Cows on the catwalk

The cattle show – A chance for breeders and their cows to shine!

When summer comes to a close, Alpine herders drive their animals back down into the valley. We know that spending the summer on the mountainside is good for cows, but how do farmers tell just how fit and healthy their charges are? They can get an answer to that question in the first half of October, when the annual cattle show takes place in Engelberg. It’s a traditional occasion that brings farmers and breeders together with an interested public. Visitors talk shop, exchange views, and get expert opinions. All the while, the judges are casting an expert eye over the cows on show.

A cattle breeder could be compared to an ambitious hiker. Once the destination is decided, a hiker plans out the best way to get there, taking into account available time, conditions underfoot, the weather, and any walking companions who may determine the pace. Breeding cows is similar in that breeders have to be aware of what goal they are trying to reach, and how they are going to get there. If they stick to a carefully defined plan, they will eventually have success. Otherwise, they will only tag along behind the rest. Particularly in mountainous areas like Engelberg, farmers have to rationalise milk and meat production and make sensible use of the feed available from their own farm.

On this special day in October, Engelberg’s most beautiful cows stand in rows according to category. Independent experts regularly inspect the cows and let the breeders know that they are doing good work. But what is it that cattle show judges are looking for? Firstly, body condition. They look at the shape of the udders, the pelvic structure, and the cow’s overall appearance. The animals are then led around the ring, looking rather like models on a catwalk. Breeders are delighted when one of their cows comes top in her category, but the joy can be fleeting, as next day a competitor may pip her to the post. That’s simply how things are in this game – and it’s very exciting for the breeders involved. Of course, the cows themselves are indifferent to the whole affair – all they care about is that the farmer is able to get up and milk them on time the morning after the cattle show. Because however late into the night the festivities may have gone on, tending to their animals remains the most important part of a cattle breeder’s life. 


Text and Images: Beat Christen


Cattle show on the 11th october 2019
Alpine Dairy