Cows in southern Germany will have to stay in their stalls a little longer, as their grazing pastures in the Alps are still covered in snow, German media reported on Sunday.
At this time of year, farmers traditionally begin transporting tens of thousands of cattle up into the Alps for the summer, before driving them back down into the valleys in autumn.
What is the situation?
With pastures covered and mountain roads tricky to navigate, the traditional cattle drive will have to wait, news agency dpa reported.
Local business associations in the regions of Allgäu and Upper Bavaria said most farmers will need to wait another two weeks before releasing their cows into the mountainous pastures.
For areas that are even higher up — some farmers might have to wait until mid-June, the associations said.
Not necessarily a bad thing
The delay to the grazing season isn’t necessarily cause for concern, experts say.
“The snow doesn’t have to be a downside,” Michael Honisch, the head of the Allgäu Economic Association (AVA) told news agency dpa.
“After all, the water supply for the cattle is relatively well secured for the time being,” he said. The slowly melting snow also will help the grass grow in the pastures.
Grazing delays also aren’t expected to have an impact on the number of births.
In the Allgäü, the Alpine region where the famous fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle is located, the AVA expects around 30,000 calves to be born this summer — on par with the year before.
A pasture ‘is not a petting zoo’
In Upper Bavaria, the head of the local economic association AVO, experts say there’s enough room for grazing cows in the pastures where snow has already melted away — but farmers still aren’t bringing them there.
“The problem is, many larger valley farms don’t want to go to the effort of taking young cattle up to the pastures for a few months,” said AVO head Stöckl.
Cows that aren’t used to being out in the open and grazing in pastures can lead to larger problems later in the summer, particularly when they come in contact with humans.
Once the cows make it up to the pastures, hikers are being urged to give them a wide-berth
The sudden attention from hikers or mountain bikers who zip through the pastures can spook cows who aren’t used to the action — leading to injuries for human and animal alike.
Local farmers also strongly caution visitors in the Alps against approaching or petting grazing cattle.
“An Alpine pasture is not a petting zoo,” said the AVA’s Honisch.
What is the Alpine cattle drive?
During the spring, farmers take their cattle up into the mountains for months of hillside grazing.
The big event comes in September and October when farms bring their cows back down into the valleys.
Cows are adorned with flower wreathes and ceremonial bells, proudly displayed in local villages and towns.
The event, known as “Veihscheid” or “Almabtrieb,” is accompanied with music, dancing and feasts packed with local specialties.
The region of Upper Bavaria boasts the largest number of cattle in the southern German state. In May last year, over 13,500 were logged in the region, including nearly 9,000 dairy cows, according to Bavaria’s state Statistics Office.
This article was written with material from news agency dpa.