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The canton of Grisons

The canton of Grisons ? the southeast part of Switzerland ? is the biggest of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. It covers 17 % of the Swiss territory, but a large part of it is unproductive (41 %). Further more one quarter are forests and bushes (27 %) and an other quarter are high Alpine pastures (24 %), mostly between 1?600 and 2?500 altitude without permanent settlement. These pastures can not been considered as ordinary usable agricultural area, because of the climate. Nevertheless, this area is equipped with temporarly used infrastructure for agricuture (huts, cow barns) and tourism (restaurants, mountains shelters, cable cars).

The permanently settled and populated area of the Grisons represents only about 8 % of the territory. It is used by agriculture (6 % usable agricultural area) and covered by settlements (2 %). The average settlemend is scareced, 187?800 inhabitants (2005) live in the Grisons (26 inhab./ km 2). But the real density is much higher: on the permanently settled area live 337 inhabitants /km 2.

The capital of the Grisons is Chur, the oldest town of Switzerland. The most famous places are Davos and St. Moritz. The so called county of the 100 valleys (in fact there are even more!) is the water shed between the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Atlantic. It has many famous mountains. Cable cars facilitate skiing and enjoying the view from the mountains. The most famous tourist product is the Glacier Express from the Rhaetian Railroad RhB relating St. Moritz / Davos / Chur with Zermatt in the Valais. A long part of its track is candidate for UNESCO world cultural heritage.

High up in the mountains on the ?Alp? (summer pasture)
Stable, cheese factory and hut (photo: M. Bienert)

The Agriculture in the Canton of Grisons (2005)

The canton of Grisons counts 2?932 farms, about 20 % of the enterprises. 71 % are full time farms. On these farms are 7?369 persons employed (about 10 %), 2,5 persons per farm. 40 % of them do a fulltime job. The average size of the farms is 18,27 ha (more than Swiss average) with 17,74 livestock units (less than Swiss average). Due to the hostile topography the mechanisation of agriculture is difficult, economies of scale are limited and the farms can not become too big. The high altitude of most of the land puts strict limits to a sustainable intensification, too.

The total usable agricultural area, 6 % of the area in the Grisons, is 53?573 ha. The green land covers 95 %, the crops 3 % and vineyards and orchards 2% of the usable arable area. The live?stock is dominated by cattle (82 %), followed by sheep (12 %), horses (3 %) and goats (3 %).

The number of farms decreased considerably: ? 7,7 % in the years 2001 ? 2005. The livestock decreased with ? 3,5 %. Particularly struck are the sheep with ? 4,7 %. The usable arable land increased in the same time + 1,3 %. The farms have undergone a light extensification: the density was reduced from 1 livestock unit per 0,98 ha to 1 livestock unit per 1,03 ha. This is the result of the measures taken in the Swiss agricultural policy.

Portrait of the Summer Pastures in the Canton of Grisons (2005)

Table 1: The Enterprises Practicing Summer Pastures

Size in SPU

all enterprises

very small
< 10 SPU 1

small
10 ? 40 SPU

medium
40 ? 100 SPU

big
> 100 SPU

Number of Alps

771

113

208

298

154

Share (number)

100 %

15 %

27 %

39 %

19 %

decreed SPU

49?814

752

5?158

20?207

23?698

Share (units)

100 %

1,5 %

10,4 %

40,6 %

47,5 %

The size of enterprises practicing summer pasture varies very much. The very small ones repre?sent 15 % of the number but only 1,5 % of the summer pasture units, while the big ones with sharp 20 % of the number unite almost half of the potential fodder of the high Alpine pastures. The small ones in majority are private owned and managed in contrary to the medium and big ones, owned in majority by the municipalities and managed by cooperatives.

Table 2: Animals on Summer Pasture

only enterprises with > 10 SPU

Number of animals

Share
(heads)

In

lifestock units

Share
(units)

Milk cows

13'917

13,2 %

13'917

30.3 %

Dry cows

1'925

1,2 %

1'925

4.2 %

Young cattle

35'483

33,5 %

14'946

32.5 %

Mother cows and suckling calves

13'647

12,9 %

7'635

16.6 %

Horses

885

0,8 %

599

1.3 %

Sheep (> 1 year old)

35'310

33,4 %

6?034

13.1 %

goats (> 1 year old)

4'653

4,4 %

876

1.9 %

Total

105'820

100%

45?924

100%

The cattle is the most important animal for the summer pastures. Traditionally many heads are brought from the Swiss lowlands up to the Grisons. Very important, too, is the small livestock, in particular the sheep. They can still graze places, where the cattle can not go, but they are often ecologically very sensible. The management of the herds need to be very good. The summer pastures can feed on an average one livestock unit per summer pasture unit.

? milking in the stable (photo: R. Schilling)

Table 3: Milk Production and Processing (only enterprises > 10 milked animals)

Production

Processing of the milk

Number of enterprises

257

B?ndner Alpk?se (kg)

ca. 600'000

Enterprises making cheese

142

Butter (kg)

ca. 75'000

Enterprises selling milk (no processing)

107

Grey cheese (kg)

ca. 25'000

Combined making cheese / selling m.

1

Goat cheese (kg)

ca. 21'000

Other enterpr. with > 10 milked animals

7

Other cheeses & specialities (kg)

ca. 10'000

Total milk production of cows (kg)

ca. 10'750'000

Cow milk brought in village (kg)

ca. 3'300'000

Total milk production of goats (kg)

ca. 455?000

Goat milk in village (kg)

80'000

Total milk production of sheep (kg)

ca. 43'000

Sheep milk in village (kg)

49'000

Enterp. practicing direct selling (>5%)

63

Milk for industry (kg)

ca. 700'000

Enterprises practicing agro tourism

42

Other way of processing (kg)

ca. 55?000

Out of the large variety of seasonal milk products, the project deals with ?B?ndner Alpk?se?.

Alpine cheese ?B?ndner Alpk?se?