Elsewhere in Spain, the restoration of motorable roads could help more pastoralists to resume transhumance on foot, in particular in Castile and León, a major crossing point and destination for transhumance. According to Garzón, the region did not respect the Cattle Trails Act, 1995 which protects, preserves and enhances motorable roads. Due to their condition, breeders are reluctant to use them. “I am concerned that… in almost 30 years of the law, virtually nothing has been done – no signage, no demarcation, no improvements to cattle trails,” he adds.
Differentiate from extensive grazing – when livestock are raised on natural pastures – industrial agriculture is also essential, says Peiteado. Without this distinction, “policies cannot be properly oriented in favor of pastoralism,” she said. “This characterization and differentiation… is the first step to be taken to guarantee the future of pastoralism in Spain.
On the one hand, according to Peiteado, this would allow tools such as public funds from the European Union’s common agricultural policy to ensure the socio-economic viability of extensive grazing. On the other hand, differentiation would allow consumers to support pastoralism. “The problem we have in Spain… is that when we go to buy a product on the market, as consumers, we cannot differentiate ourselves”, explains Peiteado. “There should be clear labeling that allows us to see what comes from extensive farming and what comes from factory farming, so that knowing the impacts of one model and the benefits of the other, we can Choose.”
Oteros-Rozas agrees that it is essential to recognize the true value of the product. “The shepherds say they want the product to be valued, and priced according to value… the main thing is to stop subsidizing industrial agriculture and imports of meat and dairy products from other countries… which compete unfairly with our local pastoral systems, “she says.
Defenders of pastoralism hope it will continue to carve out a place for itself in a world that has changed dramatically since the first transhumant shepherds began their journey.
“Pastoralism is that way of life adapted to the efficient use of available resources and to adapting to what exists in a way that does not harm the system and often improves it,” says Fernandez-Gimenez. “Rather than trying to get rid of them, we need to learn from them, because those lessons will be increasingly important in a changing climate and environment.”
In the mountain pastures of the Picos de Europa, Garzón and the herd spend the summer at ease, waking up to chilly mornings and occasional downpours as the rest of the country suffocates in record heat. They will stay there until the first snowfall, signaling that the time to retrace their steps south has arrived.
“The planet is facing a situation of real social and economic catastrophe,” Garzón says. “But pastoralism will survive.”
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