Most Swiss head to the beaches for their vacations, but others are opting for a rustic holiday in the mountains where they are spending time with their adopted cows over the summer.
Launched five years ago by herder Michel Izoz, a cow adoption project called Mavachamoi - word play in French for "my cow" - is proving popular among urban dwellers in Switzerland.
Among the 20 cows available for rent at his farm in La Lecherette in the canton Vaud, only Ilda, Rosette, Tola, Ursula, Usine and Quenele are still available. All the others have been booked for the summer.
Izoz noted that some cows are more popular than others, especially those with horns as they "appear more authentic."
Clients go online to the website www.mavachamoi.ch for a catalogue showcasing the cows on post-card perfect meadows. For 280 euros (350 dollars) , they can reserve a cow for a season, during which they can visit the animal as often as they wish.
Most reservations are made as gifts, Izoz said, pointing out that the project offers a chance for city dwellers to compare "the stressed out world of the cities and the hard lives in the mountains."
Izoz told AFP that he had started the project mainly to "show people that farming life is really different from what we imagine."
To put forward his point, Izoz requires clients to spend at least four hours working at the farm, during which they are to round up the herd, cut wood, participate in the treatment or making of cheese prepared in wood fire in the large copper vats.
"Often, it makes my son laugh" to see the city people doing the farmwork that requires some dexterity, said Esther Ginier, another farmer who offers 16 cows for rent at her farm in La Comballaz.
Most end up being surprised by how hard life can be in the idyllic mountain pastures through which they hike during the weekends, said Katherine Bolay, a retiree participating in the project with her husband.
"They discover that the mountain pastures is seven days a week, we do not get Sundays off and we have little vacation," Ginier pointed out.
"We are most stressed by the weather, we live with nature, and its rules," said the Vaudoise farmer at her 17th-century farmhouse, decorated with flowers and antique bells.
The adoption also offers other surprises.
"The children discover in Switzerland, the country of cows, that milk does not come from packets. Straight from the udder, it's smooth, it's warm, it's sweet," said Bolay.
Parents meanwhile also manage to revisit their childhood memories. They also often leave with farm products, said her husband Jacques Bolay.
They realise that "the cows are not that dumb and that like people, they have their own character, with a dominant one, a curious one, a greedy one... and even nasty ones which charge at us," he said.
Claude Kobler has adopted Sirene since 2007.
For him, it is about making a contribution to the alpine herders.
But what makes the IT consultant of a Geneva bank happy is the contact with the different world.
His Fribourgeouis speckled cow appears, too, to enjoy the patronage, "as it produces more and more milk."Reuse content