Livestock protection conference 2022

Following the successful online conference on livestock protection in Bavaria, LIFEstockProtect has made the presentations available.

LIFEstockProtect: Livestock protection in Bavaria, South Tyrol and Austria

Max Rossberg, who is responsible for the overall management of the project, gave an insight and overview of the project itself as well as the multiregional partnership in Bavaria, Austria and Italy. He reported on the demands of the project as well as outstanding and resolved issues. A key focus of the project is the networking of livestock farmers, as well as the exchange and joint development with experience and knowledge exchange.

Cattle farming in Bavaria

Siegfried Steinberger from the Bavarian State Office for the Environment gave a good overview of cattle farming in Bavaria and its development regarding the importance of grazing. There has been a general decrease of 40% in cattle farms in the past few years, and in the same time period the number of individual farms decreased by 10%. Due to various regulations and humane husbandry conditions, letting livestock graze is becoming more significant. For cattle farming, correct fencing, safety for humans and animals, and livestock protection, are gaining importance. „Born to graze“ on Mr Steinberger’s final slide is a good title for the living conditions of cattle, the significance of their keep and environment.

Effectiveness of cattle protection from wolves

Dr. Igor Khorozyan, former staff member at the University of Göttingen and freelance advisor for mammal biology and conservation, presented his study on the effectiveness of livestock protection for cattle from wolves. As such, results from different regions were pulled together and analysed accordingly. This only covered non-lethal management methods regarding cattle. The use of LGDs, shepherding, fences, repellants through sound or warning tape, as well as combinations of these methods, were considered. The implementation of shepherds and working dogs is effective; however, there were many contributing factors, including herd management in regards to births on the pasture.

Livestock protection in dairy cattle farming

Norbert Böhmer, dairy farmer and self-marketer from Upper Franconia, gave an insight into his daily working schedule in an interview with Martin Hermle. Following depredations and disturbances in his herds, he is working with LGDs and a good fence system. He discussed the beginnings, orientation, many excursions and visits, as well as the challenging socialisation of cattle and cows due to previous disturbances. Böhmer also considers the knowledge and inclusion of local authorities, communities, neighbourhoods and perpetual dialogue irreplaceable. Prejudices can thereby be confronted and resolved. Today, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs live on the pastures and in the stables with the cattle all year round. One thing that Norbert Böhmer finds challenging concerns livestock protection fences. A farmer could get them subsidised within the Bavarian funding framework, but is still charged with substantial extra costs and personal contributions, needing many hours of support from Wikiwolves volunteers.

Horse farming in Bavaria

As a horse owner and representative of the Union of Amateur Riders Germany (Bavaria), Sabrina Ostfalk from the Oberfranken stable provided an overview of the different horse keeping approaches in Bavaria. Bavaria does not fall behind other “typical” horse states in Germany in number of horses kept. Most of the horses are not used as livestock in a classical sense; rather, they are kept for sport, breeding and pursuit of hobbies. They have a high emotional value for their owners. Horse farming also play a role in agricultural land use through grazing of meadows and fields. The pros and cons of various “housing” conditions, from boxes to open stables, were presented. As is the case in cattle farming, grazing horses are becoming more significant. With regards to the presence of wolves, Ostfalk brought a few points into consideration, with a smooth transition to the next presenter.

Cattle and horses in wolf territories; adaptation of the herd

A presentation by Simone Angelucci from the National Park of Majella in Abruzzo nicely rounded off the day. 10 wolf packs live in the park, but sheep and goats graze freely and are accompanied by shepherds and dogs (mainly LGDs). Depredations cannot be completely prevented, but the protection measures make pastoral grazing possible.

Horse behaviour in presence of wolves

Prof. Konstanze Krüger from the Nürtingen-Geislingen University, discussed the behaviour of horses in the presence of wolves. She illuminated the behaviour as well as the dangers for wild horses. 11 different carnivore species include equines in their diet and therefore present a danger to horses. Foals, colts and fillies are particularly vulnerable. A good herd structure and watchful grown animals form a good protection against attacks. If you expose domestic horses to wolf scent, they show an increased attention span, but are not agitated. With wolf howls, too, heart rate and stress hormone levels rise only minimally. They quickly become accustomed to the stimulants. The breed of the horses plays a role in their reaction to stressors. Thoroughbreds show a stronger reaction than warmbloods. A general observation is that horses decrease their movement and distance to each other and are more alert when uneasy (due to noise, wild animal presence etc.). Studies with GPS collars and camera traps give an insight into their behaviour. In observations in wolf areas, no marked changes in the behaviour or reactions (e.g. excessive perspiration) of horses on pastures could be determined over a period of seven years despite the presence of wolves and other wild animals. As protection measures, keeping animals in the stable at night, repelling fences, and the use of livestock guarding dogs were introduced as most effective.

Project Horse and Wolf VFD

Sonja Schütz from VFD Bundesverband presented the “Horse and Wolf Project”, which many organisations and institutions have joined under Euro Large Carnivore. With the help of information activities, the knowledge about wolves, their behaviour and protection measures for horses is to be scientifically founded and factually disseminated to livestock ownerse. Videos, information stalls, brochures, trainings and an active internet presence have been created. Feedback shows that the majority of horse owners are interested and open to the topic of livestock protection.

Livestock protection EU funding opportunities through the first and second pillars of CAP and ERDF

Katrina Marsden, adelphi, gave information on the EU platform for coexistence of humans and large carnivores, as well as the complex area of livestock protection subsidies, funds and opportunities from the EU (CAP/Common Agricultural Policy.) Livestock protection subsidies can be claimed through the second pillar for cofinancing. Grazing premiums, material, shepherding, use of working dogs (purchase and running costs) and technical support can be financed. Individual countries claim these opportunies in different ways. Updates for 2023-2027 were presented.

Livestock protection implementation and financing in France

Pascal Grosjean from the Direction regionale de iálimentation de lágriculture et la foret, joined the discussion in terms of subsidy possibilities, with particular regard to the approach and implementation in France, and gave an example of the scenarios in which the funds could be used. He also referred to carnivore populations, damages, livestock protection and wolf management. Since 2019, at least two protection measures (LGDs, shepherding, electric fencing) must be implemented in regions with high wolf pressures. Livestock protection measures are subsidised for sheep and goats. 30.42 million Euro were used for this in 2021 for 33 possible departments. Shooting wolves is only allowed by strict criteria (no satisfactory alternative, upholding a viable poulation, prevention of severe damages). In 2021, 112 wolves were killed legally. In the future, a database for livestock guarding dogs will be introduced for better work, and monitoring of wolves will be improved.

Discussion round on livestock protection subsidies

The discussion round on livestock protection subsidies began with a quick overview from the regions of South Tyrol (Konrad Pfattner, Office for Mountain Economy), Bavaria (Florian Thurnbauer, Office for Food, Agriculture and Forestry) and Austria (Klaus Pogadl, Office of the Salzburg State Government).

Livestock protection on embankments and slopes

Prof. Markus Röhl (University of Nürtingen) gave an insight into the project “Livestock potection on embankments and slopes” (R&D projects; commissioned by the Federal Agency for Nature Protection). In this project, farms with challenging topographies or demands e.g. tourism, were visited and documented. An image comparison shows that wolf presence in Germany occurs in flat (and therefore potentially easily protected) areas. Generally speaking, low and high mountain areas have hardly been resettled by wolves. Slope, relief, and soil quality, as well as use by tourists, are challenges in livestock protection. Prof. Roehl displayed the challenges farms with embankments or steep slopes experience. Possible solutions or facilitations were named (grounding, ditches, warning app for wolf sightings etc.). Pros and cons of protection measures and support measures (costs, prerequisites for implementation) were listed. Exceptional locations, which are usually meant to be grazed due to water and nature conservation, are associated with higher efforts.

Fence building on difficult terrain – Kleinrechenbergalm as an example

Dr. Christian Mendel from the State Office for Agriculture in Grub presented the principle of grazing and challenges of such on a mountain pasture in Unterwössen. Many years ago, alpine “Steinschaf” breeders came together to properly raise young rams and thereby improve the breeding performance criteria. The pastures are fenced according to livestock protection criteria. This is associated with higher effort (care, winter issues etc.). The community of breeders supports these efforts.

Interview: Livestock protection in the Stelvio Pass

A short interview with leading shepherd Thomas Schranz (Tyrol) and mountain pasture owner Josef Ortler provided an insight into the challenges of grazing in the Stelvio Pass, and was conducted by Max Rossberg (European Wilderness Society) and Julia Stauder (Eurac). The 2022 season involved a herd of sheep, a few goats, LGDs and a shepherdess. Schranz and Ortler reported on the challenges in preparation and execution. The year went well with few incidents. One lamb that strayed outside the herd did fall victim to a wolf.

Life of a shepherdess

Shepherdess Celia Martinez Aragon talked about her grazing experience and life as a shepherdess in the Stelvio Pass. Although she does not originally come from an agricultural background, she has been interested in this challenge for years. After extensive training, she is increasing and sharing her knowledge on livestock and working dogs. She especially values cooperation and exchange between urban and rural populations.

AG Herdenschutzhunde e.V.

The chairman of the AG Herdenschutzhunde, Knut Kucznik, presented his work with livestock guarding dogs in the middle of a wolf area in Brandenburg. Livestock guarding dogs are implemented with various animals, from chickens to horses, but a particular challenge is presented when introducing them to work with cattle. LGDs work well, but sound knowledge, training and guidance is vital.

Volunteer project Pasturs

Mauro Belardi, ELIANTE, talked about the volunteer work in „Pasturs“. Here, volunteers are trained to give their support on farms and pastures for long periods. Board and accommodation for the volunteers are covered by the livestock owner. ELIANTE organises the training and service. As long as at least one livestock protection measure is put in place! The helpers support in the daily routine of the shepherd. They also help communicate with tourists, and the cooperation of volunteer and shepherd is important to foster mutual understanding.

Mowing robots with electric fences

Oliver Häußler, a student at the Hochschule Weihenstephan/Triesdorf, presented a project on the optimal use of mowing robots with fences. Two different models were used and their possible applications tested in the field. Challenges such as independent mowing along the perimeter, terrain condition etc. were presented. An interesting calculation of the costs in comparison to the work effort by manual brush cutters was balanced. Further work and topics can follow as soon as there is sufficient demand and interest from the agricultural sector and livestock owners.

Challenges and perspectives in the conflict area of grazing livestock and wolves

To conclude the conference, Dr. Hannes König presented the Federal Centre for Livestock and Wolf, whose role and goal is to implement livestock protection on a federal level. He delved into the growth of the wolf population and the diet of wolves. It also dealt with forms of husbandry within the management of grazing animals and their significance. Damage to livestock in 2021 totalled 3374 animals killed, injured or missing, primarily sheep. Conflicts are to be minimised by cooperation of different parties.