Tropical Animal Health and Production

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 329–338 | Cite as

Challenges for local breed management in Mediterranean dairy sheep farming: insights from Central Greece

  • Lola PeruchoEmail author
  • Ioannis Hadjigeorgiou
  • Anne Lauvie
  • Charles-Henri Moulin
  • Jean-Christophe Paoli
  • Christina Ligda
Regular Articles


Local breeds are recognized as an important element for the maintenance of various and specific farming systems. Challenges for local breeds’ management, in a context of crossbreeding with exotic highly productive breeds, have been mainly studied in tropical countries. However, similar situation and challenges are likely to exist in Mediterranean countries subjected to climatic and feed scarcity issues. The objective of this work is to identify the challenges for local breed management in a regional context of informal crossbreeding with highly productive breeds. For this purpose, the case of dairy sheep farming in the region of Thessaly, in Central Greece, was examined. Semi-structured interviews were performed in 46 farms and processed through hierarchical classification on principal components. A follow-up on seven farms raising the Karagouniko sheep breed, the main local breed of the region, was carried on during one milk campaign. Results showed that a diversity of breeding strategies involving local purebred and crossbred flocks coexist in the region. The Karagouniko breed is facing several challenges. The supply in exotic breeding males and their crosses could be wide-scaled and involved a diversity of operators, whereas the supply in breeding males of Karagouniko breed was restrained to between-farm supply among flocks under milk recording scheme. In addition, the heterogeneity of access and quality of collective rangelands affected the farming of Karagouniko breed ewes, whose purebred flocks were significantly associated with the grazing on native grasslands. Finally, unfavorable dairies’ policies led Karagouniko farmers to seek higher flock milk production through levers that could impact the vulnerability of the farm, such as earlier lambing period or earlier weaning age. Farmers also questioned the use of highly productive breeds as a potential lever to reach higher flock milk production.


Breeding practices Animal genetic resources Crossbreeding Grazing Karagouniko sheep 



Breeding strategies


Hierarchical classification in principal components


Livestock Genetic Resources Centre


Environment Systems Research Institute



We thank the Livestock Genetic Resources Centre of Karditsa and the Breeders Associations of Thessaly for providing data and farmers’ contacts and the individual farmers that participated in the interviews.

Funding information

This work was partially funded by the Domestic and Perform projects (supported by ARIMNET, ERA-Net funded by the European Union), the Corsican regional research funding scheme (CPER), and the Department of Nutrition Physiology and Feeding of the Agricultural University of Athens.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11250_2018_1688_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (417 kb)
Online Resource 1 (PDF 417 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INRA, UR 0045 Laboratoire de Recherches sur le Développement de l’Elevage (LRDE)CorteFrance
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition Physiology and Feeding, Faculty of Animal Sciences and AquacultureAgricultural University of AthensAthensGreece
  3. 3.UMR Systèmes d’élevage Méditerranéens et Tropicaux (SELMET)INRA, CIRAD, MontpellierSupAgro, Univ MontpellierMontpellier CEDEX 1France
  4. 4.Hellenic Agricultural Organization, Veterinary Research InstituteThessalonikiGreece

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