Michael Rüegsegger, the auctioneer, gazes into his computer screen. The compressors of the high-pressure cleaners are puffing out, 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. "This will be a long day today!"
On the city of Zurich's Juchhof farm estate, Zurich's old system of production will in the future be organic. The farm is - unlike the other leasing companies of the city - not biocompleted. This is what Grünstadt Zurich wants to catch up with and will therefore refrain from animal husbandry from 2018 onwards. At today's location, entangled between Bernerstrasse, railroad tracks and a sports field, it is not possible to grant the animals enough run-out. The milk production is canceled. More than 60 dairy cows and the same number of cattle will be unemployed together with five employees. The animal caretaker can continue to occupy the city on other farms. The animals are auctioned.
The auction takes place at the Vianco Arena in Brunegg. It is unusual to have so many animals from the same farm come under the auction hammer on the same day. Buyers from all over Switzerland are expected.
The day's activities in Brunegg depend entirely on the evening's big event. Several additional helpers have been hired today. The animals must be cleansed, milked twice daily, fed, correctly labeled, placed on the table, and moved from place to place. The helpers are all young farmers who are used to the animals. There the animals are pushed and pulled, tweaked and yelled at and not infrequently struck with a flat hand on the hind part of the stubborn animals. "You can feel the stress in the transport of the cows, and the fixed stables and our milking facility are not used to it either."
Towards evening, the farmers meet and look at the animals for sale, consult with their wives or talk shop with their colleagues. Their concerns are clear: milk output, its potential, the right breeding bull, whether a heifer is pregnant or not, and how the udders are touched and felt.
At eight o'clock, Rüegsegger stands on his pedestal and starts with the auction. With a busy program, he has little time for jokes and chatter. Only rarely do the interested parties up each others' offers. The entire staff of the Juchhof sits at one of the banquet tables next to the ring and follows the sale of "their" animals quietly and thoughtfully. A cow is sold on average for about CHF3,200 ($3,256). 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