Alm (mountain pasture)

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Five Alps for animal feud in the sun; left in the back of the valley Vorder Sand , 1280  m slm , in the foreground left Mättli 1830  m slm and right Baumgarten 1590  m slm ; on the opposite side of the valley on the left Altstafel 1528  m slm and Chäsboden 1328  m slm .
The Alpe di Siusi in South Tyrol , the largest high alpine pasture in Europe at an altitude of 1680  m to 2350  m , in front of the Langkofel group

A Alm ( bairisch ), Alp , Alps or Alb ( alemannisch ), formerly albums , ALBM , almb designating Sömmerungs the mountain pastures used during the summer months, farm buildings and other infrastructure area, with enclosed as corridor form . In addition, bairisch Alm , alemannic but mat , refers to the mountain pastures and meadows used for grazing and haying as a vegetation community ( subalpine vegetation level ) , "Alm" or "Alp" but also only the building, the alpine hut or alpine hut or the mountain pasture farm .

In a broader sense referred Serviced or mountain pasture both the dairy (also Senntum , alpine dairy industry ), mountain grazing (the summer livestock , Senn economy in cattle and transhumance of horse, goat, sheep), as well as arable land and arable farming the mountain areas ( mountain farming as a whole) .

Word origin

The word Alm is the smoothed form of Middle High German alben , the original dative singular of the word albe , which lives on in the nominative as Alp (e) (Middle High German alpe ) in the Alemannic dialects.

Alb (e) in turn is the same word as the name of the Alps : This pre-Roman term probably originally referred to a “(high) mountain” and then in particular to the “high pasture” (mountain pasture; old high German alba ), which is important for the farming population of the Alpine valleys . In contrast, the previously often assumed associations with the Indo-European color adjective * albʰos "white" are to be judged as wrong.

In Bavaria (with the exception of the Allgäu) and Austria (with the exception of Vorarlberg), the alp is not in use, there alp is used. The geographical names of corridors, valleys, passes and mountains are derived from this (mostly in the plural). In the southeastern region, Alm for the facility is no longer in the regional language, there Schwaig (e) (in Middle High German sweige "Sennerei") stands for the milk-processing alpine farm ( Schwaighof , or its Melkalm), but place names of the form can also be found there.

If alpine pasture is related to common land , this refers to a regionally widespread form of communal cultivation, there is no etymological connection.


Archaeological research by ANISA shows a Bronze Age alpine pasture in the Dachstein Mountains (Austria) from 1700 to 900 BC. After. A number of radiocarbon and AMS dates support this age. These alpine pastures were founded on primeval meadows in pits with their own microclimate and above the tree line between 1500 m and 2100 m. Some of the remains of the huts can still be recognized today by the stone wreaths that served as the foundations for log buildings. So far, 28 alpine pastures from this time have been identified. These pastures were used to supply food for the Bronze Age salt mining in Hallstatt . The expanding mining industry would not have been possible without alpine farming . This applies to all prehistoric mining areas in the Alps. The existence of Roman times alpine farming is known from ancient literature. Several alpine pastures on the Dachstein Mountains and the Steiner Alps in Slovenia have also been archaeologically researched from this time . A significant inner-alpine settlement from the Neolithic up to the economic upheavals of the 19th century would not have taken place without alpine farming. "The alpine farming relieved the valley pastures and enabled a supply economy for the winter".

As a result of the structural change in agriculture after the Second World War , many alpine pastures were abandoned and fell into bushes, especially in marginal areas . A counter-trend can be seen in diverse efforts to reactivate alpine pastures.

Alpine farming

Grazing cattle on the alpine pasture near Latzfons / South Tyrol

The alpine pasture (also alpine , high or mountain pasture economy ) shapes the landscape of large parts of the high mountains in Europe, the Alps and Pyrenees , as well as the Scandinavian mountains . The Nordic alpine pastures are mostly referred to as Seter .

The majority of the northern Alps and western French Pyrenees would be continuously forested up to approx. 1,500 meters without alpine pastures. The grazing cattle keep the alpine pastures free of forests and thus promote plant communities that otherwise only occur on special locations such as rock heads, shallow humus layers or in avalanche stretches. Historically, alpine farming also occurred in low mountain ranges such as the Giant Mountains, the Black Forest or the Vosges. In the Eastern Alps the shape of Schwaighofwirtschaft in the historically montane zone particularly widespread.

After the alpine journey in the summer season, shepherds are also employed pasture farming. In autumn, the done output to the valley where the cattle spend the winter mostly in stables. During the alpine pasture, winter feed must be provided in summer.

In the past, alpine pastures were cultivated with cattle varieties adapted to the high mountains, today they are high-performance breeding forms. These are much heavier than their predecessors, so that they disturb the ground cover more. The traditional cattle walkways , horizontal path tracks on the slope, are now trodden deeper and can therefore tear up more easily, which leads to soil erosion .

The alpine pastures in the Bavarian Forest are called Schachten . Whereas in the past a lot of uncontrolled clearing was used to create new pastures , the maintenance of existing alpine pastures and the clearing of mountain forests are now strictly regulated throughout the Alps. Nevertheless, alpine pastures are sometimes viewed very critically. Especially in national parks or protected areas there is a conflict between nature conservation on the one hand and animal husbandry on the other. However , when the alpine pastures are abandoned due to inefficiency, valuable cultural landscapes are lost and forested within one to two generations (30–60 years), unless the hunters keep parts of the former light pasture artificially open for their hunting activities.

The alpine pasture management , the operation of an alp, used to serve mainly rural goals, nowadays landscape maintenance is added and marketing through tourism.

The cattle stocking of an alpine pasture / alp is referred to as bump and is given in bumps . In many places, the maximum permissible bump on an alp is required.

Classification in the forms of animal husbandry

The Serviced - more precisely, the phase of the summer grazing passage ( summer grazing ) - belongs to the extensive livestock , since the poor soils of high altitude only a land use with a low stocking density of 50 to 80 livestock units ha Allow 100th

Since pastures today are predominantly anthropogenically created grassland , it is not a form of natural pastoralism ( pastoralism ), but also extensive grassland management .

Alpine farming as long-distance or hiking pasture farming?

The allocation to the forms of remote grazing is controversial . The summer pastures are at a different altitude, but otherwise mostly not too far away from the home farm, so that the alpine farm is usually not viewed as remote pasture farming.

As a rule, alpine pasture farming is also not viewed as a form of transhumance - the “seasonal migrant pasture management” - although it is classified as alpine transhumance in English and in the Romance languages . Apart from the distances covered, both summer and winter pastures can only be cultivated extensively in real migrant pasture farming, and regular pasture changes make livestock farming possible in these areas in the first place. In contrast, alpine farming mainly serves to expand the areas used and in this way allows the farmer to keep more cattle. The intensive agricultural use of the valley meadows is thus supplemented by a seasonal, extensive use of the mountain meadows. In addition, there is often an economic exchange between alpine pasture and valley operations (see alpine dairy ), as well as climate-related stables in winter. Both of these do not occur when keeping a hiking hat.

The alpine summer: Niederleger and Hochalm

A distinction is made in the three-tier economy between the Niederleger (the lower Almen, Maiensäss or Unterstafel) and Oberleger (Hochalm) or Oberstafel . The first is the alpine pasture of the Montanzone, mostly between 1,300 and 1,500 meters, which can be used as pasture for cattle in early and late summer, while the second is the high pasture in the subalpine zone over about 1,500 meters, which is only grazed in midsummer. After grazing on the Hochalm, you occupy the Niederleger for a few more weeks, where you are better protected from the early onset of winter.

While Nieder- and Oberleger are the typical mountain pastures for cattle and horses, the highest alpine mats are no longer attached with alpine huts, but only managed by herds of sheep and goats that migrate throughout the summer. These are only visited now and then to check them for illnesses and injuries and to bring leaks . High-altitude spring catchments are common, where the small cattle can gather, in some places fences are common, which then extend into the 3000er regions, in other areas no structural measures are taken if the terrain is suitable.

In some regions, there is also forest pasture farming ( hat farming) on the paths to the Alm .

The annual start of the alpine management depends on the weather and altitude, usually around Whitsun , and is called the Almauftrieb, at the end of the alpine season , usually in September, the Almabtrieb or Viehscheid takes place. The Schneeflucht law allowed earlier, the Almvieh in deeper foreign pastures or dangerous Wetterumstürzen Maiensässe to drive.

Alpine farm and dairy farm

The Wettersteinalm (1464 m), Wetterstein

Depending on the regional tradition and economic conditions, the following are common:

  • Alpine operations : The farms move to the Alm in summer, only one summer energy remains at the main farm. Typical for this type of economy are the group alpine pastures and alpine villages , in which social life is also possible in summer. In some places in the Almdorf there are even solid brick churches.
  • Senn operation : The Bauer family remains in the valley, the cattle will be a dairyman passed from the family or a staff member, a specially selected for this purpose Senner or Community Senn. Only calving and sick cattle, calves (born this year) and one or two milking cattle remain on the farm for the maintenance of the farm. Small, scattered alpine huts are typical for this type of economy. Both types of business require those involved to be semi-settled .

Galtalm and Melkalm

Slope structures created by cattle, here in the Osterhorn Group

  • A Galtalm is used to raise and raise young and Galt cattle . Galt cattle include female cattle up to the first calving as well as bulls and oxen under 2 years of age (young bulls), and young cattle include calves (one year olds) and heifers (two year olds).
  • A Melkalm or Schwaig (-alp) is mainly used to lift dairy cows .
  • If an alp is run as a Melk and Galtalm, it is called a mixed alp .

The distinction between Galtalm and Melkalm relates in particular to the infrastructure in order to process the milk of the milk cattle, i.e. butter factory, cheese factory, Kaskeller and so on. This is not necessary on the Galtalm.

Locally is from the mountain pastures ( dairies ) initiated the production of butter and cheese. In the latter case, the finished cheese is brought into the valley by material cable car or motor vehicle instead of milk and z. B. delivered to Käsestrasse Bregenzerwald . In some areas the alpine pastures have well-developed cask cellars in which the cheese remains throughout the summer. It is then brought down to the valley as "proud booty" when it comes to the cattle drive .


Traditionally, farms in the Alpine region had only one, rarely several, workhorses when they were not farming with the ox. These were simply given to the cattle during the summer or stayed at the farm. The horses' demands on the feed are different, they are considered more frugal, and they can graze behind the delicate cattle that only eats foliage because they can tolerate stalks and anyway poorly tolerate protein-rich green forage.

Only in landscape lines with large stately horse population also own Ross pastures were common, as well as for Forestry horse ( skidding horse ), Treidelrösser (for Upstream pulling the ships and rafts) and similar stocks, each (not over the summer felling , low water) - if they as not pack horses in the mule transport were indispensable summer - had "free". On these the horses could freely follow their own pulling behavior, which they resume in larger herds. Typical Rossalmen were therefore mostly extensive, but of poor quality forage. It was not necessary to have a separate almanac; there is usually only one accommodation for any security duty.

The Almmahd

Old hay hut in the Bregenz Forest

During the time that the cattle spend on the Oberleger (the alp), the alpine hay is cut on the Niederleger , on the steep slopes still largely by hand and hardly with machines. Wild haying is practiced outside of the grazing areas . The hay used to be stored in the hay huts and then transported down to the valley as particularly valuable additional feed as required in winter.

This hay pulling was done with horn sledges . It was one of the most dangerous jobs of the old mountain farmer's life, with a high accident and death rate. The sledges were piled as high as possible with the heavy equipment due to the laborious ascent to the lay-down and weighed easily more than a ton. Steered by one man, the second at the back to brake, the descent was a difficult undertaking to control. In addition, you had to rely on sufficient snow, and the best haymaking time was the one that is now considered the highest avalanche warning level , namely a lot of snow that has fallen in a very short time: It offers guidance without braking the sledge too much and maybe stopping (which helps and would have drawn ridicule from other farmers). Therefore, the number of avalanche victims while pulling hay was probably similar to that of those who were run over by sleds or who fell in the field.

Forms of ownership

Various ownership structures can occur in alpine pastures:

  • Community pastures ( common land ) with property and usage rights z. B. an entire village or several individuals. The staff is provided separately from the individual owners, only cheesemakers and cleaners are engaged jointly. Based on a union 's rights and obligations are set
  • Genossenschaftsalm as a cooperative property (e.g. Bergschaft )
  • Private valley
  • Servitutsalm or authorization Alm , owned by the state or ruler, with usage rights of a limited user group.

Tourism company

Alpine pasture management through snack stations is a source of income for the local mountain farmers. Most alpine pastures are only managed seasonally over the summer. In winter sports regions in particular, however, there is also year-round operation, where there is often a break from mid-October until snowfall in mid-December.

  • Seasonal alpine pastures are often integrated into traditional alpine pastures. Some of the goods produced can be used right away in the snack bars.
  • With year-round tourism , livestock farming is often no longer of any economic importance and is often abandoned.

The alpine pastures are an important part of the mountain world for many mountain hikers . The catering and accommodation options in managed alpine farms make mountain tours much easier .



In 1997 there were more than 12,000 managed alpine pastures in Austria , on which around 70,000 alpine farmers kept around 500,000 head of alpine cattle. In 1997, an area of ​​851,128 hectares (around a quarter of the agricultural area) was allotted to alpine pastures and mountain mowers . The largest contiguous alpine pasture area in the Austrian Alps is the Teichalm -Sommeralm region in the Grazer Bergland .

In Tyrol alone there are 2200 alpine pastures, of which 1250 dairy cattle stalks produce 32 million kilograms of milk. More than half of all cows spend the summer on the alpine pastures, the average pasture time is 84 days in the Tyrolean Oberland and 93 days in the Unterland and East Tyrol . All areas belonging to alpine pastures make up 47% of the Tyrolean land area.


In 2002 there were 1384 cultivated alps and alpine pastures in Bavaria with a light pasture area of 40,329 hectares, half of them in Upper Bavaria and half in the Allgäu . There are also around 54,000 hectares of forest grazing rights . Overall, the Bavarian Alps and pastures with 47,840 cattle, of which 4,445 cows, 640 horses and 4,470 goats and sheep were bumped .


Alp Maran near Arosa

In Switzerland , around 380,000 head of cattle, 130,000 of which are cows summered in the Alps, plus around 200,000 sheep. The alpine area is around 35% of the agricultural area, the largest alpine areas are in the cantons of Graubünden (170,000 ha) and Bern (85,000 ha).


In 2016 there were 1,739 alpine pastures in South Tyrol , the majority of which are small high alpine pastures above the tree line. Only 49 alpine pastures in South Tyrol were raised with more than 15 dairy cows. The alpine pasture area was over 248,000 hectares, which corresponds to 39% of the total area of ​​the autonomous province of Bolzano - South Tyrol. Including the Alpe di Siusi, the largest high plateau in Europe. The pure pasture area made up over 97,000 hectares. The livestock on the alpine pastures was just under 74,000, which is around 50% of the total, with a little over 2500 dairy cows.

In Trentino there are about 300 huts with approximately 8,500 dairy cows. 80 alpine pastures are operated as milking farms for cheese production. The pure pasture area in the Autonomous Province of Trento is around 35,000 ha.


In Immenstadt and Miesbach there are the only two alpine and alpine farming schools in Germany.

See also


Web links

Commons : Alpine farming  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Alfred Helfenstein: The Namengut Pilate territory. Keller, Luzern 1982, ISBN 3-85766-004-X , p. 45.
  2. Wolfgang Pfeifer (Ed.): Etymological Dictionary of German . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag , Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-32511-9 , pp. 30 .
  3. ^ Franz Mandl: Almen und Salz, Hallstatt's Bronze Age Dachsteinalmen (interim report). (PDF; 384 kB) February 1, 2007, accessed December 15, 2010 .
  4. ^ Alps, archeology, history, glacier research . House i. E., 2006, p. 149 ff .
  5. Almweide · Area development. Retrieved April 15, 2015 .
  6. Activate alpine pastures. New ways for diversity. (PDF) Retrieved April 15, 2015 .
  7. ^ A b c Corina Knipper: The spatial organization of linear ceramic cattle farming: scientific and archaeological investigations. Geoscientific Faculty of the Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Tübingen 2009, p. 104.
  8. Hannes Obermair , Volker Stamm : Alpine economy in high and low altitudes - the example of Tyrol in the late Middle Ages and early modern times . In: Luigi Lorenzetti, Yann Decorzant, Anne-Lise Head-König (eds.): Relire l'altitude: la terre et ses usages. Suisse et espaces avoisinants, XIIe – XXIe siècles . Éditions Alphil-Presses universitaires suisses, Neuchâtel 2019, ISBN 978-2-88930-206-2 , p. 29-56 ( ).
  9. M. Bunzel-Drüke, C. Böhm, G. Finck, R. Kämmer, E. Luick, E. Reisinger, U. Riecken, J. Riedl, M. Scharf, O. Zimball: Wilde Weiden - practical guide for year-round grazing in Conservation and landscape development. Working group for biological environmental protection in the Soest district V. (ed.) - Sassendorf-Lohne 2008.
  10. Burkhard Hofmeister: Essence and manifestations of transhumance. In: Geography: archive for scientific geography. No. 15/2, 1961, pp. 121-135.
  11. ^ Claudius Gurt: Right to escape snow. In: Historical Lexicon of the Principality of Liechtenstein .
  12. Hans Haid: Mythos avalanche . A cultural story. Studienverlag, Innsbruck-Wien-Bozen 2008, ISBN 3-7065-4493-8 .
  13. The Tyrolean regional newspaper '', issue 3, June 2011.
  14. federal conservation research : Alpine policy in Germany (PDF 2.89 MB) ( Memento of 25 February 2014 Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Autonomous Province of South Tyrol - Department of Agriculture, Forestry, Civil Protection and Municipalities (Ed.): Agricultural & Forest Report 2017 , pp. 89–90
  16. Trentino agricoltura - Settore malghe (Italian), accessed on November 16, 2018