When I met Pep Maria the other day, he was out shepherding his flock of about 220 sheep not far from the village of Ca’s Concos des Cavaller. We got talking. The friendly Mallorcan pagès (farmer) told me that he had a few more years left to mind his corderos before he retired at the age of 65. When asked, he informed me that sheep breeding in Mallorca has recently turned from a normal business into one of deficit and headache. He breeds for meat. Not long ago, one live cordero would sell for 70 € a piece, whereas today he only makes 30 to 35 € on a sale. According to him, the problem lies in the small size of Mallorcan smallholdings and in the fierce competition from abroad, namely from Australia and New Zealand, where sheep farming is done on a massively big industrial scale. Pep Maria reckons that he’ll be one of the last shepherds in Mallorca, certainly one of the last generation of sheep farmers. The younger generation is not interested in the arduous career of a shepherd or a campesino in general for the simple reason that this profession does not feed the farmer any longer. The overheads are too high, taxes, petrol, land lease etc. are forever on the increase. Pep Maria’s offspring work as electrician, car mechanics and plumber where the income is higher and more reliable. None of them wants to take over the farm once he retires; even though the now shepherd tends the business in the third generation.
Pep Maria had not one little lamb. He had some 80 of them. It had been a good year for lambing this year. At least something. The flock of little lambs was not very far away, on a nearby parcela.
I certainly will be sad to not see any sheep any more in a few years from now, here in Mallorca, if Pep Maria was right.
The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 5th, 2011. The time was 16:43:45