Thursday, August 16, 2012

Modern traditions : todays livestock transhumance in Swiss Alps

Livestock transhumance has a long tradition in the Swiss Alps. Livestock moves from the valley bottom slowly upwards to the Alps at the beginning of the summer. As fodder is consumed, the livestock moves further upwards. When fodder is consumed on the highest location, or when first snow starts falling, the livestock moves downwards, and somewhere end of September is back at the valley bottom. In order to not carry milk down to the valley, it is transformed into cheese on the Alp. Often there is no electricity in the Alps and therefore cheese is produced manually, without milking machine and using fire to heat up the milk.
Sertigtaal, near Davos, Switzerland
Bringing the livestock to the Alps is therefore time and cost intensive in a world where intensive livestock production implies an industrialized production using imported soja or maize as fodder in a system where most of the cows never see the sky.

Grazing cows in the Sertigtaal near Davos
Nonetheless the tradition of transhumance in Switzerland still exists, and i met a farmer near Davos who showed me how the tradition has been modernized and industrialized.

Nowadays, there are mobile milking machines or milking wagons that make use of a generator for getting the electricity. With the installation i visited, 10 cows can be milked simultaneously. It takes about one hour to milk the 50 cows. The milk is directly transferred to a cooling container.
the mobile milking installation (milking wagon) for 5 cows, two of them are in use

the milking wagon from the side, the farmers stands in between the two "milking wagon" where the cows are standing for getting milked

The farmer does not live in the Alps anymore. Thanks to the good road he can come with is car every morning and evening. He also carries back the milk to the Valley where it will be processed into cheese. Because Alp milk has a special taste and gives particularly good cheese, the milk from the Alps is processed separately to produce Alp cheese, which can be sold above the average cheese price.
in front the tank to bring the milk to the Valley, in the the back the generator

To make it more profitable 6 farmers decided to work together and bring 200 cows of which 50 are dairy cows to the Alps and are managed by one. These dairy cows give an average of 15 litter milk per day and are fed on the alpine grass only.
the generator and the fuel tank

Great to see that even very old traditions can be maintained and modernized!

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