Identification of Barriers and Opportunities in the Extensive Sheep / Goat Value Chain

By Silvia Zabalza (GAN-NIK), Alba Linares (GAN-NIK), Carlos Astrain (GAN-NIK) 

Extensive livestock farming functions within a very complex reality, producing quality food in a way that is sustainable and compatible with animal welfare, as well as fundamental public assets at a social, environmental and economic level. From the moment the livestock products leave the farm and until they reach the end consumer, they must complete a long journey plagued with obstacles and difficulties that have negative consequences for the financial profitability of this type of farm. 

The objective of this study is to examine the different ways of processing and marketing products from extensive livestock farming, identifying the barriers and bottlenecks and also the opportunities and existing initiatives that have an impact on the economic sustainability of extensive livestock farms. In order to do this, a predominantly qualitative methodology was used, based on conducting in-depth
telephone interviews with 18 key agents in the sector involved in the value chain.

The analysis of the information collected in the interviews and from the review of secondary sources reflected the complexity of the value chain and the existence of important problems in the processing and marketing process that affect both meat and dairy products, although the barriers in the case of meat seem to be more numerous and of greater importance. The results of this analysis are represented in three graphics included in the annexes of this document.

Among the barriers identified, four stand out as the main bottlenecks: (1) the lack of differentiation for extensive livestock, (2) the low consumption of lamb and goat meat, (3) the current model of slaughterhouses and (4) the health-hygiene regulations.

Despite the existence of these very complex problems, this study has identified opportunities and initiatives that can be used as drivers of change or proposals for improvement that reduce these bottlenecks and thus alleviate some of the most important problems affecting the economic sustainability of extensive livestock farming. Among these opportunities, the following should be

  • Working to make the health-hygiene regulations more flexible: An interpretation of these regulations that takes small scale producers into account, as well as developing the possibilities for a more flexible implementation allowed for in the European regulations themselves, would represent an important advance towards the economic sustainability of extensive sheep/goat farms, for both milk and meat production.
  • Promoting and revitalising other models of slaughterhouse and cutting plant: The current model for slaughterhouses (few and very large) causes serious damage to small farms that operate without belonging to large cooperatives. Viable proposals have been identified in the study, such as mobile slaughterhouses or the recovery of municipal slaughterhouses, depending on the local circumstances of each area, which would alleviate this problem.
  • Promoting new consumer habits: In addition to the valuable existing private initiatives, a real involvement of public authorities in promoting the consumption of local products from extensive livestock farming is required. In order for this to happen, among other things, it is essential to make progress in the characterisation of extensive livestock in all its different aspects. Once the activity has been characterised, new certifications, quality seals or label could be established to differentiate products in the market.

Another opportunity identified is the promotion of wool, since, although this is not linked to the main bottlenecks, it could lead to an improvement in the financial profitability of livestock farms.

Finally, it should be noted that the barriers detected drive livestock farmers into choosing courses of action where they lose control over their products. However, this analysis seems to indicate that participation in the processing and marketing process, either individually or through association initiatives, can have a positive impact on the economic sustainability of the farms. The courses of action in which the livestock farmer maintains their decision-making power may involve more work, dedication and effort, but they allow the farm itself to benefit from the added value, thus improving its financial profitability.


Read the report: Identification of barriers and opportunities in the extensive sheep/goat value chain

Also available in Spanish: Identificación de barreras y oportunidades en la cadena de valor del ovino-caprino en extensivo

Read the related news article: Steps towards the differentiation of products coming from extensive grazing in the market