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Dairy – Schoergerer Farm, Austria

Dairy Beef– Schoergerer Farm, Austria

This case study demonstrates how a positive, innovative approach to dairy farming can result in a successful family business despite the challenges of altitude, terrain and adverse weather conditions. The farm has a strong focus on animal welfare, with housing systems designed to promote welfare and pasture access provided whenever conditions allow. In addition, the land is carefully managed to protect the unique environment of the alpine pastures and forest.

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Key areas of good practice

The key initiatives on the farm are:

  • Cows are housed in free access cubicles meaning they have more freedom of movement than cows housed in tie stall barns; this enables them to express their natural behaviours. The cubicles have rubber mattresses and are deep bedded with straw to improve cow comfort. The dairy housing is enriched with cow brushes and a ‘cow shower’ that sprays a fine water mist containing herbal additives over the cows to improve thermal comfort in warmer weather. Walkways are made from rubber–covered slats to create a clean, non–slip surface.

  • Calves are initially housed in individual calf hutches before moving into larger group hutches. The hutches are placed outside to ensure good ventilation and are also protected by a simple roof to provide shade and protection from the weather. Weaned calves and heifers are housed in straw–bedded barns and on slatted rubber to accustom them to the conditions in the dairy herd. Calves and heifers all have access to pasture when weather conditions permit. Heifers over 7 months of age are kept on alpine pasture during the summer.

  • The farm is focused on adding value to its milk and is making their own cheese that they market locally. The male dairy calves are reared to 3 months old (~140kg) and then slaughtered to produce rose veal that is also sold locally to shops, hotels and restaurants.

  • The Linder Brothers’ sister owns a hotel locally that gives them the opportunity to engage with visitors to the region, running regular farm tours for hotel guests and other visitors. The hotel is a primary outlet for the farm’s cheese and rose veal, and the brothers also produce schnapps from their fruit trees which is sold in the hotel.

  • The Lindner brothers are very careful to manage the different land types on the farm to ensure that their integrity is maintained. The alpine pastures and forests are very important for promoting biodiversity and soil structure on steep terrain. Amongst the farm’s land management initiatives are the planting of fruit trees to create pollinator habitats and late cutting of grass for hay crops on some fields to allow plants to flower and seed. There is also the use of legumes in grassland to fix atmospheric nitrogen and improve soil structure.