Lamb - increasingly popular
Whereas wool used to be the main economic reason for keeping flocks of sheep in Austria, the focus nowadays is on the production of high-quality lamb. Sheep farming in Austria is a beneficial combination of ecological and economic farming. It has become increasingly important in the past few years as the intensification of farming alpine pastures and grassland has led to the increased importance of this kind of farming.
Sheep farming mainly in the hands of part-time farmers
In Austria there are at present about 16,000 sheep farmers with a stock of approximately 325,000 sheep, i.e. about 21 sheep per farmer. This small-scale, easy to manage farming structure makes ecological and natural ways of animal husbandry a logical choice. Natural breeding methods mean, among other things, that the lambs are brought up on milk, tasty grasses, fresh hay and cereals. In Austria sheep farming is predominantly alpine, which means that the sheep spend the whole summer on alpine meadows and grazing land. Only a small proportion of the sheep and lambs are kept in enclosures.
Special breeds guarantee quality
In Austria there are about 10 different breeds of sheep, which have become acclimatised to the various climatic and vegetative conditions. The mountain sheep constitute the largest proportion followed by the Merino, dairy sheep and various fattening breeds (Black Face, Suffolk, Texel). All mother breeds, mostly mountain sheep or Merinos, are used for lamb production, whereas on the male side fattening sheep breeds are being introduced to improve the stock.