Alexandra Iten Bürgi (AIB): My responsibilities as a municipal councillor include education and culture. This covers hiking trails as well. As I am a keen hiker myself and have had my share of experiences with cows, I am interested in teaching as many children and adults as possible how to behave when coming across suckler cows, their calves and other cattle. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ignorance, superficial knowledge and prejudice about this, which can lead to conflicts or bad experiences.
AIB: My worst experience was two years ago. We had already crossed three suckler cow pastures without any problems. Then we came to a cattle pasture. The young animals came after us like a gang of teenagers. First they blocked our way, then they ran along with us. At first we laughed at the four-legged teenagers, but at some point we didn’t find it funny anymore. Then our dog cleared the way for us and drove the herd away. But shortly afterwards the group came galloping back. A neighbouring herd of cows was approaching from the other side. We ran and finally hid behind a low stone wall to avoid being overrun by the animals.
AIB: I am a dog owner and have great respect for suckler cows protecting their calves. Since my experience with the cattle herd I always take my dog on a leash and give the herd a wide berth. My motto is to pass by carefully and quietly at some distance. I get most nervous when a calf approaches us inquisitively. Then I withdraw as fast as possible yet calmly, before the anxious mother also comes closer.
And no matter how cute the calf is, keep your distance and don’t touch it! The mother is not far away and always keeps an eye on her young. (Photo: Martin Freund)
AIB: I hope that people from the surrounding area, but also from further away, can engage easily with this topic. We don’t have so many suckler cow pastures here that are crossed by a hiking trail. But with other cattle and cow pastures there are often conflicts with hikers: we get complaints about cowpats on the paths, or the fences are left open and the animals break out. Nowadays, people don’t automatically know how to behave. It’s important to provide information, so that people are not afraid when they stand before a warning sign, and know what to look out for when crossing cattle pastures.
AIB: We adults tend to be unwilling to take advice, we think we already know everything. On an adventure trail we open up, because our children find it exciting, for them it’s all new. Reading aloud and playing along awakens our curiosity and we learn something as well. ‘‘Lea and Ben with the suckler cows‘‘ promises an hour of exercise in the fresh air with good entertainment and a great learning experience – what more do we want?
Warning signs – whether green or red – should always be observed. (Photo: Mutterkuh Schweiz)
Alexandra Iten Bürgi is a municipal councillor and a school principal in Meierskappel LU. But she is also a full-time musician and the mother of three children. In her spare time she likes hiking, especially in the company of her dog. (Photo: provided)