The economic and pastoral specificities, strong characteristics of the ovine field in the Alps massif, are closely interlinked. In particular, breeders have to take into account the fact that the pastoral dimension induces a strong seasonality of the produce, which is not very compatible with a regular supply of retail outlets.
Therefore, the breeders, most of them being transhumant, lead pregnant animals to the mountains; the females will only give birth after they go down the mountain, for a commercialization in December. The lambs born at the end of the winter and offered for sale in spring complete this production. Christmas and Easter thus remain two important linchpins for the market and the field lacks lambs to offer for sale in autumn. Beyond the efforts expended for the quality of the product, the field works on a policy of reduction of the production seasonality in order to supply lambs all year long. This policy relies on the acceptance of additional restraints by the breeders so as to supply lambs in the slack periods.
The regional ovine field is above all a field of lamb (meat) production. It has however managed to keep a strong link with the territory, with transhumance and the use of ranges on the one hand, by getting involved in actions of environmental protection on the other.
This double calling is an asset as it allows promoting both the economic and the territorial components of the production. But it can also constitute a restraint since the pastoral practices induce an important seasonality of the production of lambs, the origin of the difficulties in terms of production and market launch.
The return of wolves is synonymous of new restraints and can have an influence on the evolution of landscapes and of the alpine socio-economic fabric. In addition to direct or indirect losses caused on the herds, the permanent presence of wolves can be experienced as a questioning of pastoral breeding, in terms of production system and of working time.