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Grazing Livestock, Our Connection to Grass: A Mediterranean Insight

  • Serge Yan Landau
  • Giovanni Molle
Chapter
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 16)

Abstract

The presence of Man in Mediterranean harsh environments, where the conversion of sun energy to grass – including herbaceous and ligneous vegetation – is the only asset, would not be possible without domestic livestock. Grazing livestock have developed foraging behaviors – largely affected by their interaction with humans throughout history – that allow them minimizing the intake of toxic plant secondary meta­bolites (PSMs) and mitigating their negative effects. They have evolved to cope with extreme nutritional situations and to fit their reproductive cycles to seasonal cycles of nutrient availability. They can probably learn how to minimize the negative effects of parasites by ingesting plants containing PSMs with pharmaceutical properties where available. Most of this knowledge is taught mainly by mothers, but peer influence and individual learning by trial-and-error are also instrumental in surviving in an ever-changing world. Grazing livestock possess foraging cultures transmitted from generation to generation. With an emphasis on Mediterranean conditions, we review the scientific basis of foraging cultures, and how they may impact on our own body. In particular, we address the flow and modifications of fatty acids from grass to man, through the composition of milk or meat, which we consume, with emphasis on the roles of PSMs on the sensory properties and the health value of grazing livestock products. Interestingly, new technologies, such as stable element isotope analysis, are successful in identifying regional fingerprints in meat, probably related to foraging cultures that bridge between local human cultures and their environment.

Keywords

Conjugate Linoleic Acid Condensed Tannin Small Ruminant Grazing Livestock Phenological Stage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and AgronomyInstitute of Plant Sciences, The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research OrganizationBet DaganIsrael
  2. 2.AGRIS SardegnaDipartimento per la Ricerca nelle Produzioni AnimaliOlmedoItaly

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