Alm Alpe, Schwaige#
Alm: alpine pasture, alp (also called "Alpe" in Vorarlberg, "Schwaige" in Lower Austria and Styria), pasture areas at high altitudes, above the crop line, below or above the tree line (with mountain huts and sheds) which are worked only 3-5 months in the summer. In Austria there were more than 12,000 Alpine pastures in use in 1997, on which approx. 70,000 alm farmers kept approx. 500,000 head of cattle, the highest figures in the EU. In 1997, alm and mountain meadowland covered 851,128 hectares (approx. one quarter of Austria'´ total agricultural area). Ownership of the Alpine pastures is divided at a ratio of about 7 : 3 : 1 between individuals, communities and commons; the lower Alpine pastures (called "Maiensaess" in Vorarlberg) are found at altitudes up to 1,750 m, middle Alpine pastures up to 2,500 m, and high Alpine pastures are found above 2,500 m. Grazing in the mountain pastures is important for the health of the livestock (approx. 15 % of all cattle, mostly young animals). Subsidies and promotion schemes for farming alpine pastures are being implemented to combat a reduction in their use and in order to prevent avalanches occurring due to long, ungrazed grass. Alpine Pasture Husbandry.
Further reading#F. Zwittkowits, Die Almen Oesterreichs, 1974; H. and W. Senft, Unsere Almen: erleben, verstehen, bewahren, 1986.