Alpine dairy is one of the oldest economic systems in the European Alpine countries and is a form of livestock pasture farming with particular emphasis on the use of high lying pastures. The main purpose of this form of farming is, on the one hand, to give these Alpine pastures a specific agricultural use in order to prevent them from becoming barren and, on the other, to substantially extend the feed base of the holdings located in these mountainous regions in order to enable adequate livestock farming. Its importance for a country's national economy is primarily due to the breeding of valuable animal stock and the production of high-quality animal products. Last but not least, Alpine farming is associated with intensive maintenance of the cultural landscape.
Statistical studies of this important economic sector were carried out in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the structure of Alpine dairying. The survey related to land tenure, pasture distribution, utilisation, location, development, livestock stocking levels, Alpine workers and the infrastructure of the Alps. Farmers of Alpine land or pastures listed in the Alpine land register were obliged to submit data, as were holdings with pasturage of over 5 hectares with selected survey criteria (such as farming separated from domestic operation beyond or outside the local permanent residential boundary, more than five livestock during the main pasture period from May to October, etc.). This survey was carried out at ten-year intervals, and was last conducted in 1986.
Since no EU legal basis existed for the survey, the Alpine survey originally planned for 1996 was initially postponed until the following year and then for a further two years for budgetary reasons, and was finally discontinued altogether. Data on Alpine feeding areas, livestock stocking levels, etc. is currently available from the funding applications of Agrarmarkt Austria and is published annually in the Green Report from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management
In 1986, the Austrian federal territory included a total of 13 512 Alpine pastures, 21% more than in 1952 and 20% more than in 1974. However, only 89% of the total number of Alpine pastures were farmed as such, and thus held livestock in the survey year.
The greatest number of Alpine pastures - more than a quarter - were found in Styria, while 22% of such pastures were located in Tyrol and 20% in Salzburg. The smallest number of Alps were recorded in the Länder (federal provinces) of Upper Austria and Lower Austria; due to their geographical conditions, the Länder of Burgenland and Vienna had no Alpine holdings.
Alpine pasture accounted for approximately 20% of the total area of Austria in 1986, with the figure including associated woodland and unproductive area. The Alpine zones extend far into rocky regions as well as up to areas of settlement. In 1986, the actual area of Alpine pastures still farmed that was being used for Alpine dairying was 761 800 ha, in other words slightly more than half of the total area of Alpine pasture. In some areas (Upper Austria, Styria), woodland predominated in the Alpine pastures, with parts being used as wood pasture.
© STATISTICS AUSTRIA, Last Changed 15.05.2013