Swiss farmer breeds cow that can better adapt to climate change

Swiss farmer breeds cow that can better adapt to climate change

A farmer in Switzerland has successfully bred a new type of cow which can better adapt to climate change. The breed is a fusion of Swiss and European cattle breeds which should live a longer life and cope better with fluctuating amounts of food.

Dairy industry in Switzerland heavily reliant on food from abroad

Currently, the dairy industry in most cities and cantons in Switzerland rely on high-yield, high-cost cattle. While these cows produce up to 10.000 litres of milk a year, they need regular antibiotic treatments from doctors and vets and a constant supply of food to keep producing milk.

This means that most farmers have to import “concentrated feed” from abroad - the cheapest being from Brazilian soybean plantations that have been carved out of the Amazon rainforest. Therefore, to make Swiss cattle more environmentally friendly, farmer Andreas Wälle from Canton Zurich has bred a new type of cow.

Called Zassaraya, the cow looks a little different to her colleagues - with a small head and a curved dimple from forehead to muzzle. She is a mixture of Swiss Fleckvieh and European Braunvieh cow and has what Wälle says are the “good qualities of both lines,” meaning that she gives good milk, is healthy, puts on muscle and lives longer than regular dairy cows.

Climate-friendly cow can adapt to changing food and weather

Unlike other dairy producers, Zassaraya is able to reduce the amount of milk she produces based on climate and food availability, meaning that she can rely solely on feed from pastures and alpine meadows in the mountains. "The high-performance cow can't do that," Wälle said, "they spend themselves until they drop dead."  

It is hoped that the new breed of cattle will make dairy production more resistant to climate change and less reliant on climate-intensive farming from abroad. "My goal is a herd that adapts to changing environmental conditions," Wälle said, hoping that his new cow will be able to withstand whatever challenges climate change has to offer.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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