A RARE BREED
Christian Stotz is a Master Shepherd in the fifth generation. With 2400 dams in three flocks, he herds one of the largest wandering flocks in south-west Germany. Just recently he took over the family business, a rare event these days. Every year there are fewer full-time shepherds, and many small businesses can’t find a successor. The work is hard and the hours are long, says Christian. But the job is varied and you never get bored.
FROM VALUABLE RESOURCE TO BY-PRODUCT
In earlier days, shepherds in the region lived mainly from selling their wool. But prices have dropped sharply in recent years, and there are hardly any buyers. In Germany, this valuable natural resource is now mostly just a by-product of meat production and landscape management. So a few years ago, Christian Stotz started self-marketing. 99% of his dams are merinos – a ‘fine wool’ breed – and he delivers their wool fibre to two regional partner businesses that use it for clothing and thread.
BEAUTIFUL JUNIPER HEATHLANDS
However, one of the main tasks of shepherding in south-west Germany is landscape management. The sheep graze the numerous juniper heaths in the region and prevent them from going to seed. Doing that with machines would be difficult and expensive, especially on the slopes. Nature and biodiversity also benefit from the sheep: under normal farming, a number of plants and insects would either be displaced or would die out.
THE SHEPHERD AND THE WOLF
In the daytime when the flocks are outside, the shepherd looks after them. In the evening he moves them to pastures surrounded by an electric fence. You have to do that, Christian Stotz explains, you can’t let them roam by themselves. The night brings other problems too: wolves are returning to Germany and as the shepherd points out, “a flock of sheep inside an electric fence is a feast for an animal like that”. But somehow, Christian Stotz will solve this problem too.
Direct marketing, regional sales, unusually high quality standards … the Stotz family have always been pioneers. At the moment, trying out technical advances is important for Christian Stotz. He wants to reduce and simplify the work on the pastures and in the stall further still. He and his parents have learnt that advances nearly always benefit the business long term. But sometimes, the shepherd smiles, he has to admit that the old ways are best. The important thing is to reach your goals and be successful, says the shepherd – and that’s exactly the way he works.