Thematic conference “Livestock protection for cattle and horses”

The presentations will be made available as PDFs and recordings shortly.

Both LIFEstockProtect conference days were filled with diverse presentations by researchers, organisations and individual livestock farmers. This conference was especially formatted so that the latter were able to make their voices heard and talk about their day to day experiences with livestock farming and protection. The presentation formats were as varied as their content, which provided a stimulating programme filled with interviews, discussion rounds, presentations and short videos.

250 participants registered for the 2 day online conference and participated depending on their availability regarding daily farming activities. In addition, over 1000 people watched the livestream on Facebook. As much as the organisers regretted the switch to an online conference, this format made it possible for participants to listen in for specific topics, and it was very well received.

Martin Hermle led participants through the conference as moderator, supported by Gwen Manek, Christoph Schinagl, Victoria Steckhan, Katharina Mikschl and Stefanie Morbach, as well as an excellent team for the simultaneous translation in German, English und Italian.

Day 1 – Livestock protection in cattle and horse farming

Theatrically, but scientifically, actress Barbara Geiger started the day with a presentation on cattle.
Otto Gasselich brought greetings from the main project partner Bio Austria Lower Austria/Vienna.

Richard Mergner from BUND Naturschutz in Bavaria and Oliver Allettsee from Bioland Bavaria stressed the purpose and thoughts about the project: continuing to promote livestock grazing, thereby preserving wild species and their habitats, and strengthening the cooperation of conservation and agriculture, tackling concerns and requirements together. An overview of the project and consortium within the regions of Bavaria, Austria and Italy followed.

Livestock protection in cattle farming

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. 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. For assessment, an online tool was developed.

Norbert Böhmer, dairy farmer and self-marketer from Upper Franconia, gave an insight into his daily working schedule in an interview with Martin Hermle. Together with Julian Stöger from a dairy farm in Allgäu, Tobias Windmaißer from a cattle ranch in Lower Bavaria, he talked about his work in the following discussion round. Livestock protection measures and approaches are very different. The farmers exchanged their personal experiences and implementations, as well as challenges and barriers to livestock protection.

Livestock protection in horse farming

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. With regards to the presence of wolves, Ostfalk brought a few points into consideration, with a smooth transition to the next presenter.

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. As protection measures, keeping animals in the stable at night, repelling fences, and the use of livestock guarding dogs were introduced as most effective.

Verena Elscher from the Heide Trail Dolle gave a direct insight into stables located in a wolf area. Together with her husband, she runs a stable in Saxony-Anhalt. 20 horses and their foals live there. In the neighbouring military training area, two wolf packs with seven adults and nine cubs were documented in the monitoring year 2020/21. On the farm, the pastures are secured by electric fences according to livestock protection guidelines. No depredations were recorded.

Sonja Schütz from VFD Bundesverband presented the “Horse and Wolf Project”, which many organisations and institutions have joined under Euro Large Carnivore. Ms. Schütz summarised the ponies, foals and horses that were officially documented as killed or injured by wolves up to 2020/21 in Germany. Large herds, with mixed ages while grazing, special protection of foals (no foaling on pastures without protection measures) and a good electric fence are effective measures to protect horses from depredations. During wolf encounters, it is recommended to not ride away, but to calmly ride past. For horses, the encounter is similar to that with a stray dog.

In addition to the insights to the afternoon topic of livestock protection and horse farming, there was further input from horse breeder Nicole Votz from Cheimgau in the discussion round. For the past 10 years, she has kept livestock guarding dogs with her bred herd of Tinker and mini Shetland ponies. She explicitly referred to the challenges with integration as well as raising and socialisation, but reported that she wants to continue working with the horses and doesn’t want to do without them.

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.

Day 2 – Challenges in livestock protection, subsidies and measures

Livestock protection subsidies

Katrina Marsden, adelphi, informed listeners about the EU platform for a coexistence of humans and large carnivores, touching on the complex area of livestock protection subsidies, funds and opportunities from the EU (CAP). Livestock protection subsidies can be obtained from Pillar 2 as cofinancing. Grazing premiums, material, shepherding, implementation of dogs (purchase and running costs) and technical support can be financed. The individual member states claim the costs in differenc ways. New developments for 2023-2027 were also presented.

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. In the future, a database for livestock guarding dogs will be introduced for better work, and monitoring of wolves will be improved.

The discussion round on livestock protection subsidies with insights into regional differences was moderated by Gwen Manek. In the extended discussion round, two experts from the Bavarian Environmental Ministry took part. An enthusiastic exchange on the management of supply and demand of subsidies came into fruition following questions and participation from the listeners.

Livestock protection challenges and opportunities

Prof. Markus Röhl (University of Nürtingen) gave an insight into the project “livestock protection at embankments and slopes”. In this project, farms with challenging topographies or demands e.g. tourism were visited and documented. Slope, relief, and soil quality, as well as use by tourists, are challenges in livestock protection. Possible solutions or facilitations were named; individually, pros and cons of protection measures were listed.

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.

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. They reported on the challenges, preliminary work and impassabilities in preparation and execution. The year went well with few incidents. Following the interview, shepherdess Celia Martinez Aragon, who guards the Stelvio flock, talked about her grazing experience and life as a shepherdess. Although she does not originally come from an agricultural background, she has been excited by this challenge for years. After extensive training, she is increasing and sharing her knowledge on livestock and working dogs.

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.

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. 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.

Oliver Häußler, a student at the Hochschule Weihenstephan/Triesdorf, presented a project on the optimal use of mowing robots with fences. 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. Conflicts are to be minimised by cooperation of different parties.

We would like to thank all participating speakers for their informative presentations, their engagement and contribution to the conference.

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