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Sci Total Environ. 2016 Feb 15;544:211-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.088. Epub 2015 Dec 3.

Characterization and typification of small ruminant farms providing fuelbreak grazing services for wildfire prevention in Andalusia (Spain).

Author information

1
Agroforestry Science Department, School of Agricultural Engineering, Sevilla University, Ctra. Utrera km 1, 41013 Seville, Spain. Electronic address: yomena@us.es.
2
Mediterranean Pastures and Silvopastoral Systems Research Group; CSIC-Estación Experimental del Zaidín, C/Profesor Albareda 1, 18008 Granada, Spain.
3
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, IFAPA, 18004 Granada, Spain.
4
Agroforestry Science Department, School of Agricultural Engineering, Sevilla University, Ctra. Utrera km 1, 41013 Seville, Spain.

Abstract

Several wildfire prevention programs in Spain are using grazing livestock to maintain fuelbreaks with low levels of biomass. Even though shepherds are remunerated for these services, many of their farms are hardly viable in the current socio-economic context. By analyzing 54 small ruminant farms participating in the Grazed Fuelbreak Network in Andalusia (southern Spain), this research aimed to identify the main types and characteristics of such farms and, considering the challenges they are facing, propose strategies to improve both their economic viability and their effectiveness in fuelbreak grazing. Based on data collected through a survey on key farm management aspects, a multivariate analysis was performed and four main types of farm were identified: two clusters of dairy goat farms and two composed mostly of meat-purpose sheep farms. Farms in all clusters could benefit from improvements in the feeding and reproductive management of livestock, either to enhance their productivity or to make better use of the pasture resources available. Dairy goat farms remain more dependent on external animal feed to ensure a better lactation, therefore they should either diminish their workforce costs per animal or sell transformed products directly to consumers to improve their economic viability. Best fuelbreak grazing results were related to larger flocks combining sheep and goats, lower ratios of fuelbreak surface area per animal, and longer (year-long) grazing periods on fuelbreaks. Therefore, such farm features and adjusted fuelbreak assignments should be favored in wildfire prevention programs using grazing services.

KEYWORDS:

Fuelbreak grazing; Goat; Multivariate analysis; Sheep; Silvopastoral system

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