Sunday, April 25, 2010

Journey to the Heart of Austria (Day 1)

We have just returned from a two day excursion in Styria. Two days full of experiences from the rural Ausria in a breathtakingly nice environment. The main idea was to visit some typical family farms so common for Austria.
Besides of the surroundings and schedule the trip was interesting also because of the composition of our group. From total of 16 people we represented 12 countries and 4 continents. The countries were: Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Bosnia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Pakistan, Iran, Bhutan and Mexico. Not an ordinary bus ride for sure...

Before going to the farms we stopped at the research station Raumberg-Gumpenstein. People from there took us to a tour into the most interesting places of the station.
Besides of various facilities for research in animal nutrition they showed us some large plots to study (Alpine) grassland management. Although I was not particularly interested about this, it turned out as one of the most interesting parts of the day. This was mainly because of the explanation that was given to us. Once again I have seen that the way of communication and shoving some enthusiasm during the speech can take the message through, no matter of the topic.
Besides of other things the guy (I forgot his name) said during his explanation: "Everything is connected!" I kept on thinking about this simple phrase, and remembered the book I read some time ago. The book Modern and Mobile emphasizes the need of improving the pastoral systems in Africa. As I am interested in animal breeding in developing countries, the topic of grassland management seems to be relevant also for me after all!
In the afternoon we arrived to the highlight of day 1, a small family farm called 7 Geisslein - 7 Little Goats. It is needless to mention that the farm itself is located in a beautiful environment (the first picture in this blog entry is the view from their house). I have "borrowed" the family picture, more info about the whole family on their introduction page.
We were shown around the (surprisingly big) little farm by the owner himself. In the animal breeding point of view Michael (the father) is also interesting, as he heavily participated on creation of the official database for sheep and goats in Austria. Data collection in the right way is one of the cornerstones in animal breeding, and to participate in it's creation is a big thing.
We also got a chance to taste their dairy products from goat milk. As the goat milk has the reputation of "not so good" and "smelly" milk, I was cautious. But then I said that if I am here, I will taste. Picked a yogurt (from goat milk it is drinking consistency) and went on. It resulted to yet another surprise: It was very good, without any sign of "goat smell". Barbara (the wife) told us that this is because of high hygiene during the milking and the quick cooling right after. Another bunch of things we have learnt...

As the day turned into dusk, we had to move on... We said farewell to the family and went on to the next (much larger) family farm. This served also as a hotel, so we could have some rest.
It was a good day...

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