Alp Urnerboden at the Klausen Pass is Switzerland’s largest cow meadow. It stretches over an area of 7 square miles, guarded by the massive alpine peaks of the Cantons Uri and Glarus. 1200 cows spend their summer there. That sounds like a lot. However, every cow has an average of 3.7 acres of meadow to herself – that amounts to about 2 soccer fields.
Alp Urnerboden is a perfect example of how difficult times can lead to something extraordinary. Let's turn back to the year 2006: The price of milk in Switzerland is at rock bottom. Hence a lot of farmers who still do transhumance are in existential difficulties. However, leaving is not an option for those involved. They gather and discuss: Why sell the milk if no-one wants to pay a decent price for it? Thus the vision of a big Alp dairy is born.
It took eight years from idea to realization. But the advantages, born from all those discussions and visions, became clear: They would be untouched by the milk price, new jobs would be created and the existence of transhumance secured. 60 farmers founded the “Alp Dairy Urnerboden Inc.”. The project cost 6.5 million dollars. A state-of-the-art dairy that collects the milk from 55 Alps with a total of almost 1 million liters per summer (265,000 gals.) is the result. A dairy, it must be mentioned, that operates 24/7. And the operation is CO₂ neutral, meaning there are no harmful emissions for the environment.
Cheesemaker Armin Troxler is in his second year on Urnerboden. He relies on the same crew as in 2020.
Alp Urnerboden is quite unique in different ways. For its size, of course. But also for its manifold kinds of operations. The milk from all the Alps, for instance, is transported to the dairy by All-Terrain-Vehicles as well as bicycles or cable cars. One of the farmers who moves with his wife and 4 children to one of the Alps sleeps in a tent at an altitude of 6600 ft. in order to milk the cows in the morning. There is no building up there.
Or there is “Fly”, the 5-year-old male dog. When farmer Josef Gisler lets him off the leash there’s no holding back. In record time he herds his cows together. But be aware: If you get too close to his cow ladies he will let you know.
The Alp Urnerboden AG operation is thriving, and rightly so. 60 farmers took their fate in their own hands and succeeded. Their cheeses, butter, yogurts, etc. are widely acclaimed. And their marketing is top as well.
And should you drive the scenic route across the Klausen Pass and be stopped by a cow lying in the middle of the road you can find useful hints for that situation on the Alp Urnerboden website: 1. Stay calm. 2. Slow down. 3. Wait a moment and try to make eye contact with the cow. 4. In case the cow is digesting and in deep sleep gently push the horn and give her time to wake up. 5. If that doesn’t work just lie down beside her. A restful Alp sleep is beneficial to both humans and animals…