Extensive pasture systems in Germany -
Realising the value of environmental sustainability

Rainer Luick


The current diversity of farming systems and landscapes found throughout Europe reflects a long evolutionary history. Today, as a result of various economic and social pressures, a point has been reached where it must be decided if many of the more vulnerable, extensively-used of these regions, often tose with European ecological importance and cultural tradition, are to disappear within the next generation. The study presented in this paper intends to give a brief overview of the status of low intensity farming systems in Germany focusing on regions which are related to pastoralism with sheep and/or cattle. As case studies the Black Forest and the Swabian Jura in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg are presented. Both regions can be considered as less favoured areas (LFAs), but of high ecological value. For these regions details of the current agricultural situation, developments to be expected in the years to come, policy measures needed to preserve the cultural and ecological richness of the regions, and options for land-use-systems are discussed in relation to one another.

1. Introduction

Germany is probably not the first place that comes to mind when talking about low intensity farming systems in Europe. The actual appearance of grasslands (meadows, as well as pastures) in most regions in Germany is characterised by intensive agriculture. In marginal areas the mowing and grazing of grassland is increasingly being abandoned, whereas where suitable conditions exist the use of grasslands is ever more intensified.

Large parts of the central European grasslands undoubtedly are the result of cultural-historical processes. From Neolithic times until recently, the pasturing of livestock (since the Middle Ages primarily cattle and sheep) had a substantial impact on the development of different types of grassland. Thus, many meadows with high ecological diversity have their origin in the common grazing practices which existed in Germany for hundreds of years up until the middle of the last century.

The historical types of pasture cannot, however, be compared with modern pasture systems. Previously, pastures extended over vast areas and, because of their low productivity, the density of livestock was very low. Due to poor management the pastures were certainly rich in structures. On the other hand the economic forces for a maximal exploitation of all natural resources were accompanied by overuse and devastation of the landscape. Pastures of this origin would nowadays be characterised as extensive. According to site conditions, the manner of-, and the intensity of grazing, specific plants for pastures and plant-communities were formed. Considering the agricultural history of present ecologically highly-valued extensive grassland it should be stressed that their appearance is mainly the result of the withdrawal of agricultural activities.

The Vogelsberg Red Mountain Cattle belongs to the most threatened livestock species in Germany. The cow-weight ranges from 450 to 550 kg. The entire population consists of not more than about 200 heads. As most cattle breeds the Red Vogelsberg Mountain Cattle was traditionally kept as a three-use-breed of which the labour force used to be the most important one. Still at the end of the last century red coloured regional cattle breeds occurred all over the Central-German-Mountain-Range.

Because of the change of agriculture into systems of more intensive productivity, or because of abandonment of agriculture in regions disadvantaged for intensive agriculture, extensive grassland areas have seen a dramatic decline. Figure 1 gives an impression of the locations in Germany where land-use systems with considerable areas of extensive pastures are still be found. The best known areas include the alpine pastures, common grazing in the southern part of the Black Forest, the downs of the Swabian and Franconian Jura, pastures in the Central-German-Hilland-Range (i.e. Eifel, Vogelsberg and Rhön), heaths in Northern Germany (i.e. Lüneburger Heath), lowland pastures along the Elbe-river and flooded saltmarshes along the coast-line of the North and Baltic Seas. It should be remembered, however, that even in these regions extensive-pastures are usually only found on a small scale. It is only as a result of the remoteness and harsh environmental conditions and strong traditional values in these areas that low intensity farming systems have survived and with them some rare adapted livestock breeds.

Figure 1: Landscapes in Germany where ecologically high-value areas related to extensive cattle and/or sheep keeping systems can still be found (links to photos):

(1) salt-marshes along the North Sea and along estuaries,
(2) salt-marshes of the Baltic Sea and the Bodden-region,
(3) marshlands along the lower and upper Elbe-valley,
(4) Lüneburger Heath,
(5) Weserbergland-mountains,
(6) Eastern Münsterland-area,
(7) slopes of the Oder valley,
(8) Eastern Harz-mountains and foreland region,
(9) shell-limestone landscapes in Thüringen,
(10) Rhön-mountains,
(11) Vogelsberg-mountains,
(12) Westerwald-area,
(13) Eifel-mountains,
(14) Franconian Jura,
(15) Swabian Jura,
(16) Northern Black Forest and Kraichgau-region,
(17) Central Black Forest,
(18) Southern Black Forest,
(19) Vorderer Bayerischer Wald-region,
(20) German Alps and foreland-region.

There are, in fact, regions which correlate very precisely with the distribution of indigenous and endangered livestock species such as the Hinterwald (Black Forest)-cattle, the Red-Vogelsberg-cattle or the "Schnucke" of the Lüneburger-Heath (Tables 1 and 2). But it has to be pointed out that the rare breeds of today do not have many features in common with their ancestors of the last century. As an example, in the first half of the 19th century the weight of a typical cow of a local breed in the Franconian Jura (Baden-Württemberg) was about 150 to 200 kg with a annual milk yield of not more than 1.000 kg (Flad 1987). In comparison, the present breeding aim for the Black Forest Hinterwald-Cattle, which is the lightest and smallest central European cattle breed, is about 400 to 450 kg (Brodauf 1995).

Black Forest Hinterwald-Cattle are the smallest and lightest Central European Cattle species. Cows have a weight of about 400 to 450 kg. Today the Hinterwald cattle is only kept in high mountain regions in parts of the Southern Black Forest in the Federal State of Baden-Wüttemberg.

One of the most important aspects in the actual discussion of endangering factors and concepts for conservation of extensive pastures is the question of how agricultural systems can be maintained in regions less favoured for agriculture and how they can be integrated into local cycles of processing and consumption. As examples of how agricultural-policy impacts areas less favoured for agriculture, but of high ecological value, historical processes and current situations are presented for the Black Forest and the Swabian Jura in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.

The history of agriculture and agricultural practices in Germany have been widely influenced by the past pattern of farm inheritance. Generally in the northern and eastern parts of Germany are found large holdings as a result of an inheritance systems where the property was not divided but rather passed on to the eldest son. In central and southern Germany, in contrast, farms were often split between all offspring resulting in small holdings with small and scattered field sizes.

In the western part of the Swabian Jura today are found communities where the average size of a field is about 0.2 hectares and the property of a farmer owning 10 hectares may be located in more than 40 separate places. As an example Figure 2 shows a small section of the territory of the village of Hossingen/Zollernalb-District (Zeeb 1996). This pattern is a result of laws of succession when within a few centuries the succession led to extremely fragmented farms with field sizes sometimes as small as the width of a towel. This resulted in non-viable small-scale farms and impoverished rural communities. Historical documents say that the hay yield of a meadow could be carried away with one wheel-barrow.

Figure 2: Fragmented field sizes as small as 0,2 hectares are still common in South- western Germany. Section of the territory of the village of Hossingen/Zollernalb-District (Zeeb 1996).

2. Change of landscape in the Black Forest

Until the middle of the last century, as in most other areas, agriculture in the Black Forest was characterised by subsistence farming. When nowadays we think fondly of those "ecological good-old-days" we are surprised to recognise that historical land-use systems were anything but sustainable. In contrast to modern approaches of what is sustainable agriculture, subsistence farming such as in the Black Forest was often accompanied by an over-exploitation of natural resources and the degradation of soils (Ottnad 1981, Ott 1981, Borcherdt et al. 1985).

By the end of the 18th century, approximately 80 per cent of woodlands in the Black Forest had been lost. The reasons were overuse, excessive grazing of forests and shifting cultivation systems, with devastating consequences for soil quality, which became common practice from the Middle Ages onwards. A reminder of that era is the so-called "communal pasture area" in the southern Black Forest, which nowadays is a unique example in Germany of a low intensity farming system. It is also the breeding area of the Black Forest cattle, a small and hardy breed which is indigenous to the southern Black Forest. Although vast areas of extensive grasslands have been lost over the past hundred years (due to reforestation and natural succession), the communal pastures still comprise an area of about 10,000 hectares. However, it should be remembered that this historical agricultural system was far from sustainable, and it is only in modern times that the land has been used in a more environmentally sensitive way. Nowadays, the central and northern Black Forest is mainly woodland and in many cases only small strips of cultivated land remain in the valleys (Eggers, 1957; Brückner, 1981; Schwabe-Braun, 1980; Kersting, 1991).

An endemic cattle breed to the Central Black Forest in the Federal State of Baden-Wüttemberg is the Black Forest Vorderwald Cattle. This breed is slightly heavier than the Hinterwald Cattle . Although not threatened the Vorderwald Cattle is of little economic interest and will continuously be replaced by more intensive cattle breeds.

In response to the depleted state of woodlands at the end of the eighteenth century, reforestation programmes were initiated at the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, it is the large scale plantations of recent decades which have had the largest impact on landscape. In general, since 1950, the amount of wooded land has increased by 20 per cent throughout the Black Forest. The current distribution of woodlands in the Black Forest is about 70 per cent in the southern-, 80 per cent in the central-, and about 90 per cent in the northern-part (calculated from official data sources).

In 1968, Sicco L. Mansholt, the former EEC vice-president, made the following statement (Homburger 1981):

"In the year 2000 agriculture in the Black Forest region will have disappeared. Because of disadvantageous conditions for agriculture there will be no further possibilities to compete with other EEC regions where food can be produced cheaper with lower input of labour, techniques and energy. It is envisaged that the Black Forest will develop to an entirely wooded area".

If the political opinion of that time had prevailed, the Black Forest as a cultivated region would have disappeared by now. However, the strategy set by the EC for the future development of the Black Forest precipitated regional protest in the late 1960s and led to the establishment of the Black Forest Programme (Ministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Umwelt Baden-Württemberg, 1973; Homburger, 1981). However, although many initiatives have been taken since this time, the future of the region is still more-or-less heading in the direction foreseen by this vision.

The following figures, compiled from various data sources, will briefly show the dramatic decline of agriculture in the Black Forest region within the last 20 years. Although the Black Forest can be easily defined geographically, the political borders are rather complicated because it falls within the boundaries of more than one administrative district. Agricultural statistics are usually only available for entire districts or provincial administrative districts. Therefore, accurate data referring only to the Black Forest area is hard to obtain. For this reason, the data shown refers to the Provincial Administrative District of Freiburg (Regierungsbezirk Freiburg) which comprises the southern and most of the central part of the Black Forest. Because the region covered also includes some areas of greater agricultural potential (the Rhine valley and the Lake of Constance area) some of the developments in the Black Forest may in fact be even worse. The data used was kindly provided by the: Amt für Landwirtschaft, Landschaftsentwicklung und Bodenschutz Emmendingen Hochburg; Regierungspräsidium Freiburg; Statistisches Landesamt Baden-Württemberg and Staatliches Forstamt Waldkirch.

Figure 3 depicts the decline in the number of part-time and full-time farmers, which have been almost halved in the last twenty years. Of even greater importance, because it threatens the basic economic structure of the region, is the dramatic number of closures of dairy farms (Figure 4). Despite the effects of intensification there has been a loss of about 80,000 dairy cows since 1974 (Figure 5).

On the other hand, it can be observed that due to the availability of premiums, and because farms giving up dairy farming have turned to meat production in their closing years, the number of suckler cows has increased considerably over the last few years (Figure 6). When the data from Figure 5 and 6 are combined, a total loss of at least 60,000 ruminants can be calculated. Based on an average stocking density of about 1 livestock unit (LU) per hectare (the growth and climatic conditions of the Black Forest support 0.5 to 0.7 LU per hectare, equivalent to one ruminant per 1.4 to 2.0 hectares), this can also be expressed as a loss of approximately 60,000 hectares of meadows and pasture in the Provincial District of Freiburg over the same period of time.

A look at the landscape shows that the changes are visible. There are examples of communities in the Black Forest where the wooded area doubled in the last 40 years (Figure 7). Because most of the reforestation takes place in ecologically valuable locations, locally threatened biotopes such as grassland communities with high biodiversity have disappeared entirely.Figure 8 shows the loss of agricultural land to reforestation in a valley in the central Black Forest since the beginning of this century. It shows that only small stripes of cultivated land are left on the valley floor.

One development of great concern (in terms of future impacts) is the level of training for the agricultural sector in the area (Figure 9). Because of the pessimistic outlook for farming, it is understandable that agriculture is not regarded as secure employment. In 1994, there were only 26 trainee farmers (in their first year) in the Provincial Administrative District of Freiburg in comparison to the 250 trainees per year needed to secure the future of about 8,000 full-time farms (current status) in the area. We are already at the point where traditional skills and knowledge are being lost. In practice, information and training are given mainly by means of crash courses of 200 hours duration which aim simply to fulfil the national eligibility requirements for subsidies. This low standard of education combined with the complex demands of modern agriculture gives reason to believe that Sicco L. Mansholt´s vision will be realised.

To summarise the agricultural and ecological situation in the Black Forest, some specific issues are now briefly discussed:

1. Landscape changes due to farm closures have already been dramatic and will continue at an increasing rate. The vision of a "dark forest" is already a reality in the northern part of the Black Forest. There is evidence (so far at least for local examples) that the change of landscape has resulted in a corresponding decline in the numbers of tourists.

2. Dairy farms are caught in a vicious circle. The constraints of the Black Forest dairy complex are as followed: Falling milk prices cause a decline in dairy farming. The combination of fewer dairy farms and increasing collection costs results in milk companies suspending their services in remote parts of the Black Forest. If the remaining dairy farms want to stay in business, they are hindered by EU regulations governing the manufacture and marketing of pure, natural products.

3. One initiative to challenge the agricultural market is the use of premium labels. There are labels on a national, federal, regional and even communal level for various products and quality standards. As the labelling of agricultural products has spiralled, concerns have developed that the use of labels is being abused and that they may give consumers misleading impressions. For example, the label Black Forest Ham implies pig rearing under environmentally sensitive conditions in a region where consumers perhaps once spent their holidays. In reality, since there are few pig keeping farms left in the Black Forest, approximately 90 % of the pigs are fattened in pig units as far away as the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland.

4. One crucial problem is the fact that a variety of programmes exist to support extensive agricultural production but here are no initiatives to promote the marketing of the resulting products. A number of measures have been implemented under agri-environment Regulation 2078/92, for example the MEKA programme (Marktentlastungs- und Kulturlandschaftsausgleich) in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. MEKA and the suckler cow premium scheme (SCP) may have ecologically positive effects on nature and environment. However, there are also less successful initiatives which focus on extensive pasture systems in the Black Forest. One example is the special premiums available to farmers for rearing rare livestock breeds such as Black Forest cattle, a breed which is especially well-adapted to hard mountainous conditions. The measures aim to encourage the use of grassland in a way that preserves is ecological richness. However when selling meat from rare breeds on the normal market, which is subject to the conditions of the EU meat classification system, farmers receive only low prices, although the meat is considered to be of high quality.

In the current competitive meat market, classifications do not mirror the ecological and physiological value of products and the livestock friendly rearing methods, resulting in farmers going unrewarded for their efforts. Direct marketing is a potential solution to this dilemma, but a multitude of obstacles constrain private small-scale marketing initiatives. As local/regional products do not fit into EU market schemes, their production is of little relevance to, or is even prohibited by EU regulations. For this reason it is difficult and sometimes impossible for farmers to establish local cycles for processing and marketing genuine products. The explanation often given to the public for the inflexible regulations is the attainment of necessary hygiene standards, but there is reason to assume that monopolistic enterprises will become increasingly profitable at the expense of small farms. At the moment, customers are more likely to find Angus beef from Argentina on the menu of Black Forest restaurants than a regional product. It is hard for Black Forest farmers to accept this phenomenon when they are reliant for up to 80 per cent of their revenue on subsidies for low intensity farming, the environmentally sensitive products from which are apparently neither financially valued nor socially esteemed.

5. Farmers find the implementation of EU and national agricultural programmes by the relevant authorities both confusing and burdensome. A 1993 survey showed that farmers have to deal with 58 programmes for infrastructure support, subsidies, premiums etc., (Aldinger et al. 1993), and the details of some of these measures change annually. For this reason, it is already common practice for farmers to employ consultants to help them through the jungle of agricultural bureaucracy.

6. A regional problem, but nevertheless one with ecological impact, is the lack of cattle in the southern part of the Black Forest. Because there are too few livestock to graze the common grassland, special premiums encourage cattle from neighbouring regions to be brought into the area. However, most of the "visiting livestock" are Friesian-Holstein and Simmental cattle. These breeds are heavier and graze and behave differently from the light, indigenous Black Forest cattle which can lead to negative effects on the soil and vegetation of the pastures. In addition, the decline of infrastructure and the disappearance of hay-meadows for winter fodder are accelerated due to the withdrawal of regional agriculture.

3. Sheep keeping on the Swabian Jura

A well known area in Germany for sheep keeping is the Swabian Jura in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. The Swabian Jura, and with it the Franconian Jura, are the only regions in central Europe where a unique form of a transhumance system had developed in the past. However, in contrast to Mediterranean types of transhumance as for example in Extremadura (Spain) or in Provence (France), the Swabian/Franconian one can not be traced back to Neolithic times. Although since the Middle Ages sheep keeping was always of importance for personal and local supply, a proper type of transhumance only developed as late as at the end of the 18th century. Hornberger (1959) lists the various reasons as follows:

As the result of a royal monopoly in Spain for the export of merino sheep and because of political reasons, for a long time it was not possible to introduce them into the numerous kingdoms, dukedoms, counties etc., which comprised Germany until Napoleonic times. Despite of the fact that various well adapted local breeds of sheep existed most of them had the disadvantage of not having a good wool for high quality products and not having the constitution endure long marches. However, in the second half of the 18th century there was political interest to improve/to establish a weaving industry in the dukedom of Württemberg. Eventually, through good contacts it was possible to gain allowance for the introduction of some Merino rams and ewes from Spain. An interesting historical document tells of the journey of Württemberg shepherds in 1786 to southern France and onto Spain to where they were sent to buy the desired sheep. The description of their travel talks about struggles with thieves and wild animals, about losses of sheep and how the Württemberg Merino sheep-breeding programme was set up by crossing pure merinos with local breeds (Volz 1845). A few years later the first flocks took off from the Swabian Jura. Because of the harsh climatic conditions and because of poor and dry soils it was not possible to feed large numbers of sheep from autumn to spring in the Jura mountains. Thus, traditionally the Swabian transhumance worked in the following way: From late spring until autumn the shepherds grazed extended downland areas in the Jura mountains. Depending on weather conditions they sometimes started their marches to lowland regions as far away as several hundreds kilometres as early as in late summer. Typical areas where the Jura flocks spent the winter times were the valleys of the Rhine and Danube and the Lake of Constance basin (Figure 10).

Figure 10: In the second half of the 18th century a unique form of Central European transhumance developed in the Swabian Jura. Typically the flocks spent the summer on the downs of Swabian Jura and then in autumn they took off to over-winter in the valleys of Rhine and Danube, or in the Lake Constance Basin.

This transhumance system flourished for less than a hundred years, as a rapid decline in the demand for wool occurred in the second half of the 19th century. The reasons had been the substitution of wool by cotton and cheaper wool which was imported from New Zealand and Australia. Today, transhumance in the Swabian Jura exists only on a very small scale. In the heydays of sheep keeping, in the first half of the 19th century, in the dukedom of Württemberg alone the number of sheep in the grazing season during summer was about 600,000 to 800,000 head (Hornberger 1959). At present in the entire area of the Federal State of Württemberg (which is more than twice the size of the previous dukedom of Württemberg) only about 256,000 sheep are counted (Beinlich 1995). Estimations calculate that today during summer just 100,000 sheep graze on the Swabian Jura (Beinlich 1995).

Modern sheep keeping is confronted by many obstacles. The following list briefly discusses the most severe aspects:

1. Until recent times the most important product of all sheep-keeping systems in Germany, matter which breed was kept, was wool. Today, wool has no economic importance at all. Generally the shearing costs are higher than the revenues generated by selling the wool.

2. The revenue from sheep keeping is firstly earned by selling the meat of lambs and secondly comes from subsidies which are derived from several sources (e.g., ewe premium scheme, MEKA-payment scheme). When allocating the total income from sheep keeping it can be shown that wages that can be achieved are only as high as the subsidies. Or in other words the meat prices that can be obtained on the normal market are just enough to compensate for the production costs.

3. The survival of sheep keeping can only be seen in the production of high quality and high priced meat lambs. This point has to be attributed to all sheep keeping areas in Germany. In comparison with the past manner of sheep keeping, when the wool was of major importance, this needs a complete change to the production system. For the large flocks of previous times it was important to have "something" to eat throughout the year. The poor diet that grew on the downs of the Jura mountains was enough for the maintenance of the livestock. The growth rate of the lambs was, of course, very limited. In contrast, a modern and profitable working shepherd cannot make a living (only) on high nature value of the downlands since the production of marketable lambs also requires grazing of better quality. This leads to a limiting point of modern sheep keeping which is the difficulty of finding necessary good grazing for low costs.

Even in the realm of extensive grassland there still is a wide spread of interests. This means that in practice the interests of the shepherds are often challenged by suckler cow farms (due to special premiums suckler cows can be more rewarding than sheep), by farmers producing hay (due to a high level of support hay meadows can be more profitable than the rents of a shepherd), and by afforestation (the better the ground the higher the afforestation premiums are).

4. In the first half of the 19th century hundreds of thousands of hectares of extensive grasslands were grazed by large numbers of sheep. This led of course to overuse and resulted in ecologically depleted areas. Today, on the other hand, there is evidence that extensive grazing with sheep (sites of chalk grassland communities) occur only on about 7,400 hectares in the Swabian Jura (Beinlich 1995). There are various reasons which can account for this development, although the dramatic decline of sheep numbers is of greatest importance. An often neglected issue, but of great concern, is the philosophical discussion of what are subjects and techniques of nature conservation and what is sustainable agriculture. For some decades nature conservation interests have highlighted the ecological richness of chalk grassland communities. Until present, however, it has not been easy to match the interests of conservationists with the demands of a shepherd. Thus, in western parts of the Swabian Jura a situation is faced where up to 90 % of the remaining downs are not grazed by sheep anymore, but rather are artificially managed by means of mowing the swath and disposing of the biomass (Beinlich & Klein 1995). Furthermore the sites with downland are very scattered and are usually quite small. A survey of 1.000 sites showed that most of the plots are smaller than 10 hectares and that most of these are isolated with long distances in between (Figure 11). This is a crucial point when new concepts for grazing would be established (Beinlich & Plachter 1995, according to Meluf, 1982).

5. The south-western German transhumance relied upon rules and privileges for the wandering shepherds. As in Provence or in Extremadura there existed a system of special drover roads. Today, the disappearance of such drover roads and the fragmentation of the landscapes by all sorts of transport networks are reasons that make transhumance almost impossible. Modern traffic and sheep flocks crossing highways do not go well together. In addition, if a shepherd finally makes his journey from the Swabian Jura to the valleys of the Rhine or Danube he has to cope with the fact that his traditional winter grazing lands have been totally transferred into intensive maize and/or cereal fields.

6. In the historical times of the flourishing transhumance a flock of 100 ewes was enough to make a reasonable living from. Today, a shepherd has to have at least 700 to 800 ewes, which are just enough to make a poor living with.

7. From a nature conservation point of view shepherding by transhumance evokes sentimental feelings: "living in harmony with nature". But one has to be aware that shepherds at all times have been more the "social outcasts" than a profession with social esteem. Living without any familiar privacy for the most time of the year and under circumstances which can be even worse than primitive is anything but a desirable perspective. It is little wonder that almost nobody wishes to live as a transhumance shepherd anymore.

4. Why support agriculture in the less favoured areas of Germany, and what are the future perspectives?

The reasons why agriculture is needed in the Black Forest or on the Swabian Jura are comparable to most other regions in Europe which, under the prevailing conditions, are considered not to be competitive in the European market. They simply cannot compete with the present market schemes for as long as prices do not account for the negative environmental impacts of most agricultural systems.

Agriculture and viable rural communities in the Black Forest and on the Swabian Jura are necessary because they result in:

These points should make it clear to decision-makers that agriculture is necessary for many reasons, of which food production is only one. Food production in regions like the Black Forest or the Swabian Jura is, of course labour intensive and therefore expensive, but in contrast to many other regions farming may be considered sustainable.

An aspect which is usually badly neglected in rural development concepts is that of missing sensibility. A scenic landscape as a product of agricultural activities is highly estimated by visitors as well as by entrepreneurs of the tourist sector. But this sensitivity for agricultural landscapes does not exist when the habits of consumption and the food sources of these same visitors are investigated. Rössler (1997) unveiled interactions of tourism and the benefits for agriculture in the central part of the Swabian Jura: In 44 restaurants in the Lauter-valley (the Lauter-valley and the surrounding area is one of the regions in the Swabian Jura with the richest chalk grassland sites) the consumption rate of lamb is only about 1.2 % of the total meat (= 1,505 kg). Further more, significant parts of this small amount (because it can be bought cheaper from catering services) comes from abroad. What is lacking in the first place is an awareness of the interdependence between the performance of landscape, ecological richness, low intensive farming systems and consumption behaviours. Rössler (1997) calculated that if the consumption of lamb in the Lauter-valley restaurants would increase from 1 % to 25 % this would mean that about 1.506 ewes more could be kept and, accordingly, 628 hectares of downland could be managed/preserved in a natural way. To achieve this aim needs a change in consciousness of the people, a change in the mentality of the restaurant owners, it needs creative cooks with recipes that consist not only of lamb chops, shepherds with marketing competence, and probably the most important point, it needs intelligent moderators/programmes to merge these various interests.

A low public awareness and missing concepts which integrate the interests of farming, nature conservation, landscape development, regional crafts, tourism and forestry, are probably the most crucial points that have to be addressed when talking about policy issues of LFA´s and failures of existing integrative rural development models. At the moment all the disciplines mentioned like each to experiment with their own ideas and administrative structures. However, they are often not conducive to co-operation between interests. There are already numerous and sophisticated landscape development concepts which have been developed in the Black Forest and in the Swabian Jura (e.g. Auctor, 1991; Landsiedlung Baden-Württemberg GmbH, 1992 a; b; c; d & e, Beinlich et al. 1995, Hampicke & Tampe 1995), but these approaches often lack cross-compliance and advice to facilitate practical implementation.

Albrecht (1996) investigated interactions between communal policy, local/regional agriculture, tourism/gastronomy and the appearance of landscape in the Western Lake of Constance area in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. As one aspect tourist publicity was analysed for 25 communities. It was noted how often certain features had been used. The following categories were distinguished:

  1. landscape, flora and fauna, nature conservation aspects;
  2. community, architecture, historical sites;
  3. gastronomy;
  4. sport (events/activities),
  5. culture (events/activities).

Figure 12 presents the results: As was almost expected the most important attributes to attract tourists were the categories 1 and 2. Additionally, in a questionnaire, mayors and/or people responsible in their community for the tourist sector were interviewed. One question was designed to assess the average input of local or regional products in the local restaurants (excluding beverages). Figure 13 shows the results. The estimations given suggested that up to 80 % of the food input derives from local/regional sources. However, only one interview partner was near to the real situation, which is that the average percentage ranges from 0 % to a maximum of 5 %. These figures are once more a hint at the discrepancy between perception and true reality in the discussion of rural development policy.

What action is needed to ensure that (extensive) farming in high nature value regions such as the Black Forest or the Swabian Jura can be maintained for the future? First of all there is the fundamental question of whether those regions disadvantaged for agricultural productivity in terms of morphology, soils and climate should be maintained as a cultivated area under the premises of current and future (EU) agricultural policy. As landscapes have ever evolved from a conservationist point of view, it will sometimes be hard to accept that, because of demographic and social change, future farming systems will be different from now. In the same way, the composition of landscape and biotopes will change.

It is probably going the wrong way to give further support to dairy farms at high altitudes in Black Forest and encourage them to increase their cattle numbers yearly, and to then pump the resulting milk into the European milk reservoir. It might also be a wrong approach to only think of preserving the downs of the Swabian Jura by transhumance.

As the current saleable products of greatest economic interest coming out of landscapes rich in extensive grassland are meat and milk, we firstly have to think of producing high quality meat and dairy products. To make this possible, money has to be spent on appropriate initiatives rather than the current system of short term solutions which are merely prolonging the end of the present systems.

A model with a promising perspective is the large-scale extensive pasture system utilising cattle kept as suckler cows which can be handled by the few remaining farmers expected in LFA´s. There are already positive examples in the southern part of the Black Forest, in the western Swabian Jura region and in the Western Lake of Constance area (Luick 1996). Experience shows that with extensive pasture systems, most of the desired ecological aims can be preserved and can even be improved. Furthermore, if the frame condition are appropriate (e.g. good marketing concept, large connected field-sizes) extensive pasture systems can be managed in a profitable way. However, to implement those systems agricultural policy has to be changed. Improved infrastructure is needed, for instance new local slaughter- and cool-houses which will enable guaranteed product quality and transparent production and processing. This is in contrast to the EU idea for further regional specialisation. Another prospect could be the production of pure, natural cheese which could be manufactured by farmers or in small, local co-operatives. Surveys show that regional cheese varieties could yield good prices. At the moment, only a few cheese-making dairies exist in the Black Forest and on the Swabian Jura because of the stringent regulations for hygiene and product labelling as already discussed. Some producers are currently operating illegally but few are prepared to take such risks.

Finally, there is one dominant factor contributing to the pessimistic outlook for farming in the Black Forest. This is the unreliability of EU-agricultural policy. We should expect that our policy makers show interest in long term developments to make regional, low intensity farming possible and to take care of the generation-oriented decisions which are necessary in agriculture.


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Table 1: Rare cattle breeds in Germany .(Frahm 1990, Sambraus 1994).

Breed Origin/
Weight of cows (kg) Milk yield per year (kg) Cows in herd book Population size
Hinterwald Southern Black Forest/Baden
400 - 450 3.000 - 4.000 662 (1992) 2.500
Vorderwald Central Black Forest/Baden
550 - 600 5.601 5745 (1992) 40.000
Glan-Donnersberg Eifel, Hundsrück/
600 - 700 4.000 130 (1993)
Limpurger Hohenlohe/
600 - 650 4.314 70 (1993) 150
Murnau-Werdenfelser Alpine region/
500 - 600 3.800 114 (1992) 600
Pinzgauer Alpine region/
600 3.666 327 (1992) 1.500
Vogelsberg Vogelsberg/
600 4.000 - 5.000 300
Angler Angeln/
650 5.900 12.360 (19992) 30.000

Table 2: Rare sheep breeds in Germany (Woike & Zimmermann 1992, Sambraus 1994, Dittrich 1995).

Breed Origin
Bentheimer Landschaf Netherlands and Emsland/Niedersachsen
Bergschaf Northern Italy, Austria and Bavaria
Coburger Fuchsschaf Franconia/Bavaria, Hohenlohe and Swabian Jura/Baden-Württemberg
Leineschaf Eastern Niedersachsen
Graue Gehörnte Heidschnucke Lüneburger Heath/Niedersachsen
Weiße Gehörnte Heidschnucke Weser-Ems-Region/Niedersachsen
Weiße Hornlose Heidschnucke
Bogs and Heaths in Niedersachsen
Rhönschaf Rhön Mountains/Hessen, Bavaria, Niedersachsen
Rauhwolliges Pommersches Landschaf previous "Ostpreussen and Schlesien", Mecklenburg, Pommern
Skudde North- and North-eastern Europe


Dr. Rainer Luick (Dipl.-Biol. M.Sc. )
Institut für Landschaftsökologie und Naturschutz (ILN) Singen
Mühlenstr. 19
D- 78224 Singen/Htwl.

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