Improving dairy sheep farm economic efficiency moving from semi-intensive to extensive farm management

Practice abstract


In Sardinia (Italy), the market price of sheep milk is subject to strong fluctuations. Consequently, farmers’ income is highly variable from year to year, and this hinders any program of farm investments.

To deal with this issue, a farmer completely changed his sheep farm management and started processing his milk, instead of selling it to the cheese industry. In his 85 ha farm, he shifted from intensive fodder crops to sown permanent pastures based on mixtures of native self-reseeding and perennial legume and grass species. Currently, he breeds 530 heads carrying out the out-of-season lambing. In this way, he produces cheese and ricotta during summer, when the market offer is usually low.  Under rotational grazing, the flock is separated in groups (pregnant sheep, lactating sheep, dry sheep and sheep with newborn lambs) which graze separated paddocks. Lactating sheep graze paddocks for a short grazing period (1 day). Part of the pastures are mowed one time at the end of growing season (i.e. May/June). Milk is entirely processed into cheese on farm (100,000 l per year). Cheese is sold on farm and in the farmer’s shop in a nearby town. The benefits gained by the farmer from this extensive farm management are:

  • Extended grazing season
  • Improved pasture utilization
  • Self-sufficiency for hay and straw
  • Milk production throughout the whole year
  • High milk quality and high cheese yield
  • Reduction of milk production cost
  • Higher income due to cheese selling

The pre-requisites for the successful adoption of this system are:

  • Experience in pasture management, especially in pasture weed control
  • Clear market targets (type of product, potential consumers)
  • Willingness for a more intense work commitment

Abstract also available in:

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Additional information

Farming system

conventional farming

Domains of innovation

farm system, forage mixture, grazing management system, marketing

Main types of animal

dairy sheep



Product type

Practice abstract



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