The objective of this field study was to depict the extensive system of dairy sheep farming in the semi-arid environment of the island of Crete and to assess the potential margins of improvement through technical intervention. Forty-three family-run farms keeping a total of 13 870 sheep were surveyed in seven representative areas of the island. Several parameters were dealt with, concerning socio-economy, flock management and productivity. Study areas differed widely regarding feeds supplied per sheep, land cultivated for feeds, grazing land utilized and housing space. A range of parameters were recorded on flock size and their production characteristics such as births, fertility and number of lambs weaned. Milk yield and parameters associated with milk quality, such as somatic cell counts and total microbial flora, were also recorded. Technical intervention was directed towards removal of non-productive animals, programming of matings, balancing of diets, management of grazing lands and health care. Ewe fertility and numbers of lambs weaned per ewe, as well as harvested milk and milk quality (based on somatic cell counts and microbial load of milk) were also significantly improved. Information derived from this study stresses the important role of extension services to small farm sustainability and contributes to our knowledge of the dairy sheep farming systems in countries around the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Boyazoglu, J. and Morand-Fehr, P., 2001. Mediterranean dairy sheep and goat products and their quality. A critical review. Small Ruminant Research, 40, 1–11.
Braker, M.J.E., Udo, H.M.J. and Webb, E.C., 2002. Impacts of intervention objectives in goat production within subsistence farming systems in South Africa. South African Journal of Animal Science, 32(3), 185–191.
de Rancourt, M., Fois, N., Lavin, M.P., Tchakerian, E. and Vallerand, F., 2006. Mediterranean sheep and goats production: An uncertain future. Small Ruminant Research, 62(3), 167–179.
El-Saied, U.M., Carriedo, J.A., De la Fuente, L.F. and San Primitivo, F., 1999. Genetic parameters of lactation cell counts and milk and protein yield in dairy ewes. Journal of Dairy Science, 82, 639–644.
Gibon, A., Sibbald, A.R., Flamant, J.C., Lhoste, P., Revilla, R., Rubino, R. and Sørensen, J.T., 1999a. Livestock farming systems research in Europe and its potential contribution for managing towards sustainability in livestock farming. Livestock Production Science, 61, 121–137.
Gibon, A., Sibbald, A.R. and Thomas, C., 1999b. Improved sustainability in livestock systems, a challenge for animal production science. Livestock Production Science, 61, 107–110.
Gonzalo, C., Ariznabarreta, A., Carriedo, J.A. and San Primitivo, F., 2002. Mammary pathogens and their relationship to somatic cell count and milk yield losses in dairy ewes. Journal of Dairy Science, 85, 1460–1467.
Hadjigeorgiou, I. and Politis, I., 2004. Seasonal variation in non-specific immunity in relation to management and feeding practices in a semi-extensive dairy sheep farm in Greece. Small Ruminant Research, 53, 53–60.
Hadjigeorgiou, I., Vallerand, F., Tsimpoukas, K. and Zervas, G., 2002. The socio-economics of sheep and goat farming in Greece and the implications for future rural development. Options Méditerranéennes, Séries B, 39, 83–93.
Hadjigeorgiou, I., Osoro, K., Fragoso de Almeida, J.P. and Molle, G., 2005. Southern European grazing lands: production, environmental and landscape management aspects. Livestock Production Science, 96(1 Special issue), 51–59.
Kominakis A., Volanis M. and Rogdakis E., 2001. Genetic modeling of test day records in dairy sheep using orthogonal Legendre polynomials. Small Ruminant Research, 39(3), 209–217.
Maselli, D., Syfrig, E. and Inam-ur-Rahim, 2005. Improving small ruminant production: a pathway to better livelihoods in three test valleys in Pakistan. Mountain Research and Development, 25(2), 104–108.
McCown, R.L., 2002. Changing systems for supporting farmers’ decisions: problems, paradigms and prospects. Agricultural Systems, 74, 179–220.
Meisner, C.A., Sufian, A., Baksh, E., Smith O’Donoghue, M., Razzaque, M.A. and Shaha, N.K., 2003. Whole family training and adoption of innovations in wheat-producing households in Bangladesh. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 9(4), 165–175.
Nardone, A., Zervas, G. and Ronchi, B., 2004. Sustainability of small ruminant organic systems of production. Livestock Production Science, 90, 27–39.
Rahman, S., 2007. Adoption of improved technologies by the pig farmers of Aizawl district of Mizoram, India. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 19 (1) (http://www.cipav.org.co/lrrd/lrrd19/1/rahm19005.htm).
Raynal-Ljutovac, K., Pirisi, A., de Cremoux, R. and Gonzalo, C., 2006. Somatic cells of goat and sheep milk: analytical, sanitary, productive and technological aspects. Small Ruminant Research (doi:10.1016/j.smallrumres.2006.09.012).
Romney, D.L., Thorne, P., Lukuyu, B. and Thornton, P.K., 2003. Maize as food and feed in intensive smallholder systems: management options for improved integration in mixed farming systems of east and southern Africa. Field Crops Research, 84, 159–168.
Ronchi, B. and Nardone, A., 2003. Contribution of organic farming to increase sustainability of Mediterranean small ruminant livestock systems. Livestock Production Science, 80(1–2), 17–31.
Statgraphics Plus, 1995. User’s Guide (version. 2), (Manugistics, Inc., Rockville, MA).
Stefanakis, A., Volanis, M., Zoiopoulos, P. and Hadjigeorgiou, I., 2006. Assessing the potential benefits of technical intervention in evolving the semi-intensive dairy-sheep farms in Crete. Small Ruminant Research (doi:10.1016/j.smallrumres.2006.08.006)
Udo, H.M.J., Asgedom, A.H. and Viets, T.C., 2006. Modeling the impact of interventions on the dynamics in village production systems. Agricultural Systems, 88: 255–269.
Vallerand, F., Tsiboukas, K. and Kazakopoulos, L., 2001. A Greek paradox: omnipresent sheep and goat farming but neglected because of development structures; how to improve it? Options Méditerranéennes, Séries A, 46, 189–194.
Volanis, M., Kominakis, A. and Rogdakis, E., 2002. Genetic analysis of udder score and milk traits in test day records of Sfakia dairy ewes. Archiv für Tierzucht (Archives of Animal Breeding), 45(1), 69–77.
Waterhouse, A., 1996. Animal welfare and sustainability of production under extensive conditions—A European perspective. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 49, 29–40.
Wright, I.A., Zervas, G. and Louloudis, L., 2002. The development of sustainable farming systems and the challenges that face producers in the EU. In: I. Kyriazakis and G. Zervas (eds), Organic Meat and Milk from Ruminants, (EAAP publication no. 106), 27–37. Wageningen Academic Publishers.
Xuan Tung, D. and Rasmussen, S., 2005. Production function analysis for smallholder semi-subsistence and semi-commercial poultry production systems in three agro-ecological regions in Northern provinces of Vietnam. Livestock Research for Rural Development, 17(6) (http://www.cipav.org.co/lrrd/lrrd17/6/tung17069.htm).
Zervas, G., 1998. Quantifying and optimizing grazing regimes in Greek mountain systems. Journal of Applied Ecology, 35, 983–986.
Zervas, G., Fegeros, K. and Papadopoulos G., 1996. Feeding system of sheep in a mountainous area of Greece. Small Ruminant Research, 21, 11–17.
Zervas, G., Hadjigeorgiou, I., Zabeli, G., Koutsotolis, K. and Tziala, C., 1999. Comparison of a grazing with an indoor-system of lamb fattening in Greece. Livestock Production Science, 61, 245–251.
Zygoyiannis, D. 2006. Sheep production in the world and in Greece. Small Ruminant Research, 62(1–2), 143–147.
About this article
Cite this article
Volanis, M., Stefanakis, A., Hadjigeorgiou, I. et al. Supporting the extensive dairy sheep smallholders of the semi-arid region of Crete through technical intervention. Trop Anim Health Prod 39, 325–334 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-007-9019-z
- Low-input systems
- Extension service