Yesterday, over 30 livestock owners, shepherds, veterinarians, forestry officers and mountain pasture managers discussed the problems and future perspectives around livestock grazing with partners of LIFEstockProtect in the cultural centre of Mals, South Tyrol. Under the moderation of Monika Arzberger, alpine pasture farming was soon identified as the area facing the most radical change in South Tyrol and Tyrol.
The return of large carnivores presents enormous challenges for mountain pastures and simultaneously brings to light many further, longstanding problems.
Shepherds talked about their experiences during the summer and underlined several points which need to be regulated better in future, in order for them to continue with their work: Shepherd huts are often nonexistent or in poor condition; pay is very low considering the working hours; additional staff needs to be recruited, in order to organise holiday and sick leave; shepherd training needs to be improved and the occupational profile as a guardian of the landscape has to be publicly valued.
Guided grazing (see definition) was requested by many of the participants as a way to better maintain the landscape, act against scrub encroachment and more efficiently implement livestock protection. In this context, different subsidy routes were intensively discussed to compensate this burden for shepherds and pastures. It quickly became clear that new concepts may need to be developed for this, and the necessity and urgency of this topic was clear to all participants.
Problems and new opportunities in the marketing of produce were also discussed. The consumer, who can support local cycles and livestock farmers with a handle on regional products, is key to this. Much educational work is needed to make the complex relationships between landscape, livestock farming, tradition and quality accessible to a public audience who is rarely exposed to these topics. Communication in the form of media appearances, cooking courses, exhibitions and environmental education at schools are just some of the suggestions mentioned within this discussion.
The LIFEstockProtect team will now bulid upon the information collected and find solutions to the aforementioned problems with representatives from politics, administration and stakeholders in a second discussion round. The results of these discussions will then be shared with all participants of the workshops.
Fittingly, the workshop was accompanied by regional and organic food, for instance a lamb dish from the Sozialgenossenschaft Vinterra.