Swiss army completes 31-day mission to save thirsty cows

Airlift involving four Super Puma helicopters and 120 military personnel launched after mini-drought

David Trayner
Sunday 23 August 2015 17:24 BST
Up to 200,000 cows were at risk of dying of thirst after a mini-drought (Getty)
Up to 200,000 cows were at risk of dying of thirst after a mini-drought (Getty) (Getty)

The Swiss army has successfully completed a 31-day mission to save cows from dying of thirst in parched alpine pastures.

The military launched a huge rescue operation after a period of extremely hot weather put 200,000 cows in remote mountain meadows at risk of dehydration.

Four Super Puma helicopters and 120 military personnel airlifted 1,840 tons of water from lakes in the Canton of Jura to eight specially-constructed reservoirs between July 20 and August 19, the Local reported.

Temperatures stayed above 30C for much of last month and soared to 40C in Fribourg (Getty)

Figures released to news agency ATS by the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport show the helicopters spent 254 hours filling two reservoirs in the Joux valley and six at higher altitude.

The army carried out a similar operation in the cantons of Fribourg – where temperatures soared as high as 40C last month - and St Gallen.

The Local reported the mission suffered a minor diplomatic incident at the end of July when the Swiss army took water from lakes in the French Jura without permission from the French authorities.

The embarrassing incident happened after Switzerland ‘misinterpreted’ a communication from Paris over the issue.

Switzerland protects its dairy farms with a number of protectionist policies (Getty)

Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world per capita thanks to banking and high-tech manufacturing, such as chemicals and precision instruments.

But agriculture, its historic mainstay, is still key to its economy and culture, with Swiss cheese, chocolate and dairy products popular worldwide.

Swiss cows, which drink between 100 and 150 litres a day, graze at altitude in alpine pastures for three to four months each year, usually descending to valley farms during September and October.

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