Sunday, 5 July 2015

Austria June 2015 Mayrhofen Farming

Just back from two weeks holiday in Austria staying at Mayrhofen at the head of the Ziller valley. My aim was to do some walking in the hills and to see the Alpine Flowers. I have so many photographs that I need to break them down into bite size groups. Today's post is about farming and the farm animals I saw.

I have to say I did not see as many sheep as I expected, I don't think the farmers had brought them up to the high pastures.
This lamb and ewe are Tiroler Bergschaf breed. (Tyrolean Mountain Sheep)

This shepherd is taking his flock of Tiroler Steinschaf up to the high pastures in the Weitental. At this point they were just passing the 2,000 metre contour, the valley continued up to 2,300 metres.

 Now two lambs whose breed I have not managed to identify

This barn door near Mayrhofen records the farmer's successes at the sheep shows and led me to identify the sheep in my pictures, although I saw no sheep on his farm.
There is a good picture of Austrian sheep breeds at

I saw rather more cattle, but I have not tried to identify the breeds. To English eyes it is always incongruous seeing cattle set against mountains. The bells are a continuous reminder that this is a different way of life. How the cattle can endure the continuous ringing amazes me.

 There are traditional dairies in the high valleys.
 But the milk tanker still calls each day, this valley is only occupied in the summer. The farms are all closed down in winter and the stock taken down to lower valleys.
At a higher level we found modern buildings to be used as dairies, but it was too early in the season for the farmer to have occupied them they were just as they had been abandonned the autumn.

All this milk production is powered by the mountain meadows and the hay is collected from every piece of land even where it can't be harvested by mechanical means.

Finally beekeeping. In nearly every village we found a "beehive". Not a beehive in the English sense, but the size of a Dale's barn.

In Switzerland last year I noticed the colour coded entrances to the hives and here in Austria it is the same. In fact I might not have noticed the first hide if my friend had not remembered a similar hive in Stechelberg and drawn my attention to it. I think the loud humming of the bees would have alerted me eventually. In the Zillertal there is a large industry based around beekeeing with a food factory at Mayrhofen producing honey as well as the main product cheese.


  1. I am looking forward to seeing what flowers you spotted, Yey sheep... not as cute as our sheep mind you. Loving the photos and look at the size of the bee hives, very impressive.
    Amanda xx

  2. Smashing photos John, it looks a beautiful place.

  3. Very interesting photos of the mountain farming and lifestyle. Wonderful views of the mountains.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful holiday. I enjoyed seeing your photos and reading the commentary ~ perhaps the ID tags in the cows' ears act like ear plugs to cut down the everlasting bell ringing ;) Fascinating to read about the way of life and to see different breeds of farm animals. Thanks for sharing :)