As part of the LIFEstockProtect project, the HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein is a competence centre which organised a training course for 50 students and 3 teachers. Some of the students take over the farm or come to various institutes where decisions or advice for agriculture is needed. The content of the course was the new challenges in pasture and alpine farming with a focus on fencing.
Learning with practical examples
Using examples from their own farms, the students demonstrated the problems of alpine pasture and rangeland management. One priority issue is global warming with its effects on water balance, forage quantity and forage quality over the course of the grazing period. Pathogens at higher altitudes and increasing scrub encroachment due to declining stocking rates also play a role in many alpine pastures. Another problem is that qualified staff for alpine pasture management is hard to find or it is not affordable for small alpine pastures. And now the large predators are returning to stay.
The effects of this and why we have to protect our livestock are shown by the population sizes of the large predators in neighbouring countries as well as here. That the wolf, as the most mobile species, has the greatest dispersal potential is proven by the livestock attacks in the different regions of Austria.
According to the students’ opinions, fencing off the entire alpine pastures is not a solution, which is why new strategies, such as shepherding or the use of guard dogs, must be worked on. In addition to the protection of livestock, there must also be management for the large predators, otherwise their return will be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back and farms will give up alpine pasture farming, or even worse, close their barn doors. All participants demanded more support and help in this area.
The course participants agreed that herd protection should take place where it can be implemented immediately. In valley pastures, 40 % of the cracks take place, which should be stopped. The existing fences should be built or improved according to the standards of technical herd protection of the Austrian Centre for Bear, Wolf and Lynx. For this purpose, the fence construction with T-posts was practised, which has the necessary power supply and earthing.