Straight to the Top for Gobeli

Gstaad is a popular ski destination for the rich and famous in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. Since 2009, it has also been home to Gobeli Holstein’s numerous Swiss Expo champions. Husband and wife team Alex and Margaret Gobeli run the 40-cow herd with help from their three children, Sabrina, Yanik and Timo, and two employees Erich and Roman.

Alex, Margaret, Timo, Sabrina and Yanik Gobeli with Adria. Photo supplied.

Although not born in to farming, Alex’s interest in agriculture stems from time spent helping on a farm during his childhood. Alex has built up a successful construction company which specializes in farm buildings and houses. This profession has allowed him to turn his farming dreams into a reality. This dream came with the purchase of the farm on the edge of Gstaad and allowed him to design and build a beautiful state-of-the-art barn. The barn includes a kitchen, that many women would love for their home, suspended above the milking parlour with a great view of the animals below.

The farm at Gstaad comprises of 48 hectares, while there are 260 hectares in the mountains for the cows and heifers to summer pasture. Only grass is grown on the farm and with the altitude of the farm there are only two cuts of hay in the summer. The production of cheese restricts the cows to a dry diet of local products, as well as Lucerne which is bought in. Averaging 9200 litres at 3.77% Fat and 3.21% Protein, the milking herd totals 40 head, with a total of 100 animals on the farm including some in partnership with Lorenz Bach, Erich Zingre
and Raz Gusser.

Sitting 1000 metres up in the Swiss Alps, there are very few Holstein herds around, and to have such a prestigious herd of elite cows is quite unique. Set in the mountains the room for expansion is non-existent and 40 cows is regarded as a large herd, with most herds around 20 head. Housed at Gstaad for 8 months of the year, the cows are then moved higher up in the mountains for the summer months from mid- May to mid-September.

Cows are fed a diet of dry hay for cheese production.

The main cow barn has sand-based cubicles with straw pellets on top, with a smaller pen to allow management of show cows separately. The parlour is a six-stall parallel parlour, something Alex is contemplating upgrading in the future. There is also a calving and fresh cow area, calf rearing area, with loafing yards on the outside of the calf pen and the main cow area. A large portion of the barn is bunkers for storing the hay.

Calves are reared on milk for the first three months, before they are introduced to hay, Lucerne and grain. Heifers six months and older are summered in the mountains for a longer season than the cows. All the cows travel to a second farm 1700m above sea level, in a steep valley of Gstaad, during the summer months. It is here that approximately 7000 kilograms of ‘Berner Alpkase’ cheese (hard cheese that is a spicy, full-fat, raw milk cheese without holes) is produced.

Erich and Jolanda Zingre care for the cows in the mountains along with making the cheese during the summer. This cheese is sold at a store for local produce in Gstaad. During the winter, when cows are housed at the farm, the milk is delivered to a local factory. This year the barn in the mountain suffered a catastrophic fire, luckily the cows and people escaped unharmed, however the barn was completely destroyed. Rebuilding the barn and facilities will be the next project on the agenda.

Alex’s breeding policy is to breed strong cows that are fit for the show ring. His goals also includes having good milk quality, with a low somatic cell count, combined with fertile cows that demonstrate longevity. In the past, sires that have worked well in the herd include Atwood, Sid and Armani. Current service sires are Unix, Rambo, Goldchip, Solomon and Devour.

The barn which Alex built and designed.

The most prominent family in the herd is Bel Doorman Doriana. Her four generations currently milking on the farm include Bel Goldwyn Goldriana EX-92, third lactation La Prairie Windbrook Windriana EX-90, and their first lactation daughters Gobeli Sid Sidriana VG-85 and Gobeli Atwood Atriana VG-85, followed by several heifer calves.

Special animals are flushed, but this only happens on occasion. Most sales are developed from shows, but animals are also consigned to special sales including Bulle. When purchasing, Alex looks for potential show cows that possess something special, or a new family that has potential to breed a good one for the future. “I’m not too interested in genomics,” explains Alex. “I’m more interested in pedigrees and type, genomics don’t really fit
my programme.”

Despite being relatively new to the business Alex has achieved a lot in the show ring in a short amount of time. Each year the herd competes at four major shows, Swiss Expo, Expo Bulle, Junior Bulle and Junior Thun, alongside regional shows. His passion for good, functional show cows has taken him straight to the top. Anyone that has ever visited Lausanne for Swiss Expo will appreciate the prestige the show carries and winning there is a dream for any cow enthusiast.

Named 2017 World Champion R&W, Jowis Incas Flavia EX-95 is owned by Erich Zingre and has twice been Red Holstein Grand Champion at Swiss Expo.

Gobeli’s first Swiss Expo champion came only five years after the farm was established with Pagewire Goldwyn Delicieuse EX-93 in 2014. In 2018 Au Parchy Doorman Jolie EX-94 won her class for the second time at Swiss Expo, standing Honourable Mention on both occasions. She is owned with Raz Hansjorg and Ruedi Gasser.
Regarded by the family as the best cow to grace the barn at Gobeli, Jowis Incas Flavia EX-95, owned by Erich Zingre, has been twice grand Red Holstein at Swiss Expo and she gained world recognition when she was named Holstein World Champion Red and White in 2017. Delicieuse, Jolie and Flavia are the highest classified cows in the herd, which currently boasts a breakdown of eight Excellent and 18 Very Good animals in total. Jolie and Flavia are regarded as the best investments at Gobeli – Doorman Jolie for her success in the showring and also proving to breed well; Flavia is especially breeding well with nine daughters, seven in milk, including two scored Excellent and three VG first lactation cows.

Competing at the European Championships three times in the past, the herd has had a lot of success. Flavia was a class winner at the European Show in Fribourg, while Mattenhof Goldwyn Ronja and Delicieuse represented Switzerland in the senior cow class and Bimoua Big Appel Emmi EX-90 stood third in Fribourg, 2013.

The family hopes to be lucky enough to have animals selected to represent Switzerland at the European Championships in Libramont, Belgium, in 2019. The qualifier for the European Championships is looming and Gobeli will be delighted to have animals selected for the team, but as always, they are conscious the competition will be fierce.

Alex’s aim is to keep achieving top results in the show ring and keep an elite herd of cows while working together as a family on the farm. “I have a successful construction business alongside the farm and it is important for both businesses to be a success. It is extremely satisfying to invest in strong cow families that are breeding well for us, and we take pride in the animals we take to shows, as well as producing traditional Swiss cheese from our herd,” says Alex.

Sabrina, a talented cake maker, focuses on her own business while helping on the farm during busy times and at shows. Yanik and Timo are both interested in the farm and have both studied agriculture and completed one year of work experience on other farms as part of their education. These aspects will help the family achieve Alex’s goal of building up the business for the next generation and securing the Gobeli prefix as a household name for years to come.

KEY FACTS
• Herd size: 40 cows
• Herd established: 2009
• Herd average: 9200 litres at 3.77% Fat and 3.21% Protein
• Height: Two farms sit at 1000m and 1700m above sea level.
• Current service sires: Unix, Rambo, Goldchip, Solomon and Devour

 

Written by Katie Davidson