A life for sheep, nature, wool and more

Sheep farmer Moritz Niess

My name is Moritz Niess and I am shepherd on the Swabian Alb hill range. I am 25 years old. We have had sheep farming in the family for 3 generations. I learned to be a shepherd and now run my own business.

Did you always wanted to be a sheep farmer?

I did that because my father and grandfather were already shepherds and I took over. If I did not have a business at home, I probably wouldn't have taken up this profession. Then I would have done something different.

Could you tell us something about sheep keeping throughout the year?

In February the sheep come into the stable. Then they are sheared as soon as they come into the stable so that there is as little dirt in the wool as possible. In the stable there is a risk of bedding or food getting caught in the wool, which is not something you want. That's why we shear them straight away and then there is no contamination of the wool. Once they are shorn, the ewes have lambs. They are in the barn until the beginning of April and then they go back to the pasture until February of next year.

Where is your farm located?

Our stable is in Langenau. We are there in winter too. In the past, up until 5 years ago, we always went to winter pasture on Lake Constance. We don't do that anymore. The winters have become milder and so we gather enough food. It is easier for the business if the sheep are in the stable in winter.

Could you briefly explain to us which routes you hike with your sheep?

We start in Langenau. Langenau is at the foot of the Swabian Alb. We then move from Langenau up the Alb to Gerstetten and Gussenstadt, where we are now. Then we stay in this area over the summer and in the fall and winter we go back to the Danube valley to Günzburg. We move within a radius of 30 to 40 kilometers around our stable.

What role does wool play in your business?

In the past, sheep were kept for their wool. They were also bred for wool. Wool made up most of the income. In the past, in my grandfather's time, I assume. Today that has changed. For us, wool is a necessary evil. So, you have to shear because the animals are bred to do so. Once a year the wool has to be removed and then sold. We are now happy that we were able to sell the wool, but there are many colleagues who still have wool from the last few years on the farm. There's wool from the last two or three years still there and they don't know how to sell it.

What else could cou tell us about your sheep?

With our herd of migratory sheep, the sheep is also a seed taxi, in the wool we transport a lot of seeds and small animals over long distances, you can essentially achieve a biotope network with the migratory sheep farming. Our company has merino land sheep. We have about 600 ewes. The special thing about the merino land sheep breed is that it was bred here in the Swabian Alb to meet the requirements of the Swabian Alb and was also bred for its wool. Fits best into the area and the farm. We have herding and they specialize in that too. They are capable of corralling and marching. So you can walk long distances.