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Shepherding contributes to heightened livestock protection in both flatlands and alpine areas. Especially in areas where fences cannot be used, livestock guarding dogs can effectively keep grazing animals from harm by carnivores.

Shepherdesses and shepherds can manage sheep as well as other animals such as goats and cattle. They take care of their health, protect them from all kinds of danger, shield them from weather changes, guide the herd to new grazing areas, build and repair fences, and help in the lambing season.

Additionally, shepherdesses and shepherds use the grazing areas sustainably, so that they are preserved in the long term. Consciously guided grazing improves biodiversity and the touristic landscape and it minimises erosion, thereby contributing to protecting the water supply and the climate.

Shepherds from Tyrol © European Wilderness Society

During shepherding, the used grazing areas, the timeframe of their grazing, all due tasks and exceptional circumstances such as sickness or accidents are recorded in a grazing diary. Shepherdesses and shepherds are involved in organisation, communication and coordination of mountain pasture managers, workers and transhumance. They have an especially important communication role in areas used by tourists, which is of high societal importance.

During the grazing season, they take care of all this responsibly, on a daily basis in all weathers, presently in usually very basic living conditions.

They benefit from their all-encompassing knowledge about livestock, wild animals and the use of working dogs. In cases of illness or injury, they must take care of their animals and when necessary, be able to effectively save them. The knowledge of rights and responsibilities, guided grazing, feeding dogs and livestock, and alpine conditions, is vital. This also includes developing a sense for dangerous situations, as well as raed the behaviour of dogs and livestock, and making decisions accordingly.

Due to the potential presence of large carnivores across Europe, new night pens must be regularly set up on appropriate terrain, as close as possible to where the shepherdess or shepherd is staying, and correctly erected and electrified to protecct the herd overnight. If no livestock guarding dogs are present, a night watch may be necessary in acutely dangerous circumstances. For the safety and comfort of the animals, a bad weather pen may sometimes be necessary during the day. Shepherds/shepherdesses and herding dogs keep the herd together. This lightens the work of the livestock guarding dogs. All these measures are very labour-intensive and require a high physical burden from people and animals, as well as knowledge-based decision-making abilities. Depending on the size of the herd and the terrain, multiple shepherdesses and shepherds, as well as working dogs, should be available on reserve.

Therefore, society should value shepherding enough to recognise it with fair wages, modern accommodation, insurance cover, professional training, as well as respect and understanding.

This is about sheep and goats. This is about those animals that a shepherd has invested his whole life in, to make every day worth living.

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