Swiss breeders continue to innovate in the 21st century
In Swiss meadows, traditional cows must increasingly yield to farmed game and, in particular, deer.
Swiss breeders continue to innovate in the 21st century. They certainly still haven’t digitized ruminant metabolism. But traditional Swiss cows must increasingly yield to deer in the meadows. The deer market is therefore experiencing significant development.
Just over 150,000 people work in Swiss agriculture today, out of five million active and working people in Switzerland. Of which 4.2 million full-time equivalents. Each new experiment, the most marginal of niche markets in Swiss agriculture, however, attracts the most attention. Today it is deer breeding. “There are already more than 600 deer breeders sharing around 25,000 heads,” says Pascal Python, head of deer breeding at Agridea (Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas).
The new pioneers remain aware of the scale of their own challenge. “In this market, everything is yet to be done. However, we regularly receive farmers eager to start deer farming. The market also has some potential. And even in the face of imports”, says Philippe Charrière, director of the agricultural school in Sorens (Freiburg), quoted in Agri, the professional weekly for French-speaking farmers.
Valdes Alexandre Benoît, organic breeder in Thierrens, fully shares this point of view: “When I started, I mainly sold to individuals. Caters weren’t very interested in this meat. Today is different. They must also justify the origin of their goods. As a result, I now work with three restaurateurs and they buy 60% of my produce.”
Satisfactory returns on deer farming are not always guaranteed. Agridea certainly evokes a gross margin of 575 francs per capita. However, Alexandre Benoît mentions the difficulty of finding a suitable slaughterhouse and the relatively high cost of butcher services. He therefore prefers to carry out the slaughter of his own deer.
According to Agridea, the rearing of fallow deer can only reach a gross margin of 409 francs per head. Almost 85% of the 25,000 deer bred in Switzerland are still of this species. Moose and reindeer are also present in Swiss deer herds. However, these innovation challenges have not yet given rise to training structures.
In the absence of an animal care diploma and sufficient experience in Switzerland in deer farming, the activity requires obtaining a permit for the possession of farmed game (ie wild animals) from the competent authorities of each canton. Obtaining such a document requires six days of prior training. This should also be complemented by an internship of more than a month with a recognized deer breeder.
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