Carzedda, Claudio (2013) Breeding strategy and animal welfare in Sarda dairy sheep. Doctoral Thesis.
The traditional dairy sheep farming system in Sardinia has faced many technical and economic difficulties over the years. The present thesis evaluated the adoption of a new breeding system for Sarda dairy ewes aimed at improving farm efficiency and animal welfare. In particular, the experimental activities focused on the management of the early and late lactation phases, which generally have a higher margin of improvement. The first and second trials tested a partial suckling technique in which the ewes grazed on pasture and lambs were confined and fed concentrate, from the 5th day of age until slaughtering of males and weaning of females. The main parameters evaluated were the milk yield and composition of dairy ewes, during suckling and the first month of milking, and the growth, meat quality and behavior of lambs after weaning. The system tested increased milk yield, without changing noticeably milk quality and lamb growth and meat composition, and improved the behavior of lambs. The third trial assessed that the length of dry-off period (60 or 90 days) did not influence the immune responses of ewes and lambs. Overall, the partial suckling technique improved the farm economic efficiency and animal welfare.
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