Local breeds and pastoral farming on the North Mediterranean shore: a univocal coevolution? An example of dairy sheep farming systems in Corsica (France) and Thessaly (Greece)

Main Article Content

Lola Perucho
Ioannis Hadjigeorgiou
Anne Lauvie
Charles-Henri Moulin
Jean-Christophe Paoli
Christina Ligda


Using local resources for ruminant feeding is a way to achieve agroecological production in pastoral farming systems. In North Mediterranean countries, sheep farming systems have evolved towards more intensive systems in lowland and hilly areas, whereas remote and rough pastureland is abandoned and local breeds are rarely maintained; rather, they are progressively replaced by highly productive breeds and their crosses. Using the examples of Corsica (France) and Thessaly (Greece), two dairy sheep farming territories developing intensive farming systems that differ in the livestock breeds they use, we explored the hypothesis that the use of local breeds may not be systematically related to the maintenance of pastoral practices in Mediterranean dairy sheep farming systems. For this purpose, three data sets based on interviews with sheep farmers of local breeds and crossbred flocks were analysed in two study areas. The results demonstrated that local breeds’ adaptive abilities can be used in crossbred flocks or purebred flocks to maintain a feeding system based on pastoral components. However, other drivers also appear to lead into the declining use of local pastoral resources. Apart from the use of local breeds, year-to-year adjustments of replacement and culling rates sometimes have to be applied in order to address the inter-annual variations of the fodder on offer. This paper provides an original approach to studying the link between local breeds and the pastoral components of farming systems by combining synchronic and diachronic analyses of the practices in crossbred and purebred flocks composed of local breeds.

Article Details

How to Cite
Perucho, L., Hadjigeorgiou, I., Lauvie, A., Moulin, C.-H., Paoli, J.-C. and Ligda, C. (2021) “Local breeds and pastoral farming on the North Mediterranean shore: a univocal coevolution? An example of dairy sheep farming systems in Corsica (France) and Thessaly (Greece)”, Genetic Resources, 2(4), pp. 7–20. doi: 10.46265/genresj.WUDA2135.
Original Articles
Author Biographies


INRAE - SELMET-LRDE, Quartier Grossetti, Corte, 20250, France

Ioannis Hadjigeorgiou, Agricultural University of Athens

Department of Nutritional Physiology and Feeding, Faculty of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Athens, 75 Iera Odos, Athens, 11855, Greece

Anne Lauvie, INRAE-CIRAD - MontpellierSupAgro - Univ. Montpellier

UMR Syst`emes d’´elevage M´editerran´eens et Tropicaux (SELMET), INRAE -CIRAD - MontpellierSupAgro -Univ.
Montpellier, 2 place Pierre Viala, Montpellier cedex 1, 34060, France

Charles-Henri Moulin, INRAE -CIRAD - MontpellierSupAgro - Univ. Montpellier

UMR Syst`emes d’´elevage M´editerran´eens et Tropicaux (SELMET), INRAE -CIRAD - MontpellierSupAgro - Univ.
Montpellier, 2 place Pierre Viala, Montpellier cedex 1, 34060, France

Jean-Christophe Paoli, INRAE - SELMET-LRDE

INRAE - SELMET-LRDE, Quartier Grossetti, Corte, 20250, France

Christina Ligda, Hellenic Agricultural Organization

Veterinary Research Institute, Hellenic Agricultural Organization, Thessaloniki, 57001, Greece


Aubron, C, L Noël, and J Lasseur (2016). “Labor as a driver of changes in herd feeding patterns: Evidence from a diachronic approach in Mediterranean France and lessons for agroecology”. Ecological Economics 127, pp. 68–79. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.02.013.

Bertin, J (1983). Semiology of graphics: diagrams, networks, maps. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Boyazoglu, B J and Y Hatziminaoglou (2005). “Livestock genetic resources and production systems: a Mediterranean overview”. Archivos Latinoamericanos de Producción Animal 10. URL: https://www.alpa.uy/PDF/Arch%2010-1/100110.pdf.

Caballero, R et al. (2009). “Grazing systems and biodiversity in Mediterranean areas: Spain, Italy and Greece”. Pastos 39, pp. 9–152.

Caja, G and M de Rancourt (2002). “Situation actuelle et perspectives de la production des ovins laitiers en Espagne”. In: L’Observatoire des Systèmes de Production Ovine et Caprine en Méditerranée : Chiffres clés et indicateurs de fonctionnement et d’évolution. Ed. by J-P Dubeuf. Vol. 39. Options Méditerranéennes: Série B. Etudes et Recherches. Zaragoza: CIHEAM, pp. 57–66. URL: http://om.ciheam.org/om/pdf/b39/02600038.pdf.

Choisis, J P and F Vallerand (1992). “Ovins, caprins : Des filières en transformation”. Economie Corse, INSEE, pp. 10–13.

Constanza, R et al. (1997). “The value of the world´s ecosystemic services and natural capital”. Nature 387, pp. 253–260. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/387253a0.

Couix, N et al. (2016). “Des races localement adaptées et adoptées, une condition de la durabilité des activités d’élevage”. Cah. Agric 25(650009). (in French). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/cagri/2016052.

Dasselaar, A Van Den Pol-Van, D Hennessy, and J Isselstein (2020). “Grazing of Dairy Cows in Europe - An In-Depth Analysis Based on the Perception of Grassland Experts.” Sustainability 12(1098). DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031098.

de la Fuente, L F et al. (2006). “The Awassi and Assaf breeds in Spain and Portugal”. In: Proceedings of the 57th EAAP Annual Meeting of European Association of Animal Production (EAAP), pp. 17–20.

de Rancourt, M et al. (2009). “Mediterranean sheep and goats production: An uncertain future”. Small Ruminant Res 62, pp. 167–179. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2005.08.012.

D’Ottavio, P et al. (2016). “Methods and approaches used for assessing ecosystem services provided by grazing systems”. In: Ecosystem Services and Socio-Economic Benefits of Mediterranean Grassland. Options Méditerranéennes. Série A : Séminaires Méditerranéens. CIHEAM.

Dover, J W et al. (2011). “Grassland butterflies and low intensity farming in Europe”. Journal of Insect Conservation 15, pp. 129–137. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-010-9332-0.

Dumont, B et al. (2013). “Prospects from agroecology and industrial ecology for animal production in the 21st century”. Animal 7, pp. 1028–1043. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1751731112002418.

FAO (2001). Pastoralism in the new millennium. Rome, Italy. URL: http://www.fao.org/3/y2647e/y2647e02.htm.

FAO (2015). The second report on the state of the world’s animal genetic resources for food and agriculture. Ed. by Scherf B.D. and Pilling D. FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Assessments. Rome, Italy: FAO. URL: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4787e.pdf.

Gamisans, J (1999). La végétation de la Corse. EdiSud.

Gandini, G et al. (2010). “Motives and values in farming local cattle breeds in Europe: a survey on 15 breeds”. Animal Genetic Resources. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s2078633610000901.

Georgoudis, A and C Ligda (2000). Small ruminant breeding programs in Greece.

Georgoudis, A, A Baltas, C Tsafaras, et al. (2001). “Developing biodiversity indicators for the livestock in Greece”. In: Proceedings from an OECD Expert meeting, pp. 56–65. URL: https://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/sustainable-agriculture/40339227.pdf.

Goussios, D et al. (2014). Developing the typical dairy products of Thessaly: diagnosis and local strategy.

Hadjigeorgiou, I (2011). “Past, present and future of pastoralism in Greece”. Pastoralism 1(24). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/2041-7136-1-24.

Hadjigeorgiou, I et al. (2005). “Southern European grazing lands: Production, environmental and landscape management aspects”. Livest. Prod. Sci 96, pp. 51–59. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livprodsci.2005.05.016.

Hoffman, I (2013). “Adaptation to climate change: exploring the potential of locally adapted breeds”. Animal 7, pp. 346–362. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1751731113000815.

INRA (2007). Alimentation des bovins, ovins et caprins. Besoins des animaux. Valeurs des aliments. Tables INRA. Versailles.

Jouven, M et al. (2010). “Rangeland utilization in Mediterranean farming systems”. Animal 4, pp. 1746–1757. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731110000996.

Kaufmann, J C (2011). L’entretien compréhensif - L’enquête et ses méthodes. 3rd ed. Paris: Armand Colin.

Konig, E Zonabend et al. (2015). “Participatory definition of breeding objectives for sheep breeds under pastoral systems-the case of Red Maasai and Dorper sheep in Kenya”. Trop Anim Health Prod 48, pp. 9–20. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-015-0911-7.

Kosgey, I S et al. (2008). “Small ruminant production in smallholder and pastoral/extensive farming systems in Kenya”. Small Ruminant Res 77, pp. 11–24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2008.02.005.

Labatut, J (2009). Gérer des biens communs : processus de conception et régimes de coopération dans la gestion des ressources génétiques animales. (in French). Paris.

Lauvie, A, J C Paoli, and C H Moulin (2015). “Managing local breeds: a dynamic connected to livestock farming systems that concerns different levels of organization”. Animal Genetic Resources 56, pp. 119–125. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s2078633614000502.

Leroy, G, R Baumung, et al. (2016). “Sustainability of crossbreeding in developing countries; definitely not like crossing a meadow”. Animal 10, pp. 262–273. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S175173111500213X.

Leroy, G, P Boettcher, et al. (2016). “An exploratory analysis on how geographic, socioeconomic, and environmental drivers affect the diversity of livestock breeds worldwide”. J. Anim. Sci 94, pp. 5055–5063. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2016-0813.

Loukovitis, D et al. (2016). “Genetic diversity of Greek sheep breeds and transhumant populations utilizing microsatellite markers”. Small Ruminant Res 136, pp. 238–242. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2016.02.008.

Lozano-Jaramillo, L M et al. (2018). “Use of geographic information system tools to predict animal breed suitability for different agro-ecological zones”. Animal 1(8). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731118003002.

MacDonald, D et al. (2000). “Agricultural abandonment in mountain areas of Europe: Environmental consequences and policy response”. J Environ Manage 59, pp. 47–69. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/jema.1999.0335.

Marshall, K (2014). “Optimizing the use of breed types in developing country livestock production systems: a neglected research area”. J. Anim. Breed. Genet 131, pp. 329–340. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jbg.12080.

Meuret, M and F D Provenza (2014). “How French shepherds create meal sequences to stimulate intake and optimise use of forage diversity on rangeland”. Anim Prod Sci 55. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1071/an14415.

Moulin, C H, S Ingrand, et al. (2008). “Comprendre et analyser les changements d’organisation et de conduite de l’élevage dans un ensemble d’exploitations: propositions méthodologiques”. In: L’élevage En Mouvement. Flexibilité et Adaptation Des Exploitations d’herbivores. Vol. Update Sciences et Technologies. (in French). Versailles: Editions Quae, pp. 181–196. URL: https://archives-publications.inrae.fr/pub00024485.pdf.

Moulin, C H, J Pluvinage, and F Bocquier (2004). “Les relations entre agrandissement des troupeaux et changements de conduite : exemple des élevages d’ovins allaitants en Crau”. In: Rencontres Autour Des Recherches Sur Les Ruminants. (in French), pp. 145–148.

National Rural Network (2019). “RDP actions for the conservation of endangered local breeds”.

In: 11th Zootechnia. (in Greek). Thessaloniki.

Paoli, J C et al. (2014). “Towards a better understanding of adaptation of local breeds to livestock farming systems: an exploratory methodological proposal”. In: Technology creation and transfer in small ruminants: roles of research, development services and farmer associations. Ed. by M Chentouf et al. Vol. 108. Options Méditerranéennes : Série A. Séminaires Méditerranéens. Zaragoza: CIHEAM / INRAM / FAO, pp. 501–505. URL: http://om.ciheam.org/om/pdf/a108/00007674.pdf.

Perucho, L, G Bazin, and D Goussios (2015). “Crise économique grecque et nouvelles dynamiques agraires : l’exemple de la Thessalie orientale.” Annales de géographie(705), pp. 473–497. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3917/ag.705.0473.

Perucho, L (2018). Rôle des pratiques de gestion génétique dans l’adéquation entre troupeaux de races locales et conduites pastorales. Montpellier, France.

Perucho, L, I Hadjigeorgiou, et al. (2018). “Challenges for local breed management in Mediterranean dairy sheep farming: insights from Central Greece”. Trop Anim Health Prod 51, pp. 329–338. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-018-1688-2.

Perucho, L, C Ligda, et al. (2019). “Links between traits of interest and breeding practices: Several pathways for farmers’ decision-making processes”. Livest. Sci, pp. 158–165. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2018.12.017.

Perucho, L, J C Paoli, et al. (2020). “Diversity of breeding practices is linked to the use of collective tools for the genetic management of the Corsican sheep breed”. Italian Journal of Animal Science 19, pp. 158–172. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1828051x.2020.1713027.

Plieninger, T, F Hochtl, and T Spek (2006). “Traditional land-use and nature conservation in European rural landscapes”. Environ Sci Policy 9, pp. 317–321. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2006.03.001.

Porqueddu, C et al. (2017). “The role of grasslands in the less favoured areas of Mediterranean Europe, in: Grassland Resources for Extensive Farming Systems in Marginal Lands: Major Drivers and Future Scenarios”. In: Proceedings of 19th Symposium of the European Grassland Federation, pp. 3–22.

Rosa-García, R et al. (2012). “Goat grazing, its interactions with other herbivores and biodiversity conservation issues”. Small Ruminant Res 107(2-3), pp. 49–64. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2012.03.021.

Roschinsky, R et al. (2015). “Smallholder experiences with dairy cattle crossbreeding in the tropics: from introduction to impact”. Animal 9, pp. 150–157. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/s1751731114002079.

Samdup, T et al. (2010). “Crossbreeding and intensification of smallholder crop-cattle farming systems in Bhutan”. Livest. Sci 132, pp. 126–134. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2010.05.014.

Santucci, P (2010). Vous avez dit pastoral ? Analyse de la mutation du pastoralisme corse.

Schnabel, S, A Gomez Gutierrez, and J F Lavado Contador (2009). “Grazing and soil erosion in dehesas of SW Spain”. In: Advances in Studies on Desertification. Ed. by Romero Diaz A. et al., pp. 725–728.

Sivignon, M (1975). La Thessalie: analyse géographique d’une province grecque. Lyon: Institut des Etudes Rhodaniennes.

Stefanakis, A et al. (2007). “Assessing the potential benefits of technical intervention in evolving the semi-intensive dairy-sheep farms in Crete”. Small Ruminant Res 72(1), pp. 66–72. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2006.08.006.

Sternberg, M et al. (2000). “Vegetation response to grazing management in a Mediterranean herbaceous community: A functional group approach”. J. Appl. Ecol 37, pp. 224–237. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2000.00491.x.

Tamou, C et al. (2018). “Understanding roles and functions of cattle breeds for pastoralists in Benin”. Livest. Sci 210, pp. 129–136. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2018.02.013.

Tchakerian, E (2008). “Pastoralisme méditerranéen: état des lieux et perspectives pour huit régions méditerranéennes”. Forêt méditerranéenne 29. (in French), pp. 309–320.

Tzanopoulos, J et al. (2011). “Agricultural decline and sustainable development in mountain areas in Greece : sustainability assessment of future scenarios”. Land Use Policy, pp. 585–593. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2010.11.007.

Volanis, M et al. (2007). “Supporting the extensive dairy sheep smallholders of the semi-arid region of Crete through technical intervention”. Trop Anim Health Prod 39(5), pp. 325–334. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-007-9019-z.