Management Strategies to Improve the Economics of Sheep Farms in Norwegian Coastal and Fjord Areas—The Effect of Animal Size and Capacities for Rangeland Utilisation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSustainability. 2020, 12 (9), . 10.3390/su12093713
The morphological and productive aspects of Norwegian sheep have developed over time and adapted to the diverse environment of the country. Before 1900, native Norwegian sheep were crossed with UK breeds to attain higher body weight and reproductive efficiency. Subsequent selection programs eventually led to the creation of the heavier (adults often >90 kg) Norwegian White Sheep (NWS), today constituting 70% of the recorded ewes. The modern Norwegian (White) Spæl (NS) sheep, mostly <75 kg and accounting for 10% of the recorded ewe population, originated from the native short-tailed breeds that are smaller and are believed to prefer grazing at higher altitudes than NWS. Other registered breeds of the short-tailed spæl type account for another 12% of the recorded sheep. Rugged Norwegian terrain with rich summer pastures makes the NS a complementary breed to the NWS. Increasing demand for year-round fresh meat requires changes at the farm level. Efficient use of local feed resources by extensive feeding of smaller size ewes is an opportunity for attaining economic gains and for year-round fresh meat production. The NS has a lighter bodyweight, requiring less housing space, is efficient in grazing rangeland and local pastures, and is better suited to outdoor winter grazing in coastal and fjord areas. In this paper, we compare the farm profitability (gross margin) of two Norwegian sheep breeds (NS and NWS) using a linear programming model designed for the coastal and fjord areas. The impact of ewe body weight, housing capacity, and meat produced per unit of concentrate are discussed.