“There was a certain abandonment of the prairies, there was undergrowth. The grass grew and grew and nobody ate it, it dried up and did not produce. The sheep in the area did not graze on that meadow. We decided to create activity for the people. Now, the cows are brushcutters “. The Almaraz de Duero City Council (400 inhabitants, Zamora) decided in 2014 to buy cows to have its own cattle farm. It is not the only Administration that owns livestock. In Salamanca, the City Council of El Cubo de Don Sancho (400 inhabitants) also has a farm, but not a vaccine, but bullfighting and Iberian pigs.
The Almaraz City Council already has about 200 head of extensive cattle and 70 calves that they then sell to fatten up and the intermediary is already in charge of the sale of meat. About five municipal workers are responsible for the maintenance of the cabin, as do their counterparts with the nursing home that is also managed by the Almaraz City Council.
The mayor of the municipality, José Martín, hopes that, over the years, the farm will grow and can generate more employment. “Years ago there were many cows here for work and to graze … Our cows are in the fields all year round, they are not locked up,” the Zamorano alderman explains to elDiario.es. Although most of the cows are delivered without fattening, the City Council has fattened some cows for the townspeople. “People trust the quality because they can follow the whole process, it is meat from the people. They buy it and freeze it,” explains Martín. Cows also clear and clear fields, helping to prevent fires in the area.
Although the accounts fit “scraped”, the bet of this municipality is firm. “It is not that the benefits are very large, because between what you pay, buy the livestock, invest and pay people … but we hope to grow in the coming years and have more people employed,” says Martín. “Here there is practically no unemployment, the people here are having jobs and there are people who have stayed because of exploitation instead of leaving,” he says.
The mayor regrets that spending ceiling limits prevent them from investing and borrowing to be able to invest in improving current services and facilities. “We have to go very calmly,” he points out.
In addition, in 2019 they had a tuberculosis outbreak and all the livestock had to be slaughtered and started from scratch. “We have had to fight for everything again. After the emptying, we feel bad, because we have to reorganize everything when we already had stabilized cattle,” says Martín. Economically, this coup was not “favorable” for the municipal coffers, although they received compensation from the Board and some income from the slaughterhouse, he explains.
In Salamanca, the El Cubo de don Sancho City Council began managing its own livestock farm at the end of the last century. In 1982, the town mobilized to participate in the public auction of two parts of the Rollaneja farm that were in the hands of the Fundación Piadosa Vicente Rodríguez Fabrés: one part was awarded to the town and the other one of the ranchers who had bid resigned. for her “as a favor to the people.”
At that time, the residents of the municipality who wanted could put cattle on the farm in exchange for an annual income and two agrarian transformation companies managed the funds in the first years, until Spain entered the European Common Market, which caused a “sharp drop” in the price of beef and ceased to be profitable for some farmers. Faced with the impossibility of being able to pay the interests of the estate, the two companies transferred the management and exploitation of the estate to the Don Sancho City Council.
The Consistory began a comprehensive exploitation of the Iberian pig and bought some wild cows to take advantage of the pastures and be able to meet the payments. “At the beginning we had fighting cattle in half the farm, some acorn pig and the other half was used by the residents of the town,” explains the mayor of the Salamanca municipality, Emiliano Muñoz.
However, defaults haunted the city council and in 2011 – when Muñoz became mayor – the debt was 600,000 euros, calculates the mayor of Don Sancho’s Cubo. “The expenses were not covered nor had the debt been amortized. The City Council had to request another loan to meet the expenses,” he specified.
The City Council drew up a management plan and updated the beef cattle. “Everything is done in a transparent way and with invoices so that all the people know everything,” says Muñoz. Now, the exploitation of the City Council has about 140 heads of cattle, about 40 of fighting cattle, another 50 of Iberian pigs, which the municipality itself processes and sells to wholesalers and in shops in the town.
In addition, the Consistory has a nature classroom in which they promote environmental and pasture tourism with schools and the curious. “There is a lot of bullfighting and equestrian tourism, associations and clubs of horsemen who come to an equestrian route. We put a guide and they take a cross country walk,” adds the mayor.
“We faced the debt and we are beginning to have benefits,” acknowledges the councilor of Don Sancho’s Cubo, who employs about seven workers (plus temporary ones), as one more company. The municipalities of Almaraz de Duero and El Cubo de Don Sancho try to maintain economic activity in depressed and unpopulated areas, with a business opportunity that perhaps other municipalities can emulate.