Short communication: Effects of summer rainfall variations on sheep body state and farming sustainability in sub-Mediterranean pastoral systems

Paola Scocco, Karina Piermarteri, Alessandro Malfatti, Federico M. Tardella, Andrea Catorci


In sub-Mediterranean climate the grassland aboveground phytomass production peaks in late spring and drops in summer, when the decrease of the pasture feed value may lead to the worsening of the animal welfare. Our goal was to define the summer rainfall values leading to a decrease of semi-extensive farming system sustainability in sub-Mediterranean regions. Summer rainfall variations reflect in the aboveground phytomass production and on the sheep body state. Differences of body condition score (BCS) among years were significant in late summer, which is the mating period for sheep. In the driest year the BCS of end August drops down to 2.1, largely below the value considered sufficient to ensure the animal breeding/milking performances (2.5). Reduction of summer rainfall greater than 15–20% compared to the normal average value (thus less than expected by the scenario of climate change) might be detrimental for semi-extensive rearing sustainability in sub-Mediterranean climate.


animal welfare; climate change; semi–extensive farming; Apennine grasslands, drought stress

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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2016143-9230