Switzerland's dairy cows are managing to produce ever-larger quantities of milk, despite the fact that they are not pumped full of milk-enhancing hormones like their American cousins.This content was published on October 13, 2000 - 14:23
Figures released on Friday show that the average Swiss dairy cow produces 17,6 litres of milk a day - or 6233 kilogrammes a year - 50 per cent more than their forebears managed in the late 1970s. This places Switzerland in the middle range for milk production among developed countries.
Swiss cows lag behind their cousins in the United States, but scientists say this is due to hormones given to bovines in the US. Hormone treatment typically increases a cow's output by between 10 and 20 per cent.
The United States maintains there is no evidence that hormone-treated milk, or beef, is harmful to human health. But European farmers and consumers - and presumably the cows themselves - take the view that smaller milk yields are preferable to pumping animals full of hormones.
At the moment, Switzerland's best milk producers are the "Holstein" cows - the white and black variety, which originate in Fribourg. They produce an average of 7277 kilos of milk a year.
Lagging well behind are the brown cows - yielding just 6066 kilos a year. However they have the advantage of being extremely strong and hardy, and able to graze in alpine regions.
The figures mask huge discrepancies in individual production: some cows produce as much as 18,000 kilos a year, with others producing far less than the average. Despite centuries of selective breeding, every cow, it seems, is different.
swissinfo with agencies
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