More European dairy farmers are choosing to put their cows outdoors to graze.
But that’s the kind of climb – albeit on dirt trails, not concrete steps – a typical Swiss dairy cow makes every summer.
According to the Swiss Federal Agricultural Office, about 270,000 cows are marched from their valley farms to mountain meadows at the start of every summer, just to come back down again in early autumn. Why do it?
Dairy farmers have incentives to herd their cattle high. On the one hand, they get top dollar for the aromatic ‘Alp cheese’ made from the milk of their livestock. From June to early September, alpine pastures serve up a smorgasbord of hundreds of different grasses and herbs for the cows to graze. Lower in the valley there are only a few types.