February 28


Viehscheid – "Summa is umma, Kiakemma"

By Frank

February 28, 2023

The tradition of collective alpine farming can be traced back to 1000 AD . During this time, this is mentioned for the first time for the Oberstdorf area. At the beginning of the 20th century, shepherds were still among themselves when they drove down from the mountains . Only after the Second World War did it become a major attraction. The Viehscheid takes place mainly in the Bavarian Alps, otherwise in Baden-Württemberg, Austria and also in parts of Switzerland .

The cattle drive to the Alm is a traditional practice in which cattle or other livestock are herded from the lower pastures to higher mountainous areas in the spring to graze on the Alm during the summer. The animals are then herded back down into the valley in the fall.

The cattle drive to the Alm has many advantages . For one, it allows animals to live naturally and feed on a variety of plants . This can result in higher quality milk and meat derived from these animals.

On the other hand, the cattle drive to the Alm is also advantageous from an ecological point of view. The animals can help mow the grass and control vegetation , which can help promote biodiversity and reduce the risk of wildfires . In addition, the practice of herding can help preserve the traditional culture and knowledge of local communities.

However, it is important to note that driving cattle to the alpine pasture can also present challenges , such as stressing the delicate ecosystems in higher mountainous areas from excessive grazing or the spread of disease between animals . For this reason, it is important that the cattle drive to the alpine pasture is carried out responsibly and sustainably .

Ah, cool,...


In early summer , when the first sun-seekers are already cavorting in the open-air pool in the valley, it's also time for the numerous young cattle in the Allgäu: off to the summer resort . The ascent into the Alps, the so-called Alpauftrieb , is arduous and difficult for the young cattle, which have only been allowed to leave the stable a few times before. Herds are formed from the livestock of various farmers in the surrounding valleys .

For the time to come, the shepherds are responsible for their welfare . From this day on you can again hear the cowbells on the pastures in the Allgäu. In contrast to the cattle drive, the cattle drive, the animals on the Alpaufzug are not festively decorated.

Not only the surrounding farmers in the Allgäu, but also farmers from far away bring their cattle to the Allgäu for the cattle drive .
The reason that cattle spend the summer in the Alps is very simple: the cattle have a longer life expectancy and are more productive . The animals come back from the mountain pastures much stronger , because the long summer outdoors strengthens the animal in every respect . In addition, the farmers do not have to feed their cattle in the summer and are relieved as a result.

For animals that spend the summer in the Alps, there is a pasture bonus for the animal's well-being. On the other hand, the herds are also important for the pastures , because they have to be kept short to avoid weeds .
Not only young cattle ("Schumpen") and dairy cows spend the summer on the mountain meadows, but also sheep, goats, pigs and horses are driven to the alpine pastures by the alpine pasture.

The animals stay on the Landalps until the beginning of June , after which they are driven to the Central Alps and finally, when the higher elevations are also snow-free , to the High Alps. The shepherds stay on the Alps with their cattle until September . After a good 100 days on the alp, between September 9th and 24th, it's time to say goodbye again.

The herds are then driven into the valley , where they are eagerly awaited by locals and guests. The lead cow gets an artistic and elaborately handcrafted headdress made of mountain flowers, twigs, ribbons and fir green. Festively decorated in this way , she leads the herd as a wreath of cattle . Of course, the shepherds also wear festive clothing, traditionally leather trousers with embroidered edelweiss braces .

After the herd has arrived in the valley together with the shepherds, the actual cattle drive begins. As the word says, the cattle are divorced . This means that the individual animals are taken out of the herd and handed over to their respective owners, who are already ready to receive their cattle . This happens on the so-called Scheidplatz, which is often outside of town .

Grass quality on the alp

The grass on the mountain pastures is often of a higher quality than the grass in the valley, as it grows under different conditions . There is usually more rainfall and a cooler climate on the alp than in the valley, which promotes the growth of grass and herbs . The grass on the alp consists of different types of grass and herbs , which can vary depending on the location and altitude . The following grass species in particular grow in the Alps:

  • Knaulgra
  • lichen grass
  • Schwingel 
  • Wiesenrispe 
  • ryegrass

In addition to the grass , various herbs and flowers also grow on the alp, such as:

  • Alpen-Aster 
  • Alpine edelweiss
  • Arnica
  • Bergheide 
  • gentian

Due to the variety of grass and herb species, the grass on the alpine pasture can have a high nutrient density and offer the cows a varied and healthy diet . The grass on the alpine pastures is also often less contaminated by pollutants and pesticides, since less agriculture is practiced in the remote Alpine regions .

In addition , fertilizers and chemical pesticides are generally not used on the alpine pastures. By grazing on the alpine pastures, the grasses are always kept short , which leads to better branching of the grasses and thus ensures a higher quality of forage .

In summary, the natural conditions on the alp and the traditional management are reasons why the grass on the alp is often of a higher quality than the grass in the valley.

Cows on a pasture in front of high mountains

Cows on Alm

Plants containing bitter substances

So-called bitter substances may be contained in some grasses and herbs on the alp. Bitter substances are plant compounds that have a bitter taste and often have a protective function for the plant. However, they can also have health-promoting effects on the body.

An example of a plant that contains bitter substances is wormwood , which is often used as a medicinal plant . Other plants that contain bitter substances on the alp are, for example, the gentian, the yarrow or the centaury .

In small amounts, bitter substances can have a positive effect on cows' digestion and metabolism . However , too high a concentration of bitter substances in the feed can also have negative effects and lead to reduced feed intake . It is therefore important that the grass on the alp has a balanced composition and does not contain too many bitter substances .


Animal rights activists want to ban cow bells

When tens of thousands of cattle return from the Bavarian Alps and mountain pastures to the valley in September, the bells ringing around their necks can be heard from afar . For one, bells have been used for centuries to identify and protect livestock. Bells are also important in distinguishing a cow from other animals and can also help locate lost animals , especially in the mountainous areas around the Alps.

Animal rights activists consider this to be cruelty . A study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology had shown that ruminants suffer from the bells : on six measurement days, 19 cows with bells weighing 5.5 kilograms moved their heads less frequently than conspecifics without bells. They also ate and rested less. Rumination time was reduced by 2.5 hours per belled animal. Another animal rights activist said the bells were as loud for cows as if we were holding a jackhammer to our ear ...

Note : A bell is made of cast brass and shaped like a bell. A bell is a large bell made of sheet metal and comes in different sizes. In the pasture, the cattle usually wear bells - so-called pasture bells.

A jackhammer typically produces a sound pressure level of around 100 to 120 decibels (dB) in close proximity to the tool. A 5.5 kg bell typically produces a sound level of around 80 to 90 decibels in the immediate vicinity of the bell. The cows only wear the big bells for a maximum of half a day at the Viehscheid . And the little bells don't hurt any animal.

Kranzlrind with cowbell for Viehscheid

Kranzlrind with cowbell for Viehscheid

Bizarre events at the Viehscheid

In some cases , strange things can happen. For example, it can happen that an animal detaches itself from the herd and runs in the wrong direction, or that a particularly cheeky bull cow tries to dominate its owner or the other animals . There are also stories of cows escaping during the cattle drive and setting off a wild chase , or of visitors drinking too much beer and being clumsy with the animals .

What's exciting to see?

The Viehscheid, also known as Almabtrieb (By the way, Almabtrieb is only said in Upper Bavaria , Alpabtrieb is said in Allgäu at Viehscheid ) is a traditional festival in the Alpine regions, where the cows are driven back from the summer pastures into the valley. There are many interesting things to see including:

  1. The cows are traditionally decorated with flowers and ribbons , symbolizing their beauty and health . Each cow has its own color combination and pattern.
  2. The Costumes: Locals often wear their traditional costumes to celebrate the festival. The costumes are colorful and detailed , and each village has its own style of costume.
  3. The ringing of the cowbells : When the cows come into the valley, you can hear the loud ringing of the cowbells . It is an unmistakable sound that makes the Viehscheid something special.

  4. The Viehscheid is also an opportunity to taste traditional dishes and drinks, such as cheese , sausage, bread, beer and schnapps .
  5. For many farmers, the cattle drive is an emotional moment because they have to part with their cows , which have accompanied them on the alpine pastures throughout the summer. You can feel the gratitude and solidarity of the farmers with their animals.
  6. The Viehscheid is a happy and convivial event where locals and visitors come together to celebrate the arrival of the cows. It is a unique opportunity to get to know and experience the culture and traditions of the Alpine regions.


In summary , the Viehscheid is a happy and convivial event where locals and visitors come together to celebrate the arrival of the cows. It is a unique opportunity to get to know and experience the culture and traditions of the Alpine regions.

About the author

It is more valuable to experience a place in detail than many small impressions of an incomprehensible whole.

Genius Loci - discovering, capturing and experiencing the spirit of a place. Perceive - understand - enjoy!

As a graduate industrial engineer with an additional MBA degree from a renowned university in England (EMBA, EQUIS and AACSB accredited), I have been showing other, often surprising, paths to success for more than 30 years at C-Level (Head of Marketing and Sales worldwide).

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