EPISODE 3 - A summer on the alp
Lukas, can you describe the alp you are tending sheep on?
Here we are on Alp Cristallina and there are three huts on the Alp. The lowest is at about 1,600 meters, the middle one at about 2,000 meters and the third at 2,500 meters. The sheep range from 1,600m to about 3,000m, maybe a bit lower. The mountain that borders the Alpe in the north is called Piz Cristallina, the crystal mountain. And the other end of the alp in the east is marked by the Uffiern pass, which means "pass of the devil". So we start at an altitude of 1,600 meters and over time we hike further and further up until we are at the very back of the Uffiern Pass and then we pull back again.
Do sheep have a daily rhythm?
So, basically, sheep are definitely rhythm animals and they are herds that are always moving. It is said that there are "standing" and there are "walking" herds. For example, cattle are standing herds and sheep are walking herds. That means they are always on the move. They eat and move, eat and move. They usually always sleep in the same places and then get up in the morning and then go up, always up.
Before noon they usually go down a bit and then lie down and in the afternoon they move up a bit again and in the evening they actually come down to their sleeping place again.
Does the place to sleep change over the course of the summer?
In the course of the summer, the sleeping place changes because I change pastures with the sheep. So I start at the bottom, at about 1,600 meters and then we keep going up. Actually, we follow the grass because when we are at 1,600 meters at the beginning, everything is still covered with snow and the snow melts over time and then the green comes and then we follow that and in winter we pull the same backwards again . Then the snow comes slowly and then we go further down with the sheep. And as a result, of course, the sleeping places also change, they go up and then down again.
What do you observe when the sheep forage for food?
Well, sheep are definitely gourmets, I would say. You think sheep will eat anything, and when in doubt, they will. But actually, they always want the young that has just grown on the grass. And they simply leave the big, juicy one where they have the choice. Actually, the higher you are and the taller the grass, the more concentrated it is. At the top, the growing season is extremely short and the grass has very little time to fully develop before the snow comes again. And in the valley it has much more time to develop and that's why the nutrients are extremely concentrated up there and that's why the grass has a special quality.