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Anyone who thinks about Tirol, also thinks about an Alpine pasture. Alpine pastures are the destinations of hikes and bike tours and are a key component of summer vacations for locals and tourists. However in the first instance an Alpine pasture is a typical traditional business for our Tirol high mountain regions.
Managed pastures: keeping cattle instead of an inn
Alpine pastures are pastures and mountain pastures used for haymaking, together with buildings and infrastructure. They are located for the most part above 1500m altitude in an area which was originally completely forested. Josef Lanzinger from the Tirol Chamber of Agriculture knows some interesting details about Tirol’s Alpine pastures. “In summer 2009 there were 2155 managed Alpine pastures in Tirol, which together yielded an Alpine feed area of 185,000 ha. That is 60% of the agricultural surface area in Tirol. In comparison the agricultural effective area of the valley and mountain farmers is around 100,000 ha.” When people speak about an Alpine pasture they mean a place where cattle are kept, whether that is cows, sheep or horses. “The criterion is not whether there is an inn on the pasture, rather that there are cattle kept there“, explains the expert on this matter. The significant feature of Alpine agriculture is that around 50% of the cattle spend summer on the Alpine pastures. In Tirol this counts for around 180,000 cows, sheep and goats each summer. 57% of the dairy cows in Tirol spend their time on Alpine pastures. Many Alpine pastures have dairies; here it is upland Alpine pastures which are meant, where cheese is processed, in lowland pastures “dairymen” are milkers on a dairy pasture. Alpine cheese is only produced and sold on 69 Tirol Alpine pastures (we in the Stanglalm also do this).
Alpine cattle drive: everyone march!
Depending on the weather conditions farmers take their cattle up to the Alpine pasture for St George’s day on 24th April and traditionally they remained their until St Martin’s day on 11th November. Today the cattle are taken back down into the valley at the end of September, during the Alpine cattle drive. The Alpine cattle drive is a public festival throughout Tirol, where villages and entire valleys celebrate the return of the cattle.
The legend of the Kasermandl
During the winter months according to legend it was only the Kasermandl, a goblin, who lived in the abandoned Alpine lodges, or ‘Kasern’. Originally it was the Alpine herdsmen who lived on the Umbrüggeler Alm near Innsbruck. Since it was not considerate to handle the produce of the Alpine pasture, it was also ill-fated to live in the abandoned Alpine pastures in Tirol every winter. After the Alpine cattle drive down from the pastures, the Kasermandl had to go to the Alpine meadows, to stay there until the cattle returned. Only then could you return to the valley. It is also said that in the summer months the Kasermandl protected the dairy cattle, which is why some wood for the oven and a little bit of food was prepared for him for the barren winter months. The Kasermandl would then be in a good mood for the next summer, since an angry Kasermandl might treat the cows badly. It was frowned upon for people at that time to stay on the Alpine meadows, since the Kasermandl was spiteful and not very friendly. It was from this superstition that the custom of the Kasermandl walk came about. The evening before St Martin’s day children went from house to house dressed as a Kasermandl, recited poems, sang Alpine songs and distributed Alpine specialities. However this custom is no longer practised today.
The Stanglwirt cows Alpine drive takes place on Saturday, 12th June 2010 at 5.00 a.m. Our cows enjoy their ‘summer vacation’ until September on the "Stangl-Alm" (Graspoint Hochalm) on the Wilden Kaiser and look forward to seeing you!