How important is cattle ranching in the Llanos?
The Llanos occupies four departments (the equivalent of states) in Colombia. In Casanare, the department we visited, there are 12,500 ranches and 1.6 million cows. Ranching isn't part of the culture, it is the culture.
Round-up at La Esperanza. The ranches are big, but the cows are frequently brought into corrals to be treated for insects.
Talk about being born into ranching. Four-year-old Chucho rides in the round-up. When he needs a nap, he just sleeps in the saddle.
Ranches are remote, and there are few roads, so all meat is local. Chickens and pigs--in various degrees of wildness--roam all around the ranch.
A couple of cows are kept for milk; whole milk mixed with various fruit juices is a favored Colombian treat.
The Nature Conservancy is exploring the use of minerals and forage banks to raise more cows on less acres, allowing for some areas--such as river corridors--to be kept out of grazing.
How will this ranching tradition fare with increased energy development? Here, an oil well looms behind grazing cattle.
Working with ranchers, The Nature Conservancy hopes to preserve both their traditions and the wildlife that still roam these wild lands.