Extensive grazing sheep breeding in Bulgaria has been a major industry in the past. Traditional technologies are based exclusively on grazing sheep, especially in mountainous and semi-mountainous areas. As the famous Bulgarian writer Nikolay Haytov wrote – “A Shepherd was a good word, and the sheep breeding was an honest job. It was, once before!”
At the end of the 80s the number of sheep in Bulgaria was nearly 9,000,000, but now the number is less than 1 million. This drastic reduction in the sheep population in Bulgaria threatens the sustainable conservation of local genetic resources in sheep breeding.
With the intensification of agriculture and the plowing of more and more natural pastures and meadows for the needs of crop production, the ecosystems in many regions of the country are changing drastically. This gradually necessitates the introduction of modern intensive technologies in sheep breeding, mainly stationary stable. In recent years, has been observed the increasingly limited use of pastoralism and the practice of mobile seasonal animal grazing. The lack of responsible labor in this sector is the biggest problem today in Bulgaria. In addition, the low price of the wool, low price per kg of live weight of lambs, as well as the low price per liter of sheep's milk leads to a reduction in the number of sheep in our country.
Over time, the traditional production of authentic sheep products - wool products, dairy and meat products - was lost. With the decrease of the interest in the traditional grazing in high mountain pastures in mountains in Bulgaria, the characteristic habitat in these areas changes, which inevitably causes damage to the biodiversity in the region.
Despite the difficulties of the modern global intensified world, in Bulgaria there are still people, who keep the traditions alive, and practice seasonal mobile extensively sheep breeding. The average age of the interviewed shepherds is 42 years - the youngest is 21, the oldest is 65. The average size of the herd is 333 ewes. The smallest number of the animals in a herd is 80 ewes, the largest – 800.
All of the interviewed farmers was reared a bulgarian native sheep breeds, threatened from extinction, as Karakachan sheep, Withe Maritsa sheep, Patched face Maritsa sheep. These local breeds are good adapted to the local conditions of climate and relief for the different areas.
All herds use traditional livestock guardian dog breed - Karakachan dog. In areas with high population levels of large predators such as wolves and bears, the existence of grazing sheep farming without protection from predator attacks is unthinkable. The Karakachan dog is one of the few dog breeds that is able to stop the attack of a bear, or a wolf.
There is a need for urgent measures to restore the good name of the shepherd as a profession, and more and more young people to be involved in this activity. In the face of teachers from the Agricultural University - Plovdiv, as well as the training conditions it has, there is an opportunity for training in the field of extensive sheep breeding and opportunities for diversification of sheep production.