Ibex Skull

My cousin found this female ibex skull during hunting season. IMG_4545 IMG_4546 IMG_4547 IMG_4548 IMG_4549 IMG_4552


Duck Chasing Adventure

Kali doesn’t swim. Usually. We made quite some progress in that regard, but she still doesn’t like to go into water deeper than her chest.

Unless there’s ducks, apparently.

This is the same couple of ducks that spent the whole winter around our village, I named them Anja and Vlad. When Kali saw them, she ran into the river, where it was rather wide and thus shallow. IMG_1788

When they took off, she found herself alone on the other side of the river. When I called her, she didn’t come, so we took off walking to a nearby bridge.


Unfortunately for Kali, the bridge was taken away just the day before, to prevent it from being distroyed by the high water we get each spring when the snow melts.


So after all this, she still had to cross the river again on her own.




At the hunting fair they also showed everyone interested how to gut a chamois.

This female chamois was shot the day before (out of season) because she had infectious keratoconjunctivitis, what we call chamois blindness. It’s a highly infectious eye disease that affects sheep, goats, chamois & ibex and results in blindness and ultimately death. The pathogen which causes chamois blindness is especially common in sheep and it can cause epidemics in wildlife when infected sheep spend a summer high up in the Alps, where chamois and sheep graze in the same places.

What infectious keratoconjunctivitis can look like in different animals:

Chamois blindness in chamois & ibex.

Infected eyes in ibex, sheep and chamois.

I have seen how to gut game before, and have done it myself in vetschool and when I got whole animals for dog food. But I never saw it on a pregnant animal.

Chamois mate in late november and the kids are then born in May or early June. This chamois was shot in the first week of February. So that puts this embryo at around 10 weeks old.

What we did last summer: Kali – the Nepali Cattle Dog

Kali’s first evening on the alp: sharing some leftovers with co-worker dog Tosca. The beautiful Swiss Alps, on one of the few sunny days we had. During our rare, but well deserved afternoon naps, Kali keeps watch. Always need to keep an eye on tourists… Kali’s first time helping to drive the cows. I had her on a leash the first few times, because she was never around cattle like this before.


But she learned quickly… … could soon be sent after single cows. This one is Helen, the nastiest of all our cows.     She was fine with cows pretty soon, but goats are a whole different matter. Amanda is a beautiful Bündner Strahlenziege who belongs to the neighbour alp and came for a walk with us. She definitively did not want to play with Kali… Kali also joined me in counting and checkin on the heifers, who spent the summer free-ranging higher up in the mountains, over the pastures for the dairy cows. Sometimes also co-worker dog Tosca would come along. But checking on heifers is rather complicated with two dogs who’d rather hunt marmots. The heifers’ pasture grounds… Everything you can see on this side of the valley is theirs.

What we did last summer: Rocky

Yes, this is a going to be a series of very belated posts, try not to mind the delay…

Last summer Kali and me spent 3 months working on a Swiss alp, taking care of 39 dairy cows and three calves. It was a lot of hard work, bad weather, long days, bad weather, stubborn cows and more bad weather. Seriously, we went weeks without a single day of nice weather.

It’s hard to live and work so close with strangers, without breaks or a day off to just get away from it all. So, not only did I learn how to milk a cow this summer (by machine and by hand) but I guess it also helped my social skills. At least a bit…

We’ll start this off with what surely was one of the most exiting days this summer: the day Rocky was born.

Let me introduce Nebraska, a Swiss Brown cow in the prime of her life and, as you can see here, super pregnant. Actually this was the morning before she gave birth to her calf.

She was artificially inseminated using SILIAN. SILIAN is a mix of semen from three bulls (a Simmental, a Limousin and an Angus) and is supposed to be more successful with cows who have fertility problems, because you get a 3-in-1 chance that at least one of the bulls will manage to fertilize her.


Picture from Swiss Genetics, http://www.swissgenetics.com

We were not sure what to expect of this calf, and we sure did not expect it to be this huge! While we tried to let her go about her business on her own and give her the time and space she needed, I was there the whole time, cleaning out the barn and having an eye on her.

At some point, however, it became clear that she would not be able to give birth without help. So we started to pull him out, using ropes around his legs.

There was a moment of panic when we had him halfways out. He got stuck right after we had his chest out, which can be quite dangerous, because the inner organs, unprotected by ribs int this area, can be damaged if the calf stays too long in this position. He also started to open his eyes at that point. It took all three of us pulling as hard as we could, and of course Nebraska, to get the calf out.

And here he is: Little Big Rocky.

With midwife Tosca…


Obviously, the Simmentaler bull is the father…

After an hour, we separated the two. Nebraska was allowed back out on her pasture to the other cows and Rocky was moved to the calves’ barn, where he got his own box.


This is Rocky (note the fancy ear tags!) on his last day with us, about two weeks old, before he moved to another alp, where they specialize on raising bull calves like him.