Dairy cattle farming is the predominant production system in cattle farming in Austria. However, in Carinthia, particularly in the mountain areas, suckler cows are the predominant production system. Farms with suckler cows in the mountain areas rely mainly on the calf or baby beef fattening, mainly on pasture. The fattening of the calves is mostly outsourced, since concentrated feed can only rarely be grown and additional purchases are not economically viable. The current low milk prices could give a new impetus to suckler cows. Compared with dairy cattle farming, the milking process is no longer required, which means that the daily stable working time is shorter. Other activities, such as removing dung and providing litter, feeding and feed preparation, cleaning and daily outflow, can be considered as similar in both systems. All of these activities are the routine activities in suckler farming. A number of studies quantify the working time requirements of dairy cattle farming, but there are only a few recent studies dealing with suckler cows, in particular with the working time requirements for routine activities in suckler cow farming. Furthermore, there are no current studies dealing with the physical strain involved in suckler cow farming. Various physical and psycho-mental stress situations can cause occupational diseases. If the performance capabilities of farmers are overburdened, this can lead to different kinds of strains and health impairments (Kroll et al., 2011). However, it is not known to what kind of strains suckler cow farmers are really exposed to.
The main objective of this study was to collect information on the working time requirements, the workload and the physical strain involved in daily stable work on small suckler farms (with up to a maximum of 20 mother cows) in the area of Spittal an der Drau. Furthermore, the influence of different working methods on the working time requirements and the physical strain during feeding, manure removal, littering, cleaning and daily outflow were investigated. In addition, activities which are perceived by farmers as particularly physically demanding and which can lead to an increased strain or workload have been identified. In the process, special activities were also identified.
The results showed that manure removals with littering and feeding including food preparation are the most labor intensive activities. More mechanization reduces the working time requirements as well as the physical stress.