No “climate killers”: cows are important for landscape conservation

ideal milk region

“We are a dairy region because we have ideal site conditions for pastures”, explains the director of the AELF, Alfons Leitenbacher. “About 60 percent of our agricultural land is meadows and pastures that are only used and cared for by cattle and other ruminants, not to mention the 225 alpine pastures in the region, which would simply grow without grazing.”

Therefore, it is also misleading to speak of the cow as a “climate killer”. About two-thirds of agricultural land worldwide is open grassland. This can only be used efficiently by livestock for food production. If one were to neglect the vast potential for food production by livestock or other forage eaters, 70 percent of the world’s permanent grasslands would have to be converted to arable land. As a result, the high humus content of grasslands would be lost and a huge amount of CO2 would be released into the atmosphere. Because more CO2 is stored in grassland areas around the world than in all the world’s forests and arable land combined.

In addition to providing habitat for so many animals, permanent grasslands have the lowest nutrient leaching of all land uses. Grazing animals and their cow dung provide a variety of insects with nutrients that are essential for their survival. Thanks to an adaptation of humans to their life with the cow, a mutation has prevailed that allows most of us to be able to digest cow’s milk even in adulthood.

It is true that the production of a kilogram of cow’s milk requires about 1000 liters of water. However, according to the AELF, one lives in an area richly blessed with rainfall. The same amount of almond milk made in the arid areas of California uses more than twice as much water. According to the Federal Environment Agency, a high water footprint in rainy regions is less of a problem than a high water footprint in arid areas.

According to the AELF, milk production in the foothills of the Alps represents a sensible use of resources and offers a large selection of regionally produced beef and dairy products. From an ecological point of view, the goal should also be to become even more independent of purchased animal feed. Here, however, limited space is the limiting factor. A good 14 percent is currently produced in the region according to the principles of organic farming. Many conventional farmers would also change their production if consumers bought more organic dairy products.

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