When the cows come back home…

3. September 2018

Cows are part of the Tyrol, like the Lederhose and Dirndl, dumplings on the alpine pastures or the dreamlike mountain world from which we are surrounded. They spend the summer in the mountains and the surrounding pastures. When the animals return from the mountains to the valley in autumn, this is celebrated with a colorful feast.

Summer refreshments on the alpine pasture

At the beginning of May, when the first succulent grass has grown and is ready for the cows as feed, the cows are already looking forward. Because after a long winter, it means for them: summer refreshments on the alpine pasture.

From their respective stables, the cows are brought to the alpine pastures by tractor trailers. 240 pieces were this year in Leutasch. But not all are allowed to go. Mother cows and female calves have the free-ride ticket into the green. However, young bulls from six months have to be content with the grazing areas in the valley.

“We can not send bulls to the alpine pasture. From about six months onwards, most of them are sexually mature and that would be too dangerous, because we would then bring bearing cows, which should not calve any more, in autumn home from the pasture, “explains Florian Mössmer, a young farmer from Leutasch. He himself has 48 cattle in the area around the Rotmoosalm in the Gaistal.

Brown cows, stained and grey ones live peacefully together beside the Highlandcattle, Galloway cattle, 20 horses and sheep.

But, of course, the cows are not left up there. „Senners“ are responsible for seeing the cattle and reporting on whether or not some of the cows have been injured or ill. Every day they must have seen all the animals once. But in summer they don`t get milked.

The celebratory “Aufbüscheln” 

Already on the day before the final day the farmers gather in the Gaistal and prepare themselves for the great day. The cattle are gathered together by the individual pastures and kept at the area of the Gaistalalm in an anger, a fenced-in area.

In the evening, the shepherds and farmers gathered together, because a cattle drive must be well planned, after all, about 130 tons of “live mass” are moving down the valley. An adult cow is around 650 kilograms, calves by 150. And if you’ve ever been tracked by a cow, you know: they can get pretty fast.

The big bells, which are hung around the mother’s cows, are polished until they glitter, the wide leather tapes carefully cleaned. Also mirrors, which carry the cows at the head, belong to the annual fixed components with a Almabtrieb. But the most imposing accessory in the pastoral drive is the head-dress, the so-called “Aufbüscheln” of the cows. Wreaths made of saddles, branches with red berries and colorful ribbons are placed on some cows. Imposing and graceful is the sight when the heavy animal trots proudly and contentedly into the valley.

But not every year the spectators of the alpine pasture can enjoy the cuddled cows. “Cows are only paddled when the summer has gone well and we do not have to complain about the loss of a single animal,” explains Florian Mössmer. Unfortunately this is not the case this year. Two cows crashed off the mountains of Gaistal in summer. Thus the cows are accompanied this year without main crowns, but with bells and mirrors in the valley.

The long way to the valley

After about four months on the pasture, the big day finally came. “The cattle know that it goes back home,” the Senner and farmers are safe. They are a bit nervous. Especially the young animals, who have never experienced this spectacle before.

From Gaistal it takes about an hour and a half to Leutasch Weidach. The shepherds and dairymen, who, with long sticks and salt in their pockets try to keep the first cows in check. If the very first begin to run, the succeeding mass pushes. One and a half hours maximum concentration and hard work for the farmers.

On the large meadow in front of the church is the goal, because there is a small church day held for the celebration of the pastoral drive. The cows graze here for the first time in the valley and the farmers have earned themselves a cool beer. From there, you will continue on to the respective meadows and fields of the farmers.

And if you listen carefully, you can hear it: the cows count the countdown again until the winter is over and the May has come and the next adventure on the alp can begin.

Further information:

Read more: Farmer Thomas Nairz and the Almabtrieb

Behavior in the mountains: Rules for dealing with grazing livestock

Fotos: Iris Krug, Heinz Holzknecht

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