The strength of small big steps: transhumance yesterday and today

The strength of small big steps: transhumance yesterday and today

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The strength of small big steps: transhumance yesterday and today

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We talk about extensive breeding when the animals are free to move and graze on a medium or large surface, in the open air and without shelters against the bad weather.On the contrary, intensive breeding sees the animals collected in the spaces of the stables, in total dependence on man for food and shelter. In these conditions it can be deduced that the extensive system is the cheapest one, in fact the costs of feeding the animals are very low. In many European countries this type of farming is undoubtedly possible due to the large agricultural areas available, which allow the territory to be exploited at the same time for crops and for the maintenance of livestock. an unfortunate country: much of the territory is in fact made up of hills that are not very suitable for crops and cattle breeding.

In the lowland areas, consequently, arable land is a precious asset on which to save, having to compete with the presence of large urban settlements and industrial activities, among other things. It is therefore automatic to try to concentrate activities on as little space as possible. This is how intensive farming developed, that is, stables where many animals live together in limited spaces.

A stretch of the Tratturo Magno
from L’Aquila to Foggia (244 Km)

Tratturo Magno from L’Aquila
to Foggia (244 Km)

This is the widespread reality throughout northern Italy to which our great agricultural tradition is linked.

Cattle are not wild animals, they have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years. They have a very meek disposition and are accustomed to the company of their fellow men; they are not very inclined to travel and on the contrary rather sedentary. They move only to look for other individuals in the herd or to eat. In intensive breeding they immediately find what they are looking for: the group and nutrition. If they move little, it doesn't necessarily mean they want to run; only a natural tendency to laziness is accentuated, but this certainly does not mean that the animals suffer. Indeed, in intensive farming, cattle find a remedy for the most severe weather conditions of our climate and for a series of diseases linked to the open environment. It is therefore difficult to say that intensive farming harms animal health and welfare. Farmers, on the contrary, are very attached to their livestock and have every interest in the animals being well: their ability to reproduce and to produce milk or meat is at stake. Furthermore, in intensive breeding, it is possible to keep an eye on the whole group and it is therefore easy to realize if any animal requires the intervention of the veterinarian.


The quantity of meat that is currently consumed in Italy is 85 kg / year per capita and this figure would require today an area dedicated to cereals or weeds for animal feed equal to double the current one, ie about 73 ml of ha. Intensive farming increases monoculture, especially that of corn grown with very few varieties and in lesser quantities and less profitable those of wheat and minor cereals. The quality of animal feed is decidedly poor or even harmful given that it is feed often obtained with waste from the oil, tanning and milling industries. From the hygienic-sanitary point of view, animals reared with the intensive system are more easily affected by different forms of pathogens: brucellosis, tuberculosis, listeriosis, salmonellosis, etc. given their very precarious living conditions in conditions of extreme storage which facilitates infections and intoxications. various.

It should be borne in mind that foreign breeds are better suited for intensive farming and feeding with feed and their production is higher and more homogeneous. These are bred a lot in Italy since, being the territory almost completely made up of hills and mountains, they would not be well used on the contrary for extensive farming systems. The meat of animals reared with intensive systems has less pigmented, more aromatic and more tender meat; those raised with extensive systems are darker, harder, have a higher acidic component (unsaturated fatty acids), have more vitamin E which improves color and is a powerful biological antioxidant by blocking oxidation and retaining water also affects the tenderness of meat ( especially in cattle). Do not underestimate the FEAR factor that is determined among the animals especially at the moment before the transport to the slaughterhouse. The escape distance is the shortest distance tolerated by animals compared to humans and is equal to:
- bovine in extensive from meat 31 m- from milk 0/7 m
- sheep in extensive 6-11 m
- young beef in stable 2-8 m

The stress accumulated in very crowded and unhygienic environments has negative effects on the cerebral-hypothalamus-adenocorticosadrenal axis.

The practice of grazing preserves the biodiversity of forage species avoiding degradation phenomena that lead to erosion, landslides and landslides, contributing to the prevention of hydro-geological instability much more than woods, especially those deriving from reforestation. of pasture avoiding overload phenomena which would also cause dangerous degradation. Extensive animal husbandry, that is, with a fair proportion of animals and grazing areas, becomes the agricultural activity that is best suited to maintaining the protection of green areas, as mountain areas have always been suited to harmonious balance between wooded areas and pastures.

Phytosanitary treatments on intensive crops

The destruction of such a balance to the advantage of either wooded areas (reforestation) or degraded surfaces produces not only environmental damage but also noticeable changes in the traditional landscape with effects that have repercussions on tourist activities. The extensive farming systems guaranteeing fundamental ecological functions minimize the costs of management and protection of the territory. Think of the need, for ecological reasons but not only (fire prevention, tourist use of the areas) of having to proceed with the mechanical mowing of the lawns and the relative transport to landfills, composting platforms, dehydration plants) of the resulting material.

Excess of polluting waste from intensive farms - Stress and fear of animals in intensive farms

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Video: Big Steps - 01 April 2020


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