Making herd protection possible in Austria

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Together with stakeholders and experts, LIFEstockProtect has worked out ways to improve the framework conditions for livestock protection in Austria. The recommendations are intended to help decision-makers to create more favorable conditions for the implementation of livestock protection.

Identify challenges

The aim of the LIFEstockProtect project is to promote knowledge about livestock protection and its active implementation in the German-speaking Alpine region (the EU) and thereby improve coexistence with wolves. In addition to the practical know-how that is imparted to farmers in training courses, the project also includes the involvement of interest groups to identify obstacles to the implementation of livestock protection. To this end, workshops were held in all project regions in the fall of 2022 together with practitioners from different areas of agriculture (grazing animal husbandry, alpine pasture management, shepherding, administration). The central fields of action for improving the framework conditions for livestock protection were developed. The following challenges were identified in Austria:

  1. Personnel
  2. Financing
  3. Legal aspects
  4. Consulting

Expert workshops to find solutions

Solutions for the challenges in Austria were formulated in two further workshops with livestock protection advisors. These include the establishment of national shepherd training outside of agricultural training, improvements to funding and harmonization of funding for the implementation of livestock protection measures, the creation of a secure legal framework and the expansion of livestock protection advice by national institutions.

Train shepherds and pay them a fair wage

The transformation from free grazing to managed grazing on alpine pastures is becoming increasingly urgent due to the return of large predators and climate change. Managed grazing with herd protection measures requires qualified personnel who must be adequately remunerated for their demanding work and provided with good working conditions (e.g. suitable accommodation). The experts emphasize that this is the only way to ensure the continuity of the herding staff, which is of great importance for alpine pasture management. A collective agreement for herders would be a suitable means of ensuring fair pay.

This would also be useful in order to finally establish shepherding as an officially recognized profession, which is still not the case (in contrast to Bavaria, where there is training for shepherds). But this also requires appropriate training. For a few years now, it has been possible to complete training at the Grabnerhof Agricultural College (Styria) to become a skilled agricultural worker specializing in alpine pasturing and herding, which also includes a module on herd protection. However, shepherds often come from a non-agricultural context. In the expert workshops, nationally organized pastoral training that is open to all was therefore cited as a key prerequisite for ensuring a sufficient number of competent pastoral staff.

Securing funding and coordinating nationally

Several proposals for improving financial support for livestock protection were developed in the workshop with the experts. On the one hand, it would make sense to convert the previously widely differing subsidy payments for technical livestock protection (i.e. electrified fences) of the federal states to nationally harmonized subsidy rates and also to consider the additional costs for the maintenance of livestock protection fences. Secondly, the funding rates must be geared towards ensuring that the declared objectives are achieved. The objectives of the alpine pasture and herding measure (including keeping the cultural landscape open, protection against overgrazing, reduction of soil erosion, protection against natural hazards) cannot be achieved with the current low level of support.

Comprehensive support is required for the implementation of guided pasture management and the implementation of herd protection measures by qualified shepherds.
by the public sector. Whether this is done through a special support program of a federal ministry, within ÖPUL (e.g. increasing the existing premium) or by the federal states themselves is a matter for the responsible politicians. It is important that herding with controlled grazing is made possible by the support system. The overall social benefits of this form of management should be taken into account when calculating costs.

Report for decision-makers

The results of the workshop were summarized in a report, which forms the basis for discussions with decision-makers. The report is transparently available online for everyone:

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