I had one of the best days at work last Friday!! Our institute welcomed delegates from all over the European Union for a small congress last week and we had organised a little tour on the Friday afternoon. The bulk of the congress attendees being vets specialised in livestock, we spent the afternoon in the Emmental region to visit a typical Swiss dairy farm and the Emmental cheese plant.
Most of the farm buildings in the area are very old…
…older than the United States!
The farm we visited was very representative of a lot of farms in Switzerland: small, with high levels of animal welfare and definitely not a big money-making business. The farmer had about 30 dairy cows, which he knew very well (in terms of health and specific requirements) and which all had names (I looooved Delila, see below). The calves were reared in separate pens and were cute enough to make Terminator melt! They were so curious and came to sniff everyone and get stroked
I almost came home with one!
And look at these two having a cuddle!
I could have stayed all afternoon rolling in the hay with my new bovine friends but we had to move on to the next visit. On our way out of the farm, the farmer said he never needed a watch as the cows told him what time it was. He said it must be getting close to 4pm as all the cows that were grazing in a pasture nearby were all waiting at the fence near the road, waiting for the farmer to take them home to be milked!
We did not have to walk far to find the cheese-making plant. Every stages of the food production chain is kept locally, some of the milk was produced on the farm we visited, ended up being used to make cheese 50m away which would be eventually sold in the village shop again less than 50m. I know that in this day and age of increasing world population and food consumption, there is a real need for the intensification of agriculture and food production, but it is very nice to still see farming done on a small scale in a way that is perhaps not sustainable in the long-term but definitely healthier for all concerned. We had a guided tour of the plant, with lots of very interesting information of the transformation of milk into Emmental and how the cheeses mature and change taste with age.
If only I could share with you the smell and the sight of all that cheese down in the cellar…I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! We also had a look on how the so-called “mountain cheese” is still being made by hand, following a different recipe and process.
To end an already excellent afternoon out, we had a drink and nibbles at the café in the cheese plant. Swiss wine+Swiss cheese+Swiss meat = Long live Swiss agriculture!