Agriculturae Conspectus Scientificus, Vol 78, No 3 (2013)

Highland Summer Pastures Play a Fundamental Role for Dairy Systems in an Italian Alpine Region

Francesco ZENDRI, Enrico STURARO, Maurizio RAMANZIN

Pages: 295-299


In the Alps, summer farms are temporary units where the livestock herds are moved during summer to graze on highland pastures. This study aimed to analyze the role of summer farms in the dairy farming systems of the Trento province, in the eastern Italian Alps. Data on the structures and management of the 395 active summer farms were collected from the veterinarian services of the province: 345 summer farms keep dairy cattle (83 only replacement, and 262 also lactating cows). Almost all the replacement cattle and more than one third (8,775 vs 24,934 heads) of the dairy cows reared in the permanent farms of the province are still moved to highland pastures during summer. Cows on milk of local and dual purpose breeds are moved to highland pastures more frequently than those of specialized breeds. On 610 permanent farms, we analyzed the differences between the units moving/not moving the lactating cows to summer farms. The traditional farms, with tie stalls, local breeds, small-medium herd size and low productivity used more frequently summer pastures than the “intensive” farms. Transhumance still plays a fundamental role for the dairy sector in this Alpine area, because it allows access to public contribution and is complementary to the management of traditional farms. To better assess its sustainability, these functions should be further investigated in relation with the role of summer farms in the conservation of biodiversity, cultural landscape, and touristic attractiveness.


dairy systems; summer farms; mountainous areas; highland pastures

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