The Albera cow lives in almost total freedom feeding mainly from the vegetation of the forests and meadows through which it roams. Its population is concentrated in the ‘Paraje Natural de Interés Nacional de la Albera’ (La Albera Protected Nature Park), in the northeast of the Alt Emporda. Cows have been a feature of the landscape for centuries and they were already mentioned in a document granting grazing rights to the monks of Vallbona, back in 1148.
The Albera is a catalan local breed, strong, resilient, agile and small in stature with strong limbs and well-defined joints that allow to move on very rough terrain and also provides a quick adaptation to our biodynamic farm where they share it with other animals wichs are also native to the Catalan territory, and like it, have an important daily tasks in our plots. We have horses that help us to plow, bees taht are a natural bio-indicators, pollinate our forests and vineyards and make honey too, the “ripollesa” sheep breed that hold our vegetable covers up in the vineyards, and the pelegrin falcons that only com to the farm some weeks to control grapes diminish before the harvest begins.
These cows are very useful for clearing forests and, consequently, for fire prevention. Thier diet focus specially in twigs, small branches, shoots, tree fruits and grasses, in other words, they feed on the remains they fins on the floor of forests and pasture-land, at the same time their own weight flat the undetgrowth which is very helpful in fires. We can’t forget that Penedes region has a Mediterranean climate, and unfortunately, fires are becoming more and more frequent.
Grasslands do not eliminate fires, although they have proved to be relevant in fighting them. Several studies have concluded that herbivores, such as the Albera cow, are very useful in helping to prevent fires and slow their spread, since the cleaning work they do throughout the year reduces the fuel load and, in the event of a forest fire, will advance more slowly and reduce the area burned, while facilitating the work of firefighting teams.
Its non-relevant meat aptitude has made it a breed in frank regression. Calf production is very poor, one calf every two years. The current census reaches little more than 400 specimens, which places this breed in danger of extinction.
Gramona has been benefiting from their valuable contribution since 2012. A small herd has been responsible for clearing the woods surrounding our vineyards, bringing life and balance to our lands. Through its presence, we are attempting to achieve one of the three basic principles of biodynamics: to encourage the interrelationship of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms.
With the fresh dung from the pregnant cows, we make preparation 500 and the Maria Thun, a preparation of feces which is left to mature in horns buried about 50 cm below the ground. These preparations are used for activating microorganisms in the soil and stimulate the growth of the main roots and capillaries which help the absorption of minerals. They also reinforce the process humus formation in the soil. The preparation 500 is made and buried during the autumn equinox, left to mature for 6 months and then dug up after the spring equinox. It is applied directly to the soil throughout the field after being dissolved in water and dynamized.
We have welcomed these cows onto our lands, where they have made themselves at home, as part of a recovery programme. Today the herd is made up of 12 +1 calf, all born at Gramona.
These survivors of La Albera, whose existence is under threat, have found a new ally in the wine world.