The Brianzola is an Italian sheep (Ovis aries Linnaeus, 1758) from the Lombard Prealps, with a main aptitude for meat production.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species O. aries,
Geographic and Area Distribution –
The Brianzola is a sheep raised in an area that includes the hilly and mountainous areas of the provinces of Lecco, Como and Monza Brianza.
In ancient times it was located in the triangle between Como, Lecco and Monza. Currently the area is located in the foothills of Brianza between the municipalities of Cesana Brianza, Civate, Galbiate, Proserpio, Suello and Valmadrera. In this area there are about thirty farms, for a total of about 700 animals reared in which there are subjects attributable to the standard of the population (over 250 animals). The province of Sondrio can reasonably be understood as an area of secondary expansion.
Origins and History –
The Brianzola sheep was originally present throughout the hilly area of Brianza and, above all, in the Lecco and Como areas and was known as a local or local breed. The name Brianza dates back to the 1930s and appears for the first time in the publications of the Itinerant Chair of Agriculture of the Province of Como.
Traditionally it was raised in the farms and was grazed in the adjacent hilly areas, in particular those more difficult to reach for cattle. It was used to keep meadows and fields clean and was appreciated for its thick and precious wool, prolificacy, maternal attitude and good meat production.
The first to describe it was the veterinarian Formigoni in 1940 and 1942, who classified it as an indigenous Lombard population of heavy size, very prolific with great maternal abilities and placed among animals with a strong productive aptitude for the meat character; less evident than the latter character, but equally excellent, were the milk and wool productions.
Currently the population respects the historical morphological canons described by Formigoni in 1940).
The breeding of the Brianzola sheep reached its maximum expansion between the Thirties and Fifties, but in the immediate postwar period, the whole agricultural sector entered into crisis and the animals reared contracted until reaching about 60 head at the end of the Nineties, distributed on two farms. The Brianza then entered the “Register of sheep populations with limited circulation”. The Brianzola Sheep Association was born in 1999 by the will of the former mountain community of Eastern Lario and some passionate breeders. In 2004 the Lombardy Region included this breed in the rural development plan as an animal to be protected and therefore the subject of contributions for breeders. Thus began a slow rebirth, which led to over 50 farms in 2015, distributed in the provinces of Lecco, Como and Monza Brianza. However, since that date the number has started to decline again. The 35 producers who are now part of the Association have decided to join the Presidium, to intensify the work of enhancing this breed.
The disciplinary provides that the animals are raised mainly on pasture and that the food ration (when the pasture is not accessible) is based on fodder and, to a minimum, on cereals. GMOs and silage are prohibited. Lambs are fed exclusively with mother’s milk and are weaned no earlier than 45 days.
Due to its morphological aspect, the Brianzola sheep is part of the group of giant alpine sheep for meat.
The head is developed in length but well proportioned, devoid of horns, with a more pronounced ram-like frontal-nasal profile in males, long hanging ears never carried forward or spread apart with respect to the longitudinal axis of the body.
It has a well proportioned neck.
The trunk is of good length in respect of the bulk, slightly higher than the height at the withers, well developed front of the animal with a powerful but proportionate chest, deep chest, correct back line, good development of the hind too with a slightly sloping rump.
The limbs are developed in length, sturdy also in the joints but without falling into the coarse, relatively fine bones, upright normally correct.
The weight of the females is 70-75 kg and 90-95 kg for males, and with a stature at the withers of 80 cm in sheep and 90 cm in rams.
Productive attitude –
The Brianzola is a breed with a main aptitude for meat production, characterized by animals capable of usually weaning a pair of lambs, without resorting to food supplements for the offspring, which argues in favor of an efficient and functional mammary system.
The farming system is of a permanent family type mainly aimed at integrating income through self-consumption of meat and local sales.
The Brianzole sheep are satisfied with marginal areas, steep and often terraced terrain. Grazing in these areas is very important, also because it represents a barrier to the uncontrolled advance of broad-leaved woods.
They are polyestral and seasonal animals that concentrate the birthing periods in late autumn or winter and in the late spring or summer period. It is possible to reach three births in two years with a very high twinality (about 80%). The frequency of triplets is high.
As for meat production, lambs are usually slaughtered during Easter and Christmas. Slaughter normally takes place at a weight of about 15-20 kg of live weight even if a heavier animal slaughtered at a weight of 40 kg of live weight is increasingly required.
The milk, on the other hand, is normally used directly from the lamb and almost always produced in sufficient quantities to bring even three lambs to weaning per birth, as the prolificacy of this breed is very high.
Finally, as far as the production of wool is concerned, although it is produced in discrete quantities, 2-3 kg per year, it is little used. Recent local initiatives in neighboring provinces, however, give a glimpse of possible outlets for this production, which currently only negatively affects the company budget.
Farmers shear sheep even twice a year (spring and autumn): the wool is partly washed and carded locally and used for mattresses and pillows, and partly sent to factories in the Biella area for the production of yarns.
Remember that Brianzolo lamb is an important ingredient of local cuisine, but sheep are also eaten, which is slaughtered at the end of their career (around the age of eight). The meat of this breed is suitable for different cooking and can be cooked in traditional recipes, such as stewed sheep with rosemary and stewed lamb stew with potatoes, but also in creative preparations, such as sheep tartare.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Daniele Bigi, Alessio Zanon, 2010. Atlas of native breeds. Cattle, horses, sheep and goats, pigs reared in Italy, Edagricole-New Business Media, Bologna.