Case Study

Transhumance and tourism

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Transhumance and tourism

Contents

1. Introduction

Milk production is the main driver for the seasonal farming practice. The milk is collected by TINE – Norway’s largest dairy cooperative. In 2011, tourism was added as an activity, and since then, visitors are welcomed three days a week in July.

2. Basic information

Main promoter

Simen Løken

Start of the practice

2011

Location

Øyer, Norway

Organisations involved
  • Farmer(s)/ Dairymaid(s)
Total surface of land farmed in ha
  • Ca. 4 ha
Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • Own land: However, the land is part of a state common.
Basic produce

The main product is milk. Since the farmer and the dairymaids welcome visitors, knowledge transfer is also a ‘product’ of the seasonal farming practice. At the same time, the seasonal farming practice creates and maintains an open landscape.

NUTS3-Region
NO020 Innlandet
  • Main farm

    Farm

  • Summer pastures

Gallery

3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

The seasonal farming practice started already in the mid-1800s. Two farms owned the seasonal farm in common and had a dairymaid every second year. At that time, both cows and goats stayed at the seasonal farm. In about 1920, one of the farms abandoned seasonal farming, but still, both farms owned the seasonal farm. In 1965, seasonal farming was terminated but taken up again in 1987 with cows as livestock. In 2011, the tourism activity started. Simen Løken has an education in farming and has grown up on the farm he is about to take over. In such a time of transition, he has decided to continue with seasonal farming. He has grown up staying at the seasonal farm during summer and has many good memories. For him, it was the ‘right’ decision to continue seasonal farming, which is part of how the farm is run. Both he and the livestock enjoy the stay at the seasonal farm and seasonal farming is a good way to produce food. About 20 milking cows, five heifers and ten calves stay at the seasonal farm. The numbers vary a bit from year to year. Other animals, such as chicken, pigs, rabbits, and goats, are at the seasonal farm partly because the seasonal farm welcomes visitors. However, the goats are also for opening up the pastures. The cows graze freely during daytime. In addition, the cows get some concentrated feed. Simen Løken tries to reduce the amount of concentrated feed; however, the cows need at least some for milk production to not decrease too much. A milking machine is used for the milking, powered by a diesel generator. The main reason for practising seasonal farming is to produce milk; however, the importance of tourism has been increasing. The seasonal farm welcomes visitors three days a week in July. The visitors pay an entrance fee, meet the animals, participate in the milking, and get waffles, coffee or syrup.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type

The seasonal farm is located in a small valley at 1000 m a.s.l., situated in the tree line. It is placed on a slight slope, while the grazing areas are located mainly below. The landscape has a high-mountain character. It is open with an undulating terrain.

Animal type/ breed

Most of the cows belong to the Norwegian Red breed, but two of the milking cows are Dola Cattle.

Movement patterns

The seasonal farming season starts in the end of June and lasts until the first week of September. The animals are transported by a truck. The distance between the main farm and the seasonal farm is ca. 17 km, and the trip takes about 20 min. The elevational difference between the main farm and the seasonal farm is ca. 780 m.

Kind of cooperation

Some seasonal farms close by are in use, and the dairymaids and farmers help each other, for example, when cows have gone missing.

Markets addressed/ product selling

The milk is collected by TINE, Norway’s largest dairy cooperative.

Threats & challenges

The economic situation is challenging since seasonal farming requires extra time and equipment. For example, a barn, a milking machine and a milking tank are needed both at the seasonal farm and the main farm. Two of Simen Løken’s sisters are the dairymaids; however, in the long run, somebody else may need to take over as (a) dairymaid(s). Simen Løken can spend more time at the seasonal farm if nobody else in the family is available. However, more help on the main farm is needed in such a case. He could also decide to employ a dairymaid.

5. Decisions taken

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

Dola Cattle is better adapted to graze at the seasonal farm than Norwegian Red. Dola Cattle needs less concentrated feed and better uses the mountain pastures. Moreover, the animals are smaller, moving more easily in uneven terrain but producing less milk. 

Decision for the production system

Milk production is a continuation of how seasonal farming has been practised since 1987. In 2010, all seasonal farming practitioners in the municipality of Øyer arranged an ‘Open day’ with activities such as storytelling, trips and hay harvest with scythe, and served food. Showing visitors how a seasonal farm is run was a positive experience for the farmer and the dairymaids, and they continued welcoming visitors. The seasonal farm has been a place of privacy for the family in the past, and decisions are necessary to determine to which degree the seasonal farm is open to paying visitors. Does one, for example, welcome visitors outside opening days?

Diversification of income

The milk production is an essential source of income for the farm. Tourism, because it has increased, has developed into an extra income.

Multifunctional aspects

Milk production is mentioned as the main reason to practice seasonal farming. At the same time, seasonal farming creates a characteristic landscape. Simen Løken has used time and resources to recreate part of the landscape. Since only a few seasonal farms are in use, the grazing pressure is currently insufficient to keep the landscape open. Less grazing pressure results in regrowth and lower-quality pastures which makes is more challenging to practice seasonal farming. Support from public authorities is needed to open up the landscape beyond the amount the seasonal farm owners manage themselves.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

The education at the ‘Sogn Jord- og Hagebruksskule’ – a secondary school for organic farming – has contributed much knowledge and many ideas for running a seasonal farm. Contact with the owners of neighbouring seasonal farms throughout the whole year; visits to the neighbouring seasonal farms and seasonal farms in other parts of the country are important for exchanging experiences and getting new ideas. In addition, following other seasonal farms on social media is an important source of inspiration.

7. Next steps to move on

Simen Løken wants to try processing part of the milk into butter, sour crème (‘rømme’) and possibly cheese. Processing milk requires more work and time than delivering all milk to TINE; however, processing the milk would give added value to the seasonal farming milk Simen Løken produces. In such a case, it may become relevant to increase the number of Dola Cattle cows to get a larger share of milk with good qualities for cheese production.

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

Seasonal farming means a change from everyday life, and staying at the seasonal farm is a kind of holiday, even if it implies more work. Being at the seasonal farm gives good memories. The biggest challenge with seasonal farming is time management.

Good contact with the livestock throughout the whole winter is very important. Especially when the livestock grazes freely, it is vital that the livestock knows the people at the seasonal farm.