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All aboard Swiss farmer leads cows to water – and onto a boat

For 29 years, Josef Häcki has been bringing his cows from the “mainland” in Pfäffikon, canton Schwyz, to Ufenau, an island in Lake Zurich, at the beginning of April. They stay on the 11-acre island – the largest in Switzerland that can be reached only by boat – until the end of May.

On Ufenauexternal link the cattle eat on the meadow, so the farmer doesn’t have to do any mowing. It’s paradise for the animals: they eat fresh grass, buttercups and dandelions and they can roam around to their heart’s content.

Häcki rents the island, which is owned by Einsiedeln Abbeyexternal link. He is responsible for the forest, meadows and the reeds. The only animals allowed on Ufenau are heifers – female cows that are at least a year old and have not had a calf – so there is no daily milking.

At the end of May, Häcki gathers his livestock and heads back up the mountain in Graubünden. That’s where they spend the summer, before sailing back to Ufenau in autumn.

This reportage won photographer Stephan Rappoexternal link the Swiss Press Photo Award 2017external link in the Swiss Stories category.

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