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“Grazing with wolves”: a quality mark to profit from coexistence

Overview

Rosa González and Alberto Fernández are a young couple of farmers from Santa Coloma de Somoza, Zamora (Spain). Used to hearing that farming in an area with wolf presence was a handicap, they decided to turn the situation around and make profit of it. The quality mark “Grazing with Wolves” (“Pastando con lobos” in Spanish) is endorsed by different organizations, as WWF or GREFA, and certifies to the consumer the wolf-friendly origin of the lamb they are acquiring.


Story by

Rosa Fernández, Alberto González

Contact

Occupation

Agriculture

Location

Santa Colomba de Sanabria

Province

Castilla y León, Spain


Chapter 1

Starting point

For us and and our three kids, farming is not just a job. Being the third generation of shepherds, sustainable and natural farming is for us a lifestyle. “We are what we eat” so we deeply believe in the quality of extensive farming and natural pastures. 

We live in the area of Sanabria, in Castilla y León, the western area of Spain which hosts the highest wolf population in Europe. The wolf is present in every stone of traditional architecture in the area and traditional practices to coexist with them have never really disappeared. 

However, shepherding in a wolf area has a disadvantage: the cost of prevention measures, like maintaining our 15 mastiffs- the livestock protection dogs from this area -, the workload of gathering the 1200 sheep together every night and the cost of being shepherded by one of us during the day. 

Chapter 2

approach

We are aware the wolf has to be there. Obviously, for us it would be easier and cheaper if there were not wolves around, but that is not negotiable so… we decided to see it from the bright side and make the most of it. 

That’s how Grazing with wolves came to life. A brand and quality mark that certifies that our lambs and sheep are bred in a wolf-friendly environment, which leads not only in a sustainable final product but also in a high quality lamb meat as they are bred with their mothers which feed free on natural pastures. The quality mark definitely gives our meat a distinctive added value. 

1/3

Product marketing

Large carnivores can have a negative influence on the economic situation of local citizens working in an area. On the other hand their presence can be a chance to create economic success. The branding of local products that are linked with large carnivores can help to raise awareness and interest for the conservation of wolf, bear or other carnivores. This can also be an opportunity for tourism. For example cheese made of milk from sheep or honey that are produced in a bear area can be branded with the names and/or symbolic elements of the protected species.

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Livestock guarding dog

Livestock guarding dogs defend the herd against attacks by wolves. They feel like part of the herd and settle down with the pet owner.  The dogs live permanently outside and defend "their" herd against all intruders from the outside. Well-trained livestock protection dogs are no danger to walkers and hikers, but these should lead their dogs on a leash. To make this work, well trained herd protection dogs are required, which are adapted to the type of grazing by the livestock. This requires regular checks made by experienced people so that the dogs do not start to behave incorrectly.

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Beatrice Jouenne

24.08.2018

www.polegrandspredateurs.org NGO working on nature protection/conservation. Thanks to livestock guarding dog, this project aims to support sheep breeders whose herds are victims of lynx attacks. An important step of the project is to learn breeders the educational protocol of dogs. During this project, we developed another protection tool: the multi-herd guarding dog. We educated a dog in order to place him one season after another with different farmers whose herds was attacked. This dog was effective immediately and stopped lynx damage. After this test, the Pôle Grands Prédateurs proposed to breeders to take one or two puppies to replace him. In this context, breeders had the experience of a livestock guarding dog, knew the benefits, and could better apprehend the arrival of a new dog on their farms. Since 2015, the Pôle Grands Prédateurs is no longer a breeding pole for livestock guarding dogs. The association continues its action of support to the sheep breeders by being a platform of discussions and putting in relation breeders who look for dogs and breeders who have puppies to place. We also take in charge directly pups placement. Besides, we organized a lot of communication actions around the theme of “livestock guarding dog as a tool of prevention against lynx predation”. We realized a documentary about this subject in the Jura Massif in 2015/2016. Since 2017, we organized projections and debates with this film for a large audience (general public, naturalists, elected officials, schoolchildren, breeders ...). This was abinding measure implemented by Pôle Grands Prédateurs in the frame of Assistance to sheep breeders – livestock guarding dog and personalized support in Sheep breeders from the French Jura Mountains in the French Jura Mountains. It specifically involved Farmers, Livestock risers. It operated for 8 years (from 2007 to 2015) and received partial financial support from Own funds, Other sources, Public funds (State).Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Jean-Marc Landry.

Beatrice Jouenne

24.08.2018

Study of the behavioral ecology of the wolf in agro-pastoral system (night observation with thermal camera, GPS tracking of sheeps and livestock guarding dogs, investigation of the know-how of sheep breeders and shepherds). After a 5-year phase I, the phase II will begin in 2018. Studies of the wolf – livestock guarding dog interactions are a source of consistent data that brings a new perspective on the relationships and interactions that occur in herds, their immediate vicinity and their extended periphery. The Canovis project is a possible response to major challenges that aim to significantly improve the coexistence between extensive livestock (sheep, goats, cattle) and wolves. Thanks to scientific research, the project designs and develops concrete and adapted solutions. The discoveries we made during the first 5 years of the project are major. Our results are in the process of completely revolutionizing the knowledge of the eco-ethology of the wolf in pastoral system. Unfortunately, our financial resources are limited and this is our major difficulty to continue the project. This was a non-binding measure implemented by IPRA Sàrl until 2017. Jean-Marc Landry Foundation since 2018. in the frame of CANOVIS project (phase I) in the whole country in the Mercantour National Park, Canjuers military camp. It specifically involved Journalists, Livestock risers, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 4 years (from 2013 to 2017) and received partial financial support from Own funds, Private donors, Other sources.Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Gilles MOYNE, director.

Chapter 3

outlook

The wolf has been always seen as a handicap. But it is probably because we do not understand its role. For us, as long as we minimize the damages - which is possible with the appropriate use of prevention measures – the wolf is an ally. It preys on the ill wild animals and therefore it prevents diseases as tuberculosis, which are naturally present in wild populations of ungulates, to infect our sheep.

We believe that with the help of the Administration to afford prevention measures, the wolf can definitely be an asset for our businesses.

 

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“Grazing with wolves”: a quality mark to profit from coexistence

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