Désalpe 2016 St. Cergue

Désalpes in St. Cergue. Cows walk through the centre of town.

Let’s face it.  The Désalpe festival in St. Cergue is for tourists, or at least for expats. Between the scolding British mother extolling the virtues of sharing ones’ Haribo candy with ones’ little sister at 10:30AM, and the nerdy young American guy enthusiastically proclaiming that this was the very first time he’d been drunk at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, there was a lot of English spoken in St. Cergue last Saturday.  Amidst the cows, the cheese, the wine and the log tossing, there was also a lot of local pride.  Why shouldn’t there be?  There is no better place in the world to be a cow than in Switzerland.

Every summer 81% of Switzerland’s dairy cows head up into the mountains to graze in greener pastures.  At the end of September or the very beginning of October it’s time to come back down and there is a bit of a cow parade.  This is called Désalpe and it’s celebrated in villages all over Switzerland.  Cows come down from mountain pastures and parade through the village streets, adorned with flowers and impressively large cowbells. The treatment of dairy cows in Switzerland is indeed something to celebrate, though maybe with a little less cowbell.

Here’s why there is no better place to be a cow than in Switzerland

There is room to moooove

There are 23,500 dairy producers in Switzerland with average herd sizes of 24 cows and with on average 24 hectares of land.  1 hectare is almost the size of an international football field.  Globally herd sizes have been growing larger.

Infographic showing on average one cow per hectare on the average swiss dairy farm.

The food is pretty good

Swiss dairy cows graze more and eat more fresh grasses than most of their European counterparts.

An infographic showing that swiss dairy cows eat 70-100 kgs of fresh grass each day and drink 50-100 litres of water each day to produce 20-25 litres of milk each day.

Each summer it’s a bit of a cow party

The welfare of cows is carefully protected in Switzerland.  Movement and social contact are essential.  Therefore each summer 81% of all dairy cows head to the mountains to wander and graze.


A cow atop a mountain. 81% of Switzerland's 550,000 cows spend the summer n the mountains

– Source: swissmilk.ch

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