Dehesa Glosario Enrique Tomás

What is the Montanera?

The "montanera" is one of the key processes in the production of good ham. At Enrique Tomás, we're not only committed to crafting a great product to delight diners but also to openly share everything we know about ham.

That's why today we want to tell you about what the "montanera" is. Well, this unique term refers to the time of year when the Iberian pig feasts on fallen acorns from the oak trees to gain weight and consistency.

If you want to impress your family and friends with your knowledge of Iberian ham, pay close attention and take note of everything we're about to share about "montanera" hams.

Let's get started!


What is the "Montanera"?

The term "montanera" refers to the final phase of Iberian pig breeding, during which the pig feeds and exercises in the open pasture. It's also known as the fattening process, during which the animal grazes freely among vast forests of cork oaks, Spanish oaks, and holm oaks.


Why are holm oaks so important in Iberian pig breeding?

Because their fruit is the acorn, which, as many know, is a fundamental part of the diet for Iberian pigs destined for the production of 100% Iberian acorn-fed ham.


montanera hamIberian Pigs in the Pasture


Each "montanera" is unique, and during this period, there should be no more than 1.25 pigs per hectare to ensure they can feed and graze properly.

It's important to note that the "dehesas" (grazing lands) and wooded pasturelands are a part of the Spanish landscape, covering a total area of 3.5 to 5 million hectares distributed across 130 municipalities in Andalusia, Castile and León, Castile-La Mancha, the Community of Madrid, and Extremadura.


Stages of the "Montanera"

Although Iberian pigs roam freely during the "montanera" in the pasture, there are certain stages that must be strictly followed to achieve the desired weight.

This is why, when the animals arrive, they're taken to the higher parts of the pasture since that's where they get the most exercise and can eat and drink to their heart's content.

After completing this phase and as they gain weight, they're moved to the lower parts of the pasture. Why? Because in this area, the holm oaks and water holes are closer, and the pigs exert less effort to feed.

In the pasture, grass and acorns are often far apart, so the pigs cover a lot of ground. It's estimated that an Iberian pig can cover between 12 and 15 kilometers per day and gain around 7 to 8 kilograms daily.


Iberian pig eating

When does the "Montanera" Season Begin?

The Iberian pigs enter the "montanera" season starting on October 1st, and it lasts until the months of February and March. Why is it done during these months? Because this is the optimal period for acorn maturation. However, each season is different, and based on rainfall and temperatures, the oak trees will produce fewer or more acorns.

During the "montanera", a pig enjoys a pleasant stay where it eats freely, exercises, and sleeps. This is how they gain around 46 kilograms in a minimum period of two months, although in some cases, it can extend up to 120 days, and pigs can gain between 70 and 80 kg.


What Happens to Pigs That Don't Reach This Weight?

Pigs that don't reach the expected weight during the "montanera" continue to be raised in the field, in open areas of the farm or within the pasture, but always outside this period. Their diet shifts to include wild grass, feed (made up of cereals and legumes), and an occasional acorn, even if the acorn season has ended.

In this regard, the location of the pig depends on the space available to the farmer, though the ideal scenario is for them to continue being raised with partial or complete freedom.

It's important to note that, even if the Iberian pig doesn't reach the desired weight during the "montanera", it doesn't mean the final product will have lower quality; quite the opposite.


The image has an empty ALT attribute; its filename is que-es-la-epoca-de-montanera-1024x709.jpg

"Campo" Iberian ham comes from pigs that have also been fed on acorns freely but have completed their fattening process with feed. At Enrique Tomás, our "campo" Iberian products are identified with the typical green label and 4 stars, representing a very high-quality product but not reaching the premium level of acorn-fed Iberian ham, also known as "pata negra."

  • If you're interested in learning more about "campo" Iberian ham, we explain it in: "What is campo Iberian ham?"

Our 100% Iberian Acorn-Fed Ham

Do Iberian Pigs Only Eat Acorns During the "Montanera"?

Contrary to common belief, Iberian pigs don't solely feed on acorns, cork oaks, and other shrubs from the fagaceae family; they also need to consume grass as it's a significant source of antioxidants and helps them cleanse their mouths to continue eating more acorns.

For this reason, the farmer must find a balance between the quantity of aromatic herbs, natural grass, and acorns. This balance determines whether the animal is satisfied and receives the necessary nutrients. Additionally, grass helps the ham or shoulder stay in better condition, preventing the fat from becoming rancid.

While each Iberian pig is unique, on average, each pig consumes between 3 and 4 kg of grass per day and between 10 and 12 kg of acorns.

The unique characteristic of this breed is that it infuses fat into its lean meat while gaining weight, maintaining its ability to move, its slender legs, and its elegant shape. This is what contributes to the exceptional quality of acorn-fed Iberian ham!


Why Are Acorns So Important?

Feeding Iberian pigs with acorns is important not only for the flavor and texture it imparts to the ham but also for the nutritional properties it bestows upon the final product.

The high content of oleic acid in acorns is what keeps the cholesterol levels of Iberian pigs low. In fact, consuming acorns has a positive impact on our health, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol.


The image has an empty ALT attribute; its filename is Bellota-y-jamón-de-bellota.jpg

Selected Iberian Ham Pieces

What characterizes the ham or shoulder we offer at Enrique Tomás is that they are quality pieces pre-selected by our expert ham artisans, who have an in-depth understanding of each type of ham and its characteristics. Additionally, we adhere to very strict quality standards when selecting each ham that we offer at Enrique Tomás.

We also have a team of professionals who ensure the product goes from the drying room to your home in the best possible condition and in a fast and efficient manner.

  • What are you waiting for to buy any of our products from our online store? You won't regret it!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.