Did you know that thousands of cows go on vacation to Switzerland every year? You should see how much they appreciate it!
During the cold and snowy winter months in Switzerland, dairy cows seek refuge in stables. What a welcome relief when spring comes and the cows can graze in green meadows with bright yellow dandelions. His occasional jumps in the air seem to express his great joy in the change of landscape and the seasons.
Additional grasses are available in May or early June when the thaw exposes grasslands to higher elevations. It's time for the cattle to spend the summer in the mountains.
A land with well-irrigated pastures
In Switzerland there are around 10,000 pastures at higher altitudes with an area of around 10,000 km2. This corresponds to a quarter of the total area of the country. Therefore, great care is taken to protect this valuable resource.
Humans and animals work together to keep the high prairies free of bushes and shrubs. For this purpose, the farmers entrust around 500,000 head of cattle to the care of professional breeders. Like heifers, dairy cows are transported by truck or train to spend the summer holidays in the mountains.
Since the roads and railways do not rise high enough, the last leg of the journey has to be done on foot. The herds continue to increase in summer. There, sometimes in the meadows between 2,000 and 2,200 meters above sea level, the cattle find soft alpine herbs and beautiful colorful flowers. The wells in the mountains are plentiful so there is no shortage of clean water.
The fine milk produced by cows is sometimes transported down the mountain for consumption or processing. In most cases, however, it is processed into butter or cheese directly in the huts on the slopes. When the summer days get shorter, the herds are brought into the off-season. The day finally comes - depending on the weather, usually at the end of September - so that the herds can return to their winter quarters. Yes, your summer vacation is coming to an end! But first there is a special parade.
The big day!
Production records are kept and the best cows are decorated according to the amount of milk donated. The main milk producer is the one who leads the herd on the way home. The heads of the cows are decorated with colored paper flowers, ribbons and branches of small fir trees. Many wear a metal bell around their necks and announce their approach from a distance.
Pastors celebrate this special occasion with white shirts and embroidered black velvet jackets. Meanwhile, the peasant population in the valleys flock to the roadside to receive the procession with standing applause.
Once in the lowlands, the cattle are forwarded to their respective owners for another winter. However, it won't be long before it's time for another mountain vacation. What a life!