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Auction of Zurich city cows Vanessa, Rihanna and Hedi - first, second, third!

Michael Rüegsegger, an auctioneer, gazes into his computer screen. The compressors of the high-pressure cleaners puff up, a group of brown cattle stands wet in the spray mist, while another truck drives forward and the last group of cattle prepares to unload. "I'm Michael," he says, briefly. "Today will be a long day!"

The Juchhof farm, part of the city of Zurich's leased farm estates, plans to grow all of its produce organically in the future and stop raising animals as of 2018.  More than 60 dairy cows and the same number of cattle will be taken out of production together with five employees. The animal caretakers can continue to work at other city farms, but the animals are to be auctioned.

The auction takes place at the Vianco Arena in Brunegg. It is unusual that so many animals from the same farm come under the hammer on the same day. Buyers from all over Switzerland are expected to attend.

The whole day is in anticipation of the evening's big event. Several additional helpers have been hired for it. The animals must be cleaned, milked twice a day, fed, correctly labelled, placed on the table, and moved from place to place. The helpers are all young farmers who are used to the animals. They push and pull the cattle, striking the hind part of the stubborn animals with their flat hands. "You can feel the stress of the transport in the cows, and the fixed stable and our milking facility are not used to it either."

Towards evening, the farmers meet and survey the animals for sale, consult with their wives or talk shop with their colleagues. The criteria are clear: milk output, their potential, the right breeding bull, whether it is pregnant or not, and the look and feel of the udders.

At eight o'clock Michael Rüegsegger stands on his pedestal and starts the auction. With the crowded agenda, he has little time for jokes. Only rarely do the interested parties up each other's offers. The entire staff of the Juchhof sits at one of the banquets next to the ring and follows the sale of "their" animals quietly and thoughtfully. A cow fetches an average price of about CHF3,200 ($3,258). At the end of the evening Rüegsegger auctioned cattle worth CHF360,000. The animals can be picked up the day after. 

Text and images by Thomas Kern/swissinfo.ch

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