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Beef – Finca El Campete, Spain

This case study demonstrates how the production of beef can be undertaken in an area of high conservation value, maintaining and improving the natural habitat and producing quality beef in a low input system. This case study also highlights good practices in preventative health care and sustainable feed.

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Key areas of good practice
Management:

Grass silage is made on the farm and fed to the cows in the fields during the winter. Silage production is uncommon in the region but of great importance as providing feed reduces the effects of over–grazing on the pastures. The silage is mixed with a small quantity of hay and fed on the floor in the fields by a tractor and feeder wagon, which has drastically reduced the time staff spend feeding the cows over winter.

100 hectares of cereals and 100 hectares of grassland are used to grow feed for the cattle. This practice decreases the quantity of purchased feeds and allow the farm to become more self–sufficient, helping to protect the business from volatile and rising feed prices.

Animal health and welfare:

A strict health and vaccination programme is practiced which is key to maintaining and improving the overall health of the herd. Vaccination and parasite treatment of the whole herd commences in February when risk is high. Replacement heifers are also vaccinated for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

The suckler cows are cross–bred between a robust, local breed called “Morucha” (dam line), and a Limousin or Charolais bull. The aim is to produce hardy cows that are calm and easy to handle, calve easily and show good mothering ability. This cross breed is better able to cope with the hot summer climate and the limited resource available.

Environment:

Through careful management the unique landscape of the ‘Dehesa’ is maintained and protected. Another advantage of this system is that it allows the cows and calves to be grazed outside all year round, which contributes to sustainable beef production.

The farm is home to several hundred trees – both the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) and the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex). A regime of planting saplings has been implemented to help with the natural regeneration of trees. The farm’s older mature trees are also pruned and cut back to ensure they remain healthy and productive. This policy helps to ensure that the natural habitat of the ‘Dehesa’ is maintained over the long–term.

The farm contains and manages several ‘high conservation areas’, which provide important habitats for several species of birds and mammals. There is also a small island in a nearby lake that provides sanctuary for over 6,000 cranes which visit the area every year.