An Economic Analysis of Transhumance in the Central Spanish Pyrenees

By Roads Less Travelled

The ecological and risk -management rationales for livestock mobility are well established. Yet, few studies evaluate the economic benefits and costs of maintaining or resuming mobile, extensive livestock production compared to sedentary or semi-extensive production. Here, we empirically evaluate pastoralists’ claims that transhumance, a specific type of long-distance herd mobility, is a more profitable system compared to semi-extensive production in the Central Spanish Pyrenees. Specifically, we use enterprise budget data from transhumant and semi-extensive operations to develop a baseline typical sheep operation budget. We then use partial budget analysis coupled with economic simulations to determine the conditions under which transhumance by truck or on foot becomes profitable relative to semi-extensive production.

We find that transhumance by foot is more profitable than transhumance by truck and that relative profitability compared to semi-extensive production depends on operational scale, feed prices, and the lambing rates (productivity) of each system. Over all simulated scenarios, transhumance is more profitable 64–78% of the time. This analysis thus provides initial evidence of the economic rationality of transhumance under contemporary environmental and economic conditions, filling a notable gap in research on the economics of transhumance.

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