Sustainability assessment of pasture-based dairy sheep systems: A multidisciplinary and multiscale approach

Luis Javier R. Barron*, Aitor Andonegi, Gonzalo Gamboa, Eneko Garmendia, Oihana García, Noelia Aldai, Arantza Aldezabal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article describes a novel methodological approach for the integrated sustainability assessment of pasture-based dairy sheep systems. Most studies on livestock system sustainability focus on animal production, farm profitability, and mitigation strategies of greenhouse gas emissions. However, recent research indicates that pasture-based livestock farming also contributes positively to rural areas, and the associated increase in plant diversity promotes ecosystem functioning and services in natural and managed grasslands. Likewise, little attention has focused on how pasturebased livestock systems affect soil carbon changes, biodiversity, and ecotoxicity. Furthermore, the quality and safety of food products, particularly sheep milk and cheese, and socioeconomic issues such as cultural heritage and consumer behavior are often neglected in livestock system sustainability assessments. To improve the analysis of sustainability and adaptation strategies of livestock systems, we suggest a holistic approach that integrates indicators from diverse disciplines with complementary methods and models capable of capturing the complexity of these systems at multiple scales. A multidisciplinary perspective generates new indicators to identify critical trade-offs and synergies related to the resilience of dairy sheep livestock systems. A multiscale approach provides insights on the effects of socioeconomic and environmental changes associated with current dairy sheep grazing systems across multiple scales. The combined approach will facilitate the development and progressive implementation of novel management strategies needed to adapt pasture-based dairy sheep farms to changing conditions under future socioeconomic and environmental scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3994
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Dairy sheep livestock
  • Grazing management
  • Multidisciplinary indicators
  • Multiscale dimension
  • Sustainability assessment


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