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Alpiq relies on sheep to cultivate natural areas

Fifteen Valais sheep regularly graze on the land surrounding the Ruppoldingen run-of-river hydropower plant. Rather than using machines, Alpiq relies on animals to cultivate the natural areas along the bypass waterway. The sheep graze on nearly all plant species, among others, prolific blackberry bushes and neophytes. The animals help preserve biodiversity.

The landscape along the over one kilometre-long bypass waterway at the Ruppoldingen run-of-river power plant is unique. The structured river run is interspersed with gravelled zones, pioneer vegetation, as well as soft- and hardwood groves. Rather than relying on machines to cultivate this natural area, Alpiq uses animals, more specifically, a herd of approx. 15 Valais sheep. The sheep graze on the land for about five weeks at a time. Their diet includes prolific plants that tend to overgrow or drive back other species. They especially like nettles and blackberry bushes, and also eat a variety of troublesome species, neophytes and even reeds.

The Valais sheep breed is optimally suited for the area at the Ruppoldingen power plant. The animals maintain the shore, bushes, conservation areas and wetlands in a natural, environmentally sound way. Whereas machines simply mow everything down, the animals sustain vital vegetation structures for insects and other small creatures. They also keep back invasive plants and preserve biodiversity. The Valais sheep are an endangered species (ProSpecieRara). This old breed is known for its hardiness and originality. They are akin to wild breeds in many ways and frugal in terms of diet.

The sheep have been grazing at the Ruppoldingen run-of-river power plant for about three years. "Butterfly bushes, golden rod and Armenian blackberry bushes are especially problematic," says Roland von Arx, Environmental Specialist for Alpiq Hydro Aare AG. Because their diet includes thorny weeds and woody stems, the area around the run-of-river power plant is perfect for the Valais sheep. So Roland von Arx will also bring in the herd twice during the upcoming winter. The initiative is supported with funds from the Alpiq eco-fund.