Grazing herds have been part of the Seewinkel scenery for centuries. Large areas have been used for pasturing, other parts were mowed and so provided feed for the animals in winter. This formed a steppe landscape that has an extremely rich fauna and flora. The National Park and local farmers are working together to preserve these extraordinary habitats.
Traditional pasturing took place between St. Gregory’s (March 12th) and St. Michael’s (September 29th), when the herds were driven out to the pasturelands by herdsmen every morning. There were herds from the local villages and the large herds from the local manor. The wet meadows near the lakeshore – between the embankment and areas traditionally used for pasturing (Hutweide) and farming – were the main areas for hay-making. Lower areas were used for pasturing in the late summer.
In the 1970ies, livestock farming declined and parts of the commonly owned pastureland and meadows were parcelled out and used as farmland or vineyards. The wet or saline areas that were actually not agriculturally useable were left untouched and overgrew with reed and bushes. Alone the Apetlon Hutweide near the Lange Lacke (saline lake) has been preserved as pastureland, thanks to nature conservation initiatives.
In the mid 80ies, as precious habitats threatened to become lost because they were not pastured any more, pasturing as a form of nature conservancy measure was reestablished. Since then pastureland and meadows were expanded under careful long-term studies and monitoring. The dates for mowing and grazing are set according to the particular needs of flora and fauna in the current year.
The following are the pasturing projects of the National Park:
- Pasturage of Grey cattle and Water buffalo on meadows close to the lake south of Illmitz and Apetlon
- pasturage of white donkeys on sand soils (embankment)
- pasturage of warmbloods on meadows close to the lake in the north of the Illmitzer Seestraße and in the area between Hölle and Podersdorf
- pasturage of Przewalski's Horses in the area near the lake north of the Biological Station
- pasturage of Aberdeen Angus cattle on traditional Hutweide (pastureland) near the Illmitzer Zicklacke (a saline lake) and mixed herd of cattle near the Illmitzer Kirchsee.
- pasturage of German Simmental cattle on traditional pasturland around Lange Lacke
- pasturage of mixed cattle on meadows near the lake in the Zitzmannsdorfer Wiesen Conservation Zone
The herds belong to the National Park (Grey cattle, Water buffalo, White Donkeys and Przewalski's Horses) as well as to private owners.
Pasture extent, intensity, and period depend on precipitation, extent of the water bodies, breeding of endangered birds and appearance of endangered plants and are determined accordingly every year.