Suckler-Cow-Farming and Guarding Dogs

Hiking and biking trails occasionally lead across pastures. When entering pastures, it is therefore essential to pay attention to the animals - cattle, sheep and guard dogs - and their behaviour. If hikers and bikers observe a few basic rules, any encounters between humans and animals should be peaceful.

The project

In order to minimise the potential for conflict between suckler cows, guarding dogs and guests and to promote the coexistence of agriculture and tourism, the destination Flims Laax Falera is participating in a pilot trial. The aim is to provide outdoor sports enthusiasts with real-time information on the location of the suckler cows and guarding dogs.This information should help the guest to plan his route or facilitate the decision making whether to enter a pasture or avoid it on a large scale.

For this purpose, suckler cows and guarding dogs were equipped with transmitters and the individual pastures were mapped. The aim of the trial is to ensure that only pastures that actually contain suckler cows and guarding dogs are coloured orange. As this is a pilot test, in which functional disturbances can occur, a perfect functionality cannot yet be guaranteed.

Therefore: If the pasture is coloured orange, there are certainly suckler cows and guarding dogs in it. If the area is not marked as pasture, you must still expect to encounter suckler cows and guarding dogs.

Behaviour with mother cows

1. Keep distance

If possible, keep your distance so as not to disturb the cattle. In any case, walk past the cows calmly. Cattle have an individual zone - similar to the natural distance zone for humans. If this is violated, the animals may feel harassed. Attacks on humans are usually meant to protect themselves, the herd and especially the young animals.

2. Don't touch the calves

The mothers cows always keep an eye on their young ones and can react violently in case of conflict. Do not approach the calves and under no circumstances touch them. Mother cows want to protect their calves. They do not like strangers touching their offspring. However, calves often lie somewhat hidden away from the herd.

3. Dogs on leash

Keep your dog on a leash and avoid the cattle as calmly and spaciously as possible. Avoid direct contact with the herd. Cattle always classify your dog as a predator and want to protect their herd - regardless of its appearance and size.

Behaviour tips with guarding dogs

Behavioural principles

  • Take signs with behavioural tips seriously
  • Slow down
  • Do not startle animals
  • Do not surprise dogs, but attract their attention by talking loudly.
  • Get off the bike

When guard dogs bark, run towards you and block the way

  • Stand still and give the dogs time to assess the situation (do not look directly at the dogs, do not touch them, do not address them directly).
  • Keep your distance from the herd
  • Do not provoke the dogs: do not raise your sticks, do not wave them around, do not shout at them.
  • If necessary, keep the dogs at a distance with the stick extended at an angle and pointing calmly downwards.
  • As soon as the dog has accepted the presence and stops barking, the walk can be continued slowly.

If the guard dogs do not calm down

  • Walk backwards and retreat to a greater distance from the herd
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Avoid the herd as far as possible or turn back
  • If you force your way through the herd despite clear warning signals from the guard dogs, you can be bitten in the worst case.

The pilot test was launched by the graubündenHIKE impulse programme of the Slow Traffic Department of the Graubünden Civil Engineering Office. Participating in the pilot: Destination Flims Laax Falera, Amt für Landwirtschaft und Geoinformatik, Alptracker, Adnexo, Snora, outdooractive, various Alpine cooperatives.