Region: Comune di Osilo, Sardinia / Italy
Climate, geography, and demographics:
• 98 km2
• Hot-summer Mediterranean climate
• 550 mm yearly rainfall
• 100–350 m a.s.l.
• Hilly mosaic of dairy sheep farms and feed crops
• Population 3300
• Economy mainly linked with agriculture
Pastoral activities, products and services: Mainly dairy sheep farms sustained by various feed resources: annual forage crops (36%); cereal crops; improved and natural pastures (42%). Currently there are about 20 000 sheep in 150 farms. Sheep graze all year in open-air, characterizing the landscape and contributing to the prevention of environmental risks such as wildfires. Its proximity to Sassari (120 000 habitants) makes the Osilo territory relevant for providing high-quality commodities and ES to the urban community. One of the most important local products is the famous cheese Pecorino di Osilo (“su casu cottu”). A promoting committee is working on obtaining the protected designation of origin (PDO) for this cheese.
History and context of current challenges: Recently, as a consequence of fluctuations of the market price of milk, many farms are closing, and many others have shifted the semi-intensive milk production system towards on-farm production and direct sales of Pecorino di Osilo. This change led to extensification through input reduction (fertilizers, concentrates), lower productivity, less cropping, and higher utilization of natural pastures. Nowadays, dairy sheep farming systems of the Osilo territory differ in input intensity, stocking rate, grazing area size, and concentrate consumption. An LCA study highlighted that a transition from a semi-intensive to a semi-extensive production system would decrease the carbon footprint/1 ha UAA by 30%.
The current crisis in the pastoral sector comprising land abandonment, decreasing population and number of pastoral farms, and low generational turnover is linked to a myriad of climate, market, and governance uncertainties.
This CS will investigate different strategies to overcome the crisis, developing recommendations to make agro-pastoral systems central to sectorial policies on agriculture, rural development, and the environment. Another goal is valuation, recognition, and subsidization of the ecosystem services provided by pastoral activities.