Wolf presence and cattle farming: not just a matter of livestock kills

In order to understand the effects of wolf presence on cattle farming and to promote low-conflict coexistence between cattle farmers and wolves, it is essential to know the needs and expectations of those affected and to take them into account in solution processes.

A Master's thesis at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences BFH-HAFL in Zollikofen investigated how representatives of the cattle industry assess the potential economic, social and psychological impact of the presence of wolves on Swiss cattle farming and how they view the attitudes and expectations of cattle farmers with regard to wolf management. To this end, Evelyn Böttinger conducted qualitative interviews with nine experts from the Swiss cattle industry.

Economic effects

Above all, the economic effects such as unforeseeable and therefore unpredictable additional costs and labour costs in the event of wolf presence and attacks on cattle are considered problematic by the interviewees. For example, wolf-related stress can lead to fertility problems or reduced milk production in cattle and thus to a drop in performance. The inadequate compensation for these expenses and losses, particularly in the case of valuable breeding animals, is criticised.

Psychological and social effects

Uncertainty about potential attacks and the condition of the animals can cause considerable stress and worry for livestock owners. Too little attention is often paid to such psychological effects. Although the aspect of social pressure within the industry was not considered very important by the majority of respondents, this is a non-negligible effect that can make it difficult to find a solution or can even contribute to an intensification of conflicts.

Attitudes and expectations

The interviews revealed a lack of trust in the institutions responsible for wolf management and monitoring and a low level of tolerance towards wolf attacks on cattle. Compulsory herd protection measures for cattle are rejected by the majority and the testing of voluntary, individual measures is favoured instead. Finally, the results also emphasise that the concerns of farmers must be taken seriously and integrated into solution processes in order to reduce the conflict.

The master's thesis was realised in cooperation with the project Wolves & Cattle.

To the Thesis (PDF; in German)