If you were to fly over Serbia, you would see two types of animal production systems: a highly specialized, high-input production system and an extensive low-input production system based on combined crop/animal farming.
The first system is characterized by highly productive and specialized livestock breeds housed indoors. In order to meet the nutritional needs for high production, this system requires the use of concentrated feed. The potential for overloading fields with nutrients from farm manure becomes a problem in these more intensive industrial farming systems.
In contrast, the extensive, low-input system involves keeping indigenous livestock breeds on grasslands throughout the major part of the year. Mixed livestock and crop farming takes on a different form, where crop and livestock operations are integrated into a local system where waste from each operation is processed and transported to become a cheap input for the other.
Traditional systems of livestock keeping are highly relevant to the sustainable agricultural production in nature protected areas. There are six categories of nature protected areas as the figure below shows. Three zones of protection could be delineated within the nature protected areas. Agricultural activities are allowed in zones II and III. There are several nature protected areas in the Republic of Serbia where agricultural activities are closely integrated with nature conservation and the protection of indigenous animal breeds and agricultural crop varieties.
The Special Nature Reserve Zasavica, formed in 1997, is one such example in which High Nature Value Farmland is integrated with dozens of indigenous animal breeds. Situated along the banks of the Sava River, in the territory of South Vojvodina and North Macva, the 1,825 hectare area is a mosaic of aquatic and wetland ecosystems with fragments of flooded forests. The whole system belongs to the Black Sea catchment area and it presents one of few authentic and preserved wetlands of the region. This calm flatland river provides conditions for survival of numerous and diverse wildlife.
Zasavica is a part of a national network of Ramsar sites (wetlands protected according to the Ramsar Convention), and according to the IUCN, is critical for the preservation of certain habitats and species. Since 2001, Zasavica has been member of The Europark Federation, protected as a Special Nature Reserve in order to preserve the habitats of diverse flora and fauna. There have been over 600 plant species recorded in this area so far. While most of the species are widely distributed, some are rare and relic species.
Zasavica represents one of the best examples of how indigenous breeds of cattle (Podolian cattle breed), pigs (Mangalitsa pig breed), and donkeys (Balkan donkey breed) have been reintroduced along with the adoption of traditional pasturing practices. This particular type of High Nature Value Farmland is described as deciduous forests with high proportion of grassland cover. All these animal breeds are integral components of this agroecosystem; they contribute the shaping of the unique wetland-grassland landscape, which creates habitat for important protected wild flora and fauna.
The Mangalitsa pig is native to the landscape of Zasavica, and relies on swamps, pastures, and forests as its natural habitat. Resembling wild-boars, Mangalitsa pig herds wander through forests and pastures during the year, processing and turning over the surface soil while seeking feed and worms. This particularly prevents spreading of bushes and the process of succession on the abandoned grasslands and arable land, and plays an immense role in landscape formation and maintenance.
Protected areas are often equated with no-use zones. But the example of Zasavica demonstrates how agriculture and ecosystem protection go hand-in-hand. These indigenous breeds of livestock rely on intact ecosystems for sustenance. And in turn, people enjoy the products of this marriage between conservation and production.