Bringing the Valais closer to suckler cow husbandry

Vincent, you are OC President for the beef.ch in Sion, which was due to take place at Easter. What is your motivation?

The Easter market in Sion is a unique opportunity to show suckler cow husbandry to both the agricultural and non-agricultural population in the city centre. Suckler cow husbandry is still a low-profile activity in the Valais, although this industry branch can certainly be an opportunity for local agriculture. Similarly, meat from suckler cow husbandry is not well known among consumers. With our five tasting menus we want to make unfamiliar meat cuts popular with the visitors. It’s a pity that the beef.ch can’t take place now. But postponed doesn’t mean cancelled. I hope that we can stage the event at a later date.

The Valais is famous for cow fights. Can one also enter suckler cows in cow fights?

Yes absolutely, there are suckler cows that take part in the cow fights. We also used to have two Eringer (Herens) cows, but they didn’t feel comfortable in the main herd. Indeed, Herens are very well suited for the production of Natura-Veal.

Angus im Wallis

You also raise Angus cows on your farm. Why?

Our farm was restructured 20 years ago, when my father switched from dairy farming to suckler cow husbandry. His production change was designed to maximise benefit from the grass of our meadows and pastures. The Angus are known for this, so we opted for this breed. 

You are also heavily involved politically. What are your particular concerns?

Representing farmers and their interests is very important for me. There’s pressure from all sides on the land and on farming. I am passionately committed to preventing the industrialisation of the Rhone valley and protecting agricultural land. Equally important for me is the appreciation of agricultural products. There’s only one premium label like Natura-Beef, which has been in the hands of the farmers for 40 years and relies on strong

cooperation to meet consumer demands for species-appropriate animal husbandry in the cycle of nature. I am proud that I have succeeded in launching the ‘Valais‘ brand for meat products as well, thus generating added value for meat from the region.

Do you feel the impact of the predators that are once again increasingly gaining a foothold in Switzerland?

We have been spared so far, but there are wolves in our area. My neighbours have already lost some sheep and calves.

What does this mean for you?

We are following developments and considering how we can adapt our production if need be. Livestock guard dogs are one option. Another possibility is postponing the calving seasons to two months in autumn in the cowshed, instead of letting our animals calve on the alp and pasture as we have done so far. However this is not the best solution with respect to production, as the calves are not yet ready for slaughter before the next grazing season. Yet another approach would be to move our production more generally into the cowshed, but consumers wouldn’t appreciate the reduced pasturage. It’s difficult to take into consideration all of society’s concerns and to satisfy them.  

Kathleen and Vincent Roten live with their three children Arthur (5), Noé (2) and Aron (5 months) at an altitude of 950 metres on the Domaine des Tsabloz. Together with Vincent‘s father Jean-Christophe they farm 60 hectares of agricultural land, as well as an alp in the summer. They grow some wheat and barley for their own use on about 1.5 hectares. Most of the farm is pastureland, which is enriched by the 60 Angus suckler cows with their calves and about 15 other farm animals.  
Of the Natura-Beef produced on the farm, around a quarter is marketed directly in mixed packages of approximately 16 kilos. An activity that is becoming increasingly important for the Rotens is the sale of breeding animals.
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