Besides indigenous, robust cattle and goat breeds, the famous Merino-sheep graze on the large pastureland. During the hot and dry months of the summer, the latter go up to Northern grazing and pasture lands in the mountains of the Palencia province where they find enough and juicy food (see: Transhumance-Project (link capítulo trashumancia inglés)).
Acorn fattened pigs
Every fall and winter, the dark “pata negra” Ibérico-pigs ennoble the numerous acorns from the holm and cork oaks transforming into the precious and famous “Jamón Ibérico de bellota” – the ham from acornfattened Ibérico-pigs. The animals live extensively moving freely on the extensive land and live during the fall and winter mainly on acorns. The fat they produce by this diet is very aromatic and rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which is why it is being called “olive oil on four legs”. During 3 years, the ham of the Ibérico pigs undergoes an elaborate process: salting, air drying and curing – this process leads to an excellent organic quality ham which the foundation commercializes directly.
An important economic factor is the harvest of the cork. During generations, rural workers assured their income during the hot summer months harvesting the cork. A cork oak can be harvested every 9 years – this back-breaking job is still today being carried out by hand. In this process, it is of extreme importance not to harm the tree so it can stay healthy and strong and be harvested sustainably in the future. The knowledge about harvesting the cork correctly is passed from generation to generation. Only the very best pieces of bark – good caliber and little porosity - can be used to make bottle corks out of them – the rest is used as construction and insolation material or is being granulated for future processing.
One of the main pillars for the conservation of a dehesa is the tree maintenance. The trees help to mitigate erosion, their falling leaves turn into humus; the crowns of the trees provide shade and a good micro climate which is of extreme importance for the animals and the plants, especially in the long, dry and hot summers.
Trees need to be planted, tree guards need to be put around them so they are protected against the browsing of wild animals and livestock. The young trees need to be cut back, thinned and pruned so they can form their spreading crowns. Reforestation is a very costly and time-consuming job, but without it, the dehesa cannot exist very long.
The foundation commands a couple of fruit and vegetable gardens for self-supply, to provision the training center and for education and training reasons. Different kinds of fruit and vegetable are planted in a traditional way and several alternative methods are being tested. The cultivation renounces completely any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.