Making cheese is big business in Switzerland therefore the onus is on the country’s dairy farmers to produce the highest quality milk they can.
In fact, the latest records state there are 22,000 dairy farms in Switzerland, with an average size of 18.6 hectares and home to 587,000 dairy cows producing 3.5 billion kilograms of milk per year.
Swiss people consume between 20 and 25kgs of cheese each per year hence why Switzerland also imports a lot of cheese as well.
This consumption rate is good news for the local dairy farmers who, although farm in some tough terrain 1,200m up in the Alps, rely on cheese production to keep them in business.
Switzerland produces around 185,000 tonnes of cheese per year into over 450 varieties, including the popular Emmentaler, Le Gruyere and Sbrinz brands, and imports another 58,000 tonnes to satisfy the population of eight million people’s hunger for cheese.
Around 29 percent of Swiss farms are based in the mountains where a significant percentage of dairying in the country is based but this type of farming brings its own set of unique challenges.
For five months of the year dairy farmers milk their cows up in the mountains before bringing the animals down to the lowland winter accommodation around the start of October.
Dairy farmer Reto Theiler, his wife Silvia and five children, spend the summer months milking their herd of 50 Brown Swiss cows at 1,250m above sea level on the Abnistetten Alp near the village of Entlebuch.
There had been no cheese produced at this farm since 1948 so back in 2011 Reto decided to replace a 260 year old barn with a new structure integrating cow housing, a cheese production facility, milking parlour and a living apartment for the family.
Cows are milked twice per day in the four point abreast parlour and yield around 25 to 30kgs of milk per day with
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