Alpine Pastures, Husbandry: has been going on in the Alps since the La Tène Age (Celts). At first, the high Alpine pastures (alms) were used (Bronze Age relics found) and the valleys were not used until later. The oldest pasture areas bore Celtic, later Rhaeto-Romanic, then German field names.
In places where the permanent settlement is at a high altitude, (e.g. Lech in Vorarlberg, Obergurgl in Tyrol), there are no separate Alpine pastures. In places where the farms are in the valleys, mountain pastures are used in 2 or 3 stages. 2-3 weeks before the actual mountain pasture season, the animals are brought to what is called the "Maiensaess" (= lower pastures, or "Vorsaess", clear patches in the forest belt). The actual Alpine pastures, or alms, themselves are around or above the forest line.
Around 1900, official support of the use of the Alpine pastures was introduced after P. Schuppli's pioneering work in the field. Since 1907, laws for the protection and support of Alpine pastures have been in place.
In the course of overall structural transformation in the Austrian economy, Alpine pasture use lost a great deal of its significance between World War II and the mid-1970s. Many Alpine pastures were left unused, especially in eastern Austrian mountain pasture areas. After that time, the introduction of state support for Alpine pastures as well as the regulation on Alpine pasture milk in the Austrian market regulation law effected a certain degree of consolidation in Austrian Alpine pasture use. Since 1995, Austrian hill farmers have also been able to avail themselves of promotion schemes for hill farmers provided by the European Union. In western and southern Austria, traditional pasture use for milk and cheese production is still very important, whereas eastern Austrian Alpine pasture use is dominated by extensive young livestock keeping.
Between 1952 and 1986, when the total mountain pasture area was reduced, the forested alm areas lost 27 %, the unproductive alm areas 28 % and the alm pasture area (around half of the total alm area) 16 %, leading to a total loss of approx. 142,000 hectares of pasture area. In 1997, alm and mountain meadowland covered 851,128 hectares (approx. 25% of Austria´s total agricultural area). With more than 12,000 Alpine pastures in use, on which approx. 70,000 alm farmers grazed approx. 500,000 head of cattle, Austria has the highest alpine farming figures in the EU. Alm.
Everyday language, sagas, customs, popular traditional dress and art clearly demonstrate the significance of Alpine pasture use as an area of life in popular culture.
Further reading#O. Brugger and R. Wohlfarter, Alpwirtschaft heute, 1983; Federal Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry (ed.), Gruener Bericht 1997, 1998.