On a mission to raise awareness of Native Mallorcan Cattle Photographer Magdalena Puigserver has documented the breed and the people who have saved it from the brink of extinction.
A breed on the brink of extinction
The story begins around 1980 when the existence of a small number of cattle kept on farms in the Northern Mountain Range of the Tramuntana, displayed distinct morphological characteristics that differentiated them from cattle reared on conventional farms of Mallorca. It was at this moment that a conscious movement towards the preservation of indigenous breeds of Mallorca began.
A group of young and enthusiastic professionals, such as agronomists and veterinarians, as well as agriculturists and farmers realised that the breed could be on the brink of extinction and thus with the help of eager hikers they found what they believed to be the last remaining population consisting of eleven cows and a bull.
Rebuilding from the foundations up
The road was not an easy one, it took almost 20 years to catalogue existing stock and gather farmer’s testimonies in order to understand what the meaning of a native Mallorcan breed of cattle really meant. The farmer’s testimonies along with bibliographical searches and the observational skills of those involved, were key in the classification of this supposed extinct breed and subsequently engaged the interest of the officials.
The recuperation process began with the rehabilitation of the cattle to appropriate habitats and consequently successful reproduction, making sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid consanguinity.
In June of 1999, the acknowledgement of an indigenous breed of cattle from Mallorca was published by the Balearic Council of Agriculture.
A revival of fortunes
Currently dispersed throughout the stud farms there are 302 cows and 18 bulls. If we include heifers, calves and steers the actual number increases to 550 cattle. There are 37 operating farms throughout Mallorca, all of varying sizes, the largest operating with over 80 cattle.
The association involved in the repopulation of the Mallorca breed is persuading the governing bodies that the pasturing of these cattle in their natural habitats (mountains, bush land and marine areas) could help keep forest fires in check.
The commercialisation of the meat is currently underway and is classified as a product of celebrated quality. The breed itself along with a natural lactation period in the mountains and a wholesome feed of local grain and beans means that the meat is extraordinarily tender and flavoursome.
The meat is marketed as locally sourced, slow food and some of the farmers come under Organic Produce certification.
The association known as Breeders of Mallorcan Cattle follow a strict code of regulations to ensure the preservation. The genealogical line is documented by a group of veterinarians, who closely manage the stud farms to avoid consanguinities and improve the genetic makeup of the cattle.
It looks to be a bright future for this breed, despite having been on the verge of extinction we can be proud of our success in protecting our farming heritage.