In Germany as well as in Bavaria there are fewer and fewer sponsors –
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Roland Lechner about 900 ewes with their lambs in a barn in the winter. Soon, however, he would allow them to return to pastures.
Photo: e-arc-tmp-20210328_172045-6.jpg, NN
“The wolf is the last nail in the coffin for us shepherds,” says Roland Lechner. Located on a hill near Markt Berolzheim (Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen district), it overlooks the Altmühltal and points towards the mountain. “Here, about ten kilometers away, the wolf has already been seen,” explains the farmer.
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Currently, around 900 ewes and lambs remain in the barn. If they come to summer pastures soon, then the animals will be looked after during the day. “I’m busy eight to ten hours a day,” explains Schaeffer Leichner, who took over his father’s business in 1992. The animals are fenced off at night. But even an electric fence doesn’t protect. If the wolf is only standing outside and howling, says the farmer, who is also afraid the herd will run to the nearby railway line, where ICE trains are also operating, says if the wolf is only standing outside and howling, the herd starts to run.
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Regardless of the wolf, the profession faces sufficient difficulties. Twenty years ago, there were twice as many shepherds in Germany and in Bavaria than today. In the early 1960s there was a herd of sheep in every village. Meanwhile, the profession is on the verge of extinction.
In Bavaria there are a total of 90 full-time farms with about 175,000 mother animals, in central Franconia there are still about 25 farms with more than 500 mother animals per farm.
“The wool is not enriched nor sprinkled”
In the past, wool was the main source of income. But the raw materials are now almost worthless. In 1955, one kilogram of new wool cost five marks. A year ago, the price of wool was between 1.30 and 1.50 euros per kilogram. In 1955, you could pay a craftsman three hours to sell one kilogram of new wool. Today is still accurate, “says Leichner.
Sometimes the wool price will not cover the cost of cutting. Three to four kilograms are produced from each sheep, so Lechner has about 2,700 kilograms per year that he can hardly market. The farmer cannot understand this: “You don’t have to grow the wool, it is not fertilized or sprayed,” he says. Currently, the product is either sold cheaply or stored for a year. “We hope the price will improve again,” says Lechner.
Lamb is famous
Meanwhile, the shepherd lives mainly on government subsidies. 60 to 70 percent of the income is subsidies and funds from agri-environmental and nature conservation programs, which are paid for, among other things, for landscape maintenance. Lechner earns the remaining 30 to 40 percent of lamb sales, which is especially popular at Easter now. But even here the prices are very low.
In direct sales, the customer pays about eight euros per kilogram of slaughter weight, while Lechner sells animals to the slaughterhouse for only 3.40 euros per kilogram of live weight. Lamb is mainly marketed, but there is almost no market for sheep meat. The sheep will be sold at the daily price, which is currently between 40 and 80 cents per kilogram of live weight.
Sheep skins are also worthless. This market is dead because inexpensive goods are being imported. The slaughterhouse still has to pay something for the skins so that it can be disposed of, ”explains the expert.
On the other hand, pregnancy is already in demand. Germany can supply itself with only 40 percent, and 60 percent of the amount eaten here is imported. “But that spoils the prices,” Leichner complains. Because in New Zealand especially, the effort is less because the animals can graze all year round. “And New Zealand lamb does not take care of our landscapes,” he says. The Leichner has leased 200 hectares.
A big part of idealism
Leichner loves his job: “I still enjoy doing it, even if I sometimes work 70 to 80 hours a week. It takes a lot of idealism,” Leichner says. It is the summer stable. The trees have been planted so that there is shade for the animals. ”The family business has been around for more than 300 years. Nevertheless, Lichner would understand if his children did not survive.“ The risk is very high. ”
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