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Typology analysis of sheep production, feeding systems and farmers strategies for livestock watering in Tunisia

Ibidhi, Ridha, Frija, Aymen, Jaouad, Mohamed, Ben Salem, Hichem
Small ruminant research 2018 v.160 pp. 44-53
barley, camels, drinking water, farm size, farmers, farms, flocks, forage, forest trees, goats, grazing, highlands, irrigated farming, livestock and meat industry, olives, principal component analysis, production technology, rain, rangelands, sheep, sheep feeding, shrubs, stubble, vegetation, water salinity, water shortages, wheat, Tunisia
In this study, we analyzed a representative sample of sheep farms (n = 1021) using Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and multivariate K-Mean classification, to characterize the production and feeding systems across Tunisia. We also identified and analyzed watering strategies for livestock at the farm level. Clustering results revealed five typical sheep production systems and four feeding systems. The first production system is the mixed sheep-cereal (PS1) that is mostly located in the cereal cropping regions where wheat and barley stubble grazing is a common practice. The agro-sylvo-pastoral production system (PS2) is the dominant production system in the highlands. Animals are typically grazing herbaceous vegetation and some fodder shrubs under forest trees. The third group referred to the agro-pastoral production system (PS3) in which animals are intensively managed. Farms of this group are also characterized by the existence of large irrigated areas. The fourth group is the extensive agro-pastoral production system (PS4). In this group, the average farm size is about 24.1 ha in which sheep (goat and camels to a lower extent) production is the main activity. Different animal species in the PS4 are grazing on collective natural rangelands. The last group is composed of farms owning the largest size of sheep flocks (10.4 Livestock Units (LU)) and is also based on olive production. This group is referred to as the mixed sheep-olive tree production system (PS5). The categorization of the sheep feeding systems existing in Tunisia generated the rangeland-based feeding system (FS1); concentrate-based feeding system (FS2); mixed feeding system (FS3); and the fodder crop and alfalfa-based feeding system (FS4). Farmer’s strategies of livestock watering differ between production and feeding systems. The center and southern production systems (PS3, PS4, and PS5) of Tunisia suffer from water scarcity, water salinity and high costs of drinking water. Water accessibility and mismanagement of rainwater are the main constraints in the northern sheep production systems (PS1 and PS2).