources, especially supplements, and irrigation costs. It is concluded that out of season milk production could be adopted primarily by farms with highly productive breeds, access to irrigated lands and appropriate management skills.
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