Extensive livestock farming, protector of biodiversity and the landscape

An orthodox definition of livestock farming says that it is a production system based on the efficient use of the territory's natural resources to raise suitable breeds, making production compatible with sustainability and generating environmental and social services.

This is the system that the four Valle brothers, ranchers and sheep herders, and the cattle rancher, Inka Martí, have opted for. They are the third generation of a family of shepherds and ranchers from the Las Merindades region, in Burgos. She embarked on livestock farming as a result of a family inheritance. They all have in common having made the decision to opt for extensive traditional livestock farming as a way of harmonizing the conservation and regeneration of the territory with the coexistence between their animals and the native fauna, including wolves, and economic profitability. It was how they wanted to do things. Seeing and listening to their experience, it is clear that it is possible.

Grazing in the veins

That's what the Valle brothers say they carry through Leandro, who acts as spokesperson, “you have to carry this in your veins to catch it. I had the opportunity not to do it, but I loved it. He now takes care of the day-to-day running of the family livestock herd, made up of about 1,000 sheep and 40 goats, in the Las Merindades region, north of Burgos. Pure wolf territory. They took the baton from his father, a pastor for almost 60 years, and in 2016 “we changed our mentality. We had seen how in 24 years, the wolves made terrible killings of our father and our grandfather. More than 200 sheep. And we didn't raise them for that, nor could we change the reality of our environment.

Recovering traditional grazing, of “being permanently with the sheep, not leaving them to their fate in the field, taking them every day to the most suitable pastures and keeping them at night in sheds”, were two keys to the change in livestock management . The third, «introduce mastiffs. Since we have had them we have not had a single loss. Their mission is to protect the flocks, as soon as they see something strange they surround the sheep. For this reason, Valle assures that “if the wolf had not been there, our livestock farm would not be so profitable now. It was his presence that forced us to change.

That step brought more things, “by managing the animals in a different way, the food, which is the most expensive, is given to us by the forest; and now it is more cared for, because we make better use of natural resources. In addition, the animals are much better. His father was able to see it “and when we told him that we weren't going to worry so much about the wolf, he almost disinherited us.” In his experience, the generational clash “was very positive. 21st century society demands other things and, as a food producer, we have to adapt. “Not doing whatever I want, because the mountains, the flora and the fauna, belong to everyone.”

They are saddened by not having relief, “none of us have children and this job is disappearing. It is no longer as hard as before, but it would be necessary to dignify the figure of the shepherd, professionalize it, facilitate training and exchange of experiences between ranchers and specific regulations for extensive livestock farming that include the obligations and rights of those who bet on it.

Surveillance and movement

The 1,600 cows of the Inka Martí ranch live in semi-freedom, in lots of 100 to 150 and in large enclosures spread across the 4,000 hectares of Iberian pasture that are the Gallegos de Crespe and Velasco farms, in the Tierra de Alba region of Salamanca. .

The management of these livestock is based on daily surveillance and movement from one pasture to another, without overloading them with cattle so that they can regenerate. Neither on their farms nor in most of our neighbors do we have wolf attacks. Because you will see them every day in the morning and afternoon. How are they, if they are going to calve, if a cow has mastitis, if there is diarrhea or ticks. Good livestock management is being present and controlling the animals. Human presence is protection, the wolves detect it and do not enter,” says Martí. He has had losses, yes, but “for five and three years, we have been at zero. Three years ago we had five attacks: two from wolves and one from neighbors' dogs. He has that certainty because “when an animal dies in the field, I go to the Wolf Patrol inspection that investigates and certifies the cause. “It's just that animals die for many more things than the wolf.”

For Martí it is a long-term project, his farms are “in the process of transitioning to organic and with a commitment to the Morucha cow that is native, adapted to the environment and in extinction. And, also, learning and sharing experiences with other ranchers, which we may be able to afford, but they may not be able to afford it.”

Inka Martin's livestock farm on the Gallegos de Crespe farmClara NavíoThe reason