Sheep Grazing Project on Adige dyke: Sustainable Transhumance in South Tyrol

This post is also available in: Deutsch Italiano

The sheep nibble off the green tips of grasses and plants, it is still quite brown and dry on the Adige dyke between Bolzano and Pfatten. Daniel and Sandra run a kind of transhumance along the Adige, where the cycle path also passes: since December, they have been reducing the vegetation on the embankments and allowing the dried grass to be eaten away. Their 150 sheep (of the Jezersko–Solčava breed) stay outside with their lambs and guarding dogs and forage for themselves, spending the summer on a high alpine pasture and the rest of the year on the dam. Unless there is a lot of snow, which rarely happens in the lower Adige Valley in South Tyrol. Shepherdess and shepherd stand with the flock from morning to evening, he at the upper end, she at the lower or vice versa. They send the black Lagorai dogs back and forth to keep the sheep from sticking their heads into the vineyard or slipping through the crash barriers of the road.

Once the sheep have eaten a patch, the shepherds set off for the next section. Daniel walks at the front, in front of him and next to him his dark guarding dog Pastore della Sila and some herding dogs, followed by the sheep, the lambs, a few goats that are there to nurse the twin lambs and the donkey. It carries fence rolls or very small lambs when the flock is moving on steep terrain. In the middle of the herd trots the older dog, a Maremmano Abruzzese, behind the ewes with their offspring and a lamb with a splinted leg. Sandra makes sure that nobody is left behind.

A trace of the sheep train remains! Brown beads, they shine in the sun. A cyclist gets upset about this, but Daniel, who never says a word too much, comments: “These are our carnival confetti, 100% biodegradable!” Sandra has already activated the blower to fling the droppings from the cycle path into the road embankment. Gone are the days when farmers had to take contractual detours so that their herds could fertilise their fields, meadows and pastures.

Grazing at the Adige dam is a pilot project of the Office for Torrent and Avalanche Control South, Autonomous Province of Bolzano-South Tyrol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *