Veit Schragl’s alarm clock is set for 4.30am. Every day. The 30-year-old is a devoted farmer. From the end of May until the beginning of October, he lives on the Schaftenheu Alm, high above the village of Hippach at an altitude of 1,800m. However, he never gets lonely up there, because of his family – his wife Christine and two young sons – and their 35 cows. “They are our treasures.” And, they also spend the whole summer on the alm. “In the last week of May, the cows are driven up the mountain by lorry, because we aren’t fit enough to walk them up after the winter” laughs Christine. It was Veit and his wife’s love of animals and nature which persuaded them to pursue a simple life on the alm.
All dolled up
Every first Saturday in October, the Schragl Family spruce themselves up for the day when the cattle will be driven back down into the valley. This time on foot. “This year’s cattle drive on the 7th October is a personal celebration for us, which happens to fall on the same day as the cattle drive festival in Mayrhofen”, explains Veit. Even the cows get dolled up: “we clean them and decorate them with big bells and garlands of flowers.” Around a dozen friends and relatives help Christine and Veit with the cattle drive. However, the celebration is no walk in the park. “My cows leave the alm at 8am and get down to the valley at 3pm.” They carry around 12 kg of decorations on their head and get very tired. In addition to the stresses and strains of the cattle drive, modern life poses an additional problem: the traffic and the many cars! “The unreasonableness of drivers, who think they own the road” really exasperates Veit. “And the crowds of people attending the festival in Mayrhofen are also an issue. Sometimes, somebody jumps out of the crowd to take a photo. Normally, that’s not a problem, but if something were to happen then I would be responsible.”