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A typological characterization of dairy Assaf breed sheep farms at NW of Spain based on structural factor

Riveiro, J.A., Mantecón, A.R., Álvarez, C.J., Lavín, P.
Agricultural systems 2013 v.120 pp. 27-37
analysis of variance, breeds, crops, dairy sheep, ewes, family farms, flocks, forage, mechanization, modernization, production technology, questionnaires, small farms, Spain
The dairy sheep farms at Central-Nord o Spain have adapted well to the new contextual conditions by introducing highly specialized breeds, increasing flock size or incorporating new production techniques and technologies. This paper describes the analysis procedure and the results obtained from structural characteristics (dimensional, organizative and investments on building, machinery and facilities) for a sample of 44 farms in the study area (León). We collected data in visits to farms with a previously made questionnaire. We processed these data, filtered them with preliminary analysis to later analyze their main components, followed by a hierarchical conglomerate analysis and an ANOVA. As a result, we obtained six distinct groups or types of farms that are representative of dairy sheep production in the study area: (i) large traditional farms (n=4); (ii) small traditional farms (n=6); (iii) farms with a complementary agricultural activity (n=7); (iv) emerging small farms (n=8); (v) modernized medium-sized farms (n=12), and (vi) dairy sheep farms without cultivated land (n=6). According to this distribution, 58% of ewes are concentrated in medium-sized farms (400–800 ewes).Farms differ mainly in size, age or level of consolidation, degree of intensification, level of investment and mechanization, feeding and grazing system or expectations for continuity according to the possibility of succession or owner’s age.Globally, 14% of farms do not produce forage, cereal or any kind of crops; 16% produce forage and cereal for on-farm consumption and sell their surplus and other harvested products; and 70% produces forage and cereal only for on-farm consumption.The high farm investment levels, which are a consequence the resizing of many farms are associated to a modernization of the production systems and directly related to high social expectations for family farm continuity.Dairy sheep farm activity is highly dynamic. However, 25% of Assaf breed sheep farms with owners about to retire or without a successor in the family, may disappear. This could be avoided with the adoption of administrative measures that encourage the transfer to a third party.