In 2011 SWI reported: Bison, seen here grazing near Collex-Bossy, are lower maintenance than dairy cows.
Switzerland, A herd of bison makes for an unusual sight on the green pastures around the small village of Collex-Bossy, in the canton of Geneva.
Visitors do double takes when they first see the burly, hump-backed creatures grazing in the fields not far from Geneva’s airport, against the snow-capped backdrop of the Jura mountains and the Alps.
But the bison have become an ingrained, if unconventional, part of the village’s agricultural scene.
While still far from being a mainstream item in supermarkets, bison meat has earned a local reputation as a tasty, low-fat alternative to beef.
And a small but growing number of breeders across Switzerland are now raising the wild animals, originally native to the North American prairies.
They are following in the footsteps of Collex-Bossy farmer Laurent Girardet, 53, who launched a pioneering initiative more than 20 years ago.
In 1990, Girardet decided to import ten bison from Alberta, Canada with the goal of raising them for meat, a first at the time for Switzerland. Now he has more than 130 of them, supplying two local butchers and several gourmet restaurants that take all he can provide.
“I always had a passion for things from North America,” Girardet tells swissinfo.ch, explaining his motivation to launch the venture.
In 1995 in was reported that many Swiss farmers dismissed the bison ranchers, thinking them crazy. But the ranchers who liked the American Bison, joined together and formed the Swiss Buffalo Raisers Association.
The “Swiss” buffalo are purchased from vast American ranches in the American West. Strict government quotas restrict imports to small numbers each year and herds are small compared to the American farms. Girardet’s farm, near Geneva, has only 55 animals, but he hopes to start making profits on meat sales in about five years after building up stock numbers through a breeding programme. Land is expensive in Switzerland, but the buffalo don’t need a great deal of attention. They feed on grass in the summer and cereals in the winter. It can cost up to $US 3,000 to purchase a buffalo and import it from the United States.
In Les Prés-d’OrvinSwitzerland, Bison Ranch :
Having been hosting cows and heifers for 20 years, the Domaine des Colisses du Bas needed a diversification of its production.
Thus in May 1992, five female bison arrived from South Dakota, joined in 1993 by a male. The herd increased in the winter of 94-95 with the arrival of six young (two males and four females) from Belgium but from American parents.
The first births took place at the end of June beginning of July 1995. The breeding was started.
Today, farming has a about 50 bison , one half of births each year .
The bison at the zoo Basel, there have been three times coming in May. A fourth Bison baby is still expected. So many pups there has never been at the Basel Zoo in a year.
Father of the pups is a born in Zurich in 2003 Taurus, as it is stated in a press release on Wednesday. He joined 2009 Bison group in Basel Zoo, which currently is next to the bull and the offspring of five cows.
Basel Zoo holds since 1939 bison. For three years the group has grown steadily, as it is called on. 2013 presented the Zoo the attitude of Scottish Highlanders and advanced instead the Bison-conditioning.Previously, the group consisted mostly of a bull and two cows with their pups.
Bison feed on grasses, leaves, bark, moss and lichen. Males are around 1,000 kilograms, females 550-750 kilograms. Pups are weaned from their mothers about half a year.
Switzerland Bison Regulations
Exact figures for the number of bison in Switzerland are hard to come by, although estimates range up to 500, including 200 reproducing females.
Federal Veterinary Office: “The federal government does not keep national statistics on the number of such animals because this is the responsibility of the cantons.”
Bison fall into a category of wild animals raised for meat in Switzerland that includes red deer, fallow deer, wild boar, elk and ostrich, among others. A federal regulation on the protection of wild animals requires farmers raising such animals to be authorized by the canton. The regulation requires a qualified veterinary surgeon to regularly check on the health of the animals. An “independent specialist” is also required to show that the animals are enclosed in a proper manner with sufficient space.