The conservation and enhancement of local animal and plant genetic resources at risk of extinction is one of the priorities of the agricultural and environmental policy of the European Union and in this area breeders play a keyrole.
In recent years, autochthonous breeds of zootechnical interest are at risk of extinction because they are no longer bred as more productive and profitable breeds are preferred. Keeping the extensive breeding of local breeds alive means preserving the exceptional heritage of biodiversity, flora and pollinating insects, preserved by pastures.
Grazing land has a natural capital value that renders unique their landscape and their livestock products. Today grasslands are disappearing due to two contrasting phenomena: the abandonment of pastures, due to the reduction of pastoral activities, which causes the invasion of tree and shrub species that degrade their natural and landscape value, and from the opposite side, the intensification of production activities and animal overload which can lead to erosion and deterioration of the turf, almost always irreversible.
The good practices of cattle management on pastures by the breeders allow to preserve the natural balance of the grasslands and of the entire ecosystem. Grazing animals open the scrub and keep the vegetation free from the advancement of the bush, reducing the risk of fires and of hydrogeological instability. The livestock breeders are therefore of extreme importance for the conservation of grasslands and of native breeds and as land steward through:
- extensive local indigenous breeds keeping;
- conservation of biodiversity through the monitoring and restoration to a satisfactory conservation status of natural and semi-naturalhabitats and of flora and fauna in danger of extinction;
- contrast to the abandonment of pastoral activities through the enhancement of economic and environmental sustainability of livestock farming;
- maintenance of the territory through activities aimed at safeguarding the agricultural and forest landscape, the care and conservation of the hydrogeological system, the protection from adverse weather conditions and forest fires, especially in mountain areas.