Pag sheep and cheese

Pag sheep, as an original Croatian breed, belongs to the group of Mediterranean sheep and originated in the entire area of the island of Pag, where it is still mostly bred.
The ancient Illyrians were also engaged in sheep breeding on the island of Pag, and the arrival of Croats on the island in the middle of the tenth century was followed by a significant development of this economic branch.

It is assumed that the breeding of Pag sheep as we know it today with other breeds, mostly rams, began in the early 19th century. Later, it was performed on several occasions until today. The
cross from 1870 left the most traces on the Pag sheep. when the Austrian government funded the purchase of 245 merino Negretti rams, 50 merino x pramenka crossbred rams and 21 Southdown
rams. These crosses left the most traces on the exterior of Pag sheep, so in the literature, 1870 is most often taken as the year of the beginning of today's Pag sheep.
Today, sheep breeding, along with tourism, is the most important economic branch of the island of Pag. According to the data of the Croatian Livestock Center from 2007 on Pag, we have 532
breeders of Pag sheep registered in the Register of Agricultural Holdings. They owned 28,958 breeding heads. As there are only breeders with 20 or more sheep in this number, it is assumed
that there are a total of 30,000 breeding heads on the island. If we add to this number breeding broods and rams, the total number of sheep on the island of Pag is 35,000.
It is generally considered that, given the available pasture areas on the island of Pag, the number of about 30,000 breeding sheep is optimal at this time.

Number of sheep on the island of Pag throughout history:
1781. – 25,000
1914. – 30,000
1939. – 24,000
1950. – 16,500
1981. – 21 792
1987. – 28 100
2007. – 30,000

Sheep are kept outdoors day and night throughout the year, on pastures. They feed by grazing on sparse rocky areas aided by hay, corn and fodder mixtures.
Pag sheep lamb once a year. The young are obtained in a controlled manner by releasing rams in sheep. Sheep breeders who use sheep’s milk to produce ram cheese release earlier, in July or
August. The sheep lambs after five months, in December and January. To breeders who raise Pag sheep only for the production of lamb, the sheep are lambed in February and March.

Pag cheese

Pag cheese is the most famous and most valued hard sheep cheese in Croatia. It has a pleasant spicy taste, light yellow to dark yellow (depending on age). It is obtained from the milk of Pag
sheep that graze grass on rocky pastures that are rich in various types of aromatic and medicinal plants. In addition, a special value is given by the salt that remains in traces on the grass after the bora – a strong north wind that blows on the island of Pag.
Sheep cheese on the island of Pag has been produced since ancient times. How today's Pag sheep was formed by crossing in 1870. it can be assumed that this is the year when Pag cheese gets its current taste.

According to the Croatian Livestock Center, which conducted a survey of the milk yield of Pag sheep from 2005 to 2007, the average lactation of the controlled population of Pag sheep lasts
166 days and during that time the sheep produces 140 liters of milk. Here we note that some breeders also produce more than 200 liters of milk per sheep.
To produce 1 kg of Pag cheese, 5.5 to 7 liters of milk are needed, depending on the amount of milk fat in the milk or the age of the cheese. Namely, as it matures, the cheese loses weight, so a kilogram of more mature cheese would require a little more milk.
The production of Pag cheese, regardless of whether raw or pasteurized milk is used in the production, begins with the cheese making at a temperature of about 30 ° C. Coagulation of milk
takes about 1 hour. The resulting cheese curd is crushed into small cheese grains approximately 3 mm in size. The following is the process of drying cheese grains at a temperature between 41 and 43 ° C for 10-15 minutes, and their deposition on the bottom of the cheese boiler. The prepared cheese curd is then placed in molds and pressed with a press.
We distinguish between young Pag cheese with a maturity of 2 months and fully mature Pag cheese aged 4 to 12 months. Young Pag cheese has a slightly elastic, light yellow, easily readable
texture with a pleasant spicy taste. Fully ripened cheese is dark yellow in color, with a hard granular structure and a spicy taste. It breaks incorrectly by cutting.
Today, Pag cheese is one of the most recognizable Croatian brands both in our country and in the world. At competitions where Pag cheese producers appear, they regularly receive gold and
championship medals. We will single out the award for the Best New Cheese on the Market, which was given to "Gligora Cheese Factory" from Kolan at the "World Cheese Awards", the largest cheese quality competition in the world held in 2010 in Birmingham, England. Gligora '' entered the 10 best cheeses in the world.
About 220 tons of Pag cheese are produced annually on the island of Pag.

Pag lamb

Pag lamb is the second most important product of Pag sheep. It is obtained by slaughtering lambs 25 to 45 days old, with a processed carcass weight of 4 to 9 kg. This is the most common lamb
meat on the market and is obtained from Pag sheep breeders who produce Pag cheese.

Until that age, lambs are fed exclusively on sheep's milk, which gives the meat a special taste.
The meat of Pag lamb is pale pink, with thin and tender muscle fibers, tasty and juicy. Slightly older lambs with a carcass weight of 9 to 15 kg can also be found on the market. There are
significantly fewer of these lambs. It is obtained mainly from growers who do not produce Pag cheese but only meat. Pag lamb is prepared in various ways, the most famous of which is roasting
on a spit.
Exhibition of Pag sheep and Pag cheese The City of Novalja and the Association of Pag Sheep Breeders launched the event "Exhibition of Pag sheep and Pag cheese" which aimed to promote Pag sheep and Pag cheese through a tourist presentation and at the same time with a scientific approach to improve livestock development on Pag.
The event is co-organized by the Croatian Institute for Agricultural Advisory Services, Novalja Branch and the Croatian Livestock Center and the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb.
It is held every year on the first weekend in July and includes the evaluation of the quality of Pag cheese, the evaluation of the best collection of sheep and the best ram.
In addition, the event regularly hosts scientific conferences with topics related to improving the quality of Pag sheep, cheese and meat. There are regularly current topics related to, for example, the future of sheep breeding on the islands, the introduction of new standards in cheese production and the like.