Sheep and goats, a nutritional resource
Together with dry land farming, ovine herding has been one of the traditional methods of subsistence in all the Meseta Central (Spain), such that commerce —for example, with the Meseta Norte— has been based around the main products obtained from this livestock in exchange for other basic products from dry farming like cereal, sunflowers and vines among others. In the picture we can see Emilio de Frutos, a day labourer from Miguelañez, Segovia (Spain) with livestock, and the picture was taken between 1960-1970.
Until the advent of intensive herding after a period of industrialisation, the traditional method was extensive shepherding, which used natural pastures and helped both to maintain agro-ecosystems and to prevent forest fires as the sheep kept bushes under control. However, two of the disadvantages of extensive farming compared with the intensive method were a lower yield and limited economic efficiency.
Since Spain joined the EU, farmers and shepherds have been able to access different grants, which has led to a change in the use of land due to the kind of crop that predominates. One example of this can be seen in the province of Segovia, where traditional cereal crops were replaced with new ones like sunflowers and beet. However, shepherding has been less affected by this kind of grant although it has modified from extensive (especially sheep and pigs) to intensive (again sheep and pigs but also poultry).
José Manuel Terán de Frutos (Departamento de Biología de la UAM).