Case Study

A cooperative practicing transhumance


A cooperative practicing transhumance


1. Introduction

‘Los Apisquillos cooperative’ carries out its agro-silvicultural activity in Puebla de la Sierra. The cooperative has around 400 animals, mainly of endangered breeds. It sells primarily meat to consumer groups or to end consumers, but the cooperate is now prepared to also sell cheese and yoghourt, as these products are more demanded.

2. Basic information

Main promoter

Los Apisquillos cooperative

Start of the practice



Puebla de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain

Organisations involved
  • Cooperative(s)
Total surface of land farmed in ha
  • 500 ha
Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • Rented public land: 480 ha
  • Cooperative(s) land: 20 ha
  • La Casa de Campo, the largest public park in Madrid with an area of 1,722.6 ha.
Basic produce
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Yoghourt
  • Main farm


  • Pastures


3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

In 2000, the cooperative started its activity. Among the cooperative’s founding members were agronomists, foresters, veterinarians, and biologists. They were familiar with Puebla de la Sierra where the farm is located because they had worked in the firefighting units. In addition, Cristina, one of the founding members, was from Puebla de Sierra and her family had a long tradition in livestock husbandry. When the activity started, the cooperative moved its animals several kilometres in the meadows of the municipality which are located at different altitudes. In 2018, the cooperative started a transhumance activity that covers longer distances. After signing a contract with Madrid municipality, the animals were moved around 100 km to La Casa de Campo. The cooperative has a small residence in La Casa de Campo. Since La Casa de Campo is a public park and not agricultural land, the cooperative does not receive support for the land through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The sheep graze on the summer and autumn pastures of Sierra del Rincón, and during winter, they feed on the pastures and acorns of La Casa de Campo. Additional fodder is only provided in case of necessity.

The beginnings were difficult, as the cooperative lacked economic resources and had no infrastructure to develop a livestock cooperative. With the aid of young farmers, the cooperative bought 400 sheep, one of the last flocks of blond sheep in Molar and, a year later, a flock of 300 goats from a goatherd in the village. The cooperative also has chickens, pigs and several vegetable gardens, which complement the group’s economy for self-consumption.

In addition to buying livestock, the cooperative purchased an old house in the village of Puebla de la Sierra to serve as a residence for the cooperative members. The cooperative built a new house, preserving the original old stone walls with recycled materials. The economic cost was small, but the amount of work required was enormous.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type
Animal type/ breed

Traditional, autochthone: ‘Rubia del Molar’ sheep, Black Castilian sheep, and native and endangered Guadarrama goats

Movement patterns

The cooperative moves the herd horizontally, among its own and communal pastures, and vertically, taking the cattle to the municipal mount of La Casa de Campo, in the city of Madrid. All movements are made on foot, taking advantage of the pastures and paths that the herd finds.

Kind of cooperation

Decision-making is done by consensus, a method with a long tradition. The cooperative communally manages the organisation of work and the economy. The principle that governs the group is ‘to each according to his/her needs’. These needs are defined collectively. The cooperative pays no salary (nor allowance) but has a fund to which everyone can have recourse. Each member takes what he/she needs and writes down what he/she has taken. There are no timetables or vacations.

Markets addressed/ product selling

The main product is meat. The cooperative attempts to sell all meat directly to consumers. Any remaining unsold products are sold to slaughterhouses or butchers, but without an organic certification. The cooperative also sells cheese to consumers during some months.

Shearing complements the group economy. In spring, the members of the ‘Los Apisquillos cooperative’ leave Puebla de la Sierra and go to different towns in Madrid and Guadalajara to shear numerous flocks. Thereby, they recover the tradition of sheep shearing which is almost forgotten because of the low price of wool.

Threats & challenges

To sell meat is becoming more and more challenging. Meat consumption declines strongly in the older generations and is increasingly controversial with the rise of veganism. Red meat consumption is linked to unhealthy diets. Livestock farming is associated with animal cruelty and environmental problems without distinguishing between production methods. Intensive and extensive systems are lumped together without considering the positive externalities of traditional grazing. Bureaucracy is overwhelming and requires a lot of paperwork. A lot of research and projects are carried out, but little of those activities result in practical applications that are useful for farmers and facilitate their work. Environmental policies that seek to rewild natural systems do not make sense in ecosystems that have been sustainably managed by humans for hundreds of years, such as the ‘dehesas’.

5. Decisions taken


The motivations that led the members of the cooperative to join the cooperative and to practice transhumance are diverse. However, the rejection of wage labour, the desire to reclaim peasant culture, be in touch with the land, and strip away all the superficial aspects of the society unite the members.

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

The cooperative wanted to help recover an autochthonous breed well adapted to the area. The breed is a milk-producing breed, as the idea of producing cheese and other products has always been considered the best. The cooperative’s production system consists of two herds: one of endangered native ‘Rubia del Molar’ sheep and black Castilian sheep and another of mostly endangered native Guadarrama goats.

Decision for the production system

The production system is entirely extensive, focusing on agroecological livestock production based on the village’s traditional silvopastoral model. Grazing on communal pastures and browsing form the foundation of the diet. Grazing and browsing is supplemented with organic grains from the region during peak demand periods. Additionally, the cooperative maintains vegetable gardens, pigs, and beehives for self-consumption, complementing their overall production.

Diversification of income

The cooperative has multiple sources of income. Income sources include subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), revenue generated from the sale of meat and dairy products, small payments for creating firebreaks with livestock, and income from shearing other flocks.

Multifunctional aspects

The cooperative aims to revitalise abandoned landscapes where many properties are no longer permanently inhabited and solely used for tourism. Much of the abandoned land has been planted with pine trees for industrial purposes. Thereby, trees species more appropriate for the area such as oak have been neglected. 

The cooperative collaborates with the Shepherd School. The cooperative offers practical classes on shearing and sheepdog training, as well as providing internship opportunities for aspiring shepherds. The cooperative also carries out a project with school groups in La Casa de Campo. Due to the low livestock density, overgrazing is avoided. Thereby, the practice contributes to the regeneration of the ‘dehesas’ while fertilizing the fields.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

Members of the cooperative have studied veterinary and agronomy. One member comes from a family with tradition in livestock husbandry.

7. Next steps to move on

The cooperative sells everything through consumer groups. Products that haven’t been sold are taken to the regular market. Despite producing organically, the production has not been certificated due to the costs. The lack of a certificate makes the products less valuable in the market.

The cooperative wants to focus more on value-added products based on milk. The members of the cooperative have been working with and investing in a building to set up a cheese dairy. Dealing with the permit process has been very challenging. The cooperative wants to automate the milking process. However, automated milking would require less mobility. Technology that would allow for more mobility is available, but it’s expensive.

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

To live where you want, how you want, and by your principles is the biggest revenue. The members of the cooperative greatly enjoy sharing their project, educating people, and promoting pastoralism.

They recommend working with a team when dealing with extensive livestock production, as it impossible to do everything on your own. You need to have people to rely on. Pastures are essential. With this type of production, you need to sell directly to the consumer, whether through consumer groups, restaurants, or directly to the end consumer. You must carefully plan where to take the livestock for slaughter and butchering. It’s a complex world. The logistics of delivering the production can be challenging, requiring permits, infrastructure, vehicles, and facilities.