Reinforced herds after fire to save Serra da Estrela cheese

The National Association of Sheep Breeders Serra da Estrela (ANCOSE) has reinforced the herds of 400 sheep and expects to double this replenishment by 2019.

“Let’s reconstitute a little of what was there” before the fire of October 15 and 16, 2017, said the president of ANCOSE, Manuel Marques.

Admitting to be “a little more optimistic” than in the months following the tragedy that decimated thousands of animals of the indigenous races, whose dairy product is protected with protected designation of origin (DOP) Serra da Estrela, he said that “there was a 20 to 30% decrease in production “.

However, “the quality of the PDO cheese was not greatly impaired”, despite the scarcity of natural pastures associated with the devastation caused by fire in several municipalities in the demarcated region, both in fields and in forest areas.

In many cases, shepherds had to resort to straw and feed to feed the sheep of the “churra mondegueira” and “bordaleira Serra da Estrela” breeds while the pastures did not recompose.

So far, ANCOSE has “distributed about 400 weaned lambs” for future breeding by members who have lost their fire or want to increase their herds.

“And we will put 400 more in between 2018 and 2019,” said the lawyer Manuel Marques, explaining that the association’s efforts, based in Oliveira do Hospital, Coimbra district, are similar initiatives of other entities and the creators themselves.

The ANCOSE president revealed that, to the surprise of the herdsmen, “there was an increase in milk production” last spring, which may have resulted from the prolonged rainfall and the consequent rebirth of the pastures in the burned areas, namely in the months of April , may and June.

Although this year’s production of Serra da Estrela DOP cheese has been affected by the fires, this year in general “the response was fulfilled” to the distribution chains that commercialize this food of recognized quality in Portugal and abroad.

Manuel Marques understands, however, that the State must “take measures that encourage” the breeding of sheep breeds of Serra da Estrela, in order to avoid their disappearance.

In this regard, “governments have been amorphous,” since regional sheep can, on average, produce two liters of milk a day, far short of the capacity of the exotic breeds, which doubles.

“Impoverishing happily is already there,” warned the president of ANCOSE, clarifying that the exotic assure the shepherds greater productions, “but the quality of milk is not the same.”

In his opinion, “the Government has to get down to work, must take quick positions” so that this genuine product does not go out.

Due to the low production of Serra da Estrela DOP cheese, generally linked to family farming, since October 15, 2017, there has been “an exponential increase” in the number of competing industrial projects, said Manuel Marques.

The fire that erupted a year ago in the municipality of Lousã, in the district of Coimbra, spread to other municipalities in the central region, decimated thousands of domestic and wild animals, including sheep and goats, destroyed agricultural and forestry farms, industries, housing and public infrastructure .

Fifty people were killed and 70 wounded in the aftermath of the October 15 and 16 fires, which also totally or partially destroyed some 1,500 homes and more than 500 companies.

Of the 50 deaths, 25 occurred in the district of Coimbra (13 in Oliveira do Hospital and 12 in the municipalities of Arganil, Pampilhosa da Serra, Penacova and Tábua) and 17 in Viseu (Carregal do Sal, Mortágua, Nelas , Oliveira de Frades, Santa Comba Dão and Tondela).

The remaining deaths were recorded on the motorway linking Aveiro to Vilar Formoso (A25), in Sever do Vouga (Aveiro) and Pinhel (Guarda) areas, and in the municipality of Seia (Guarda).

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