Species-rich swards of the Alps: constraints and opportunities for dairy production


  • H.A. Van Dorland
  • H.R. Wettstein
  • M. Kreuzer


The swards of the alpine grasslands represent a unique feed resource that sustains animal agriculture to the present. The complex animal–plant interactions during cattle grazing influence grassland dynamics, which under proper grazing management maintain the sustainability of these alpine swards and thereby the persistence of alpine dairy production systems. However, dairy production on alpine swards is limited by the herbage quality and the physiological impact of alpine summer grazing on dairy cattle. Abandonment of the alpine regions and shifts from milk production towards more extensive livestock systems are trends increasingly seen during recent decades. Current interest in the positive health aspects of animal products, especially in beneficial functional fatty acids in milk, may revive the interest in alpine dairy farming, because high concentrations of beneficial functional fatty acids in the lipid fraction of the milk are found in dairy products of alpine origin