April

After easter everything comes to a standstill, even the Schilthorn cableway, our lifeline. When this lifeline is gone everything is very quiet. While the cableway is closed for maintenance the winter weather usually returns. During maintenance the cableway is thoroughly checked over and thanks to this there have never been any serious problems. The time around the end of April and beginning of May holds a particular charm. In spite of maintenance work (which usually takes a week) you can still get to Gimmelwald. Normally you can take the mountain railway from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren (or the cable car straight from Stechelberg to Mürren), where a minibus picks you up and drives you down to Gimmelwald in 20 minutes.
The cattle show is to the cattle-breeders of Gimmelwald what the Miss World Contest is to beautiful women. On this important day in April the value of each cow is established. All the farmers bring their best milk cows to the school playground and the animals are examined and valued by experts. To give the expert the best possible impression of the captivating beauty of our Simmental cows the whole family works flat out every year in preparation for this day. After the long winter a manicure will certainly be necessary. In the summer the cows hooves are worn down naturally as they walk around in the open countryside, but in winter they get far too long. The cows are put in a special stand to have their hooves clipped. Days before the show the cows receive more attention than at any other time. With high-pressure washers they are cleaned and scrubbed until they shine. Washing detergent, soft soap and even shower gel are used as cleansing agents. So that the cow doesn't catch a cold only hand-hot water is used, of course. (Whether or not the cows have to go to the hairdresser to have their coats dyed is beyond my knowledge). The whole village gathers at the school playground in the early afternoon where two neutral experts have the task of valuing the cows. They examine the cows according to four criteria. As in a beauty contest the cows have to parade in front of the experts and display their charm. This is when you see their true nature. Instead of showing themselves at their best they are stubborn and try to run away and it is all the poor owners can do to prevent them from doing so. There are four marks: one for the overall appearance of the cow, one for the udder, the third for the teats and finally one for perfect legs. As you can see, the comparison with a beauty contest is not so far-fetched, whether by choice or by chance. The highest possible score is 5. If an animal gets 5 in all four categories she gets the maximum of 98 points. If one of these cows also gives 50 litres of milk then she can be worth up to 20,000 francs. Such first-class cows are very rare. This year only one cow got 97 points.Only 5-6 year old cows can obtain high scores. When a young 2-3 year-old cow takes part in a beauty contest for the first time she cannot get more than 89 points.A citizen of every country normally has a passport. Cows also have something similar. On one side all their ancestors, on both mother's and father's sides, are listed, going back to their great-grandparents. On the other side is the valuation from the cattle show. The milk yield and the fat and protein content of the milk for each year is also shown.To make sure that everything is done correctly a milk controller visits the cowshed unannounced every month to take a milk sample from each cow in order to establish its milk yield. The samples are then analysed in a laboratory and the results are shown on the cow's identity papers. All the data of every cow in Switzerland are stored in a central computer.