Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART, CH-8356 Ettenhausen

Managing open grassland in the mountain area of Switzerland – what are the costs?

The visible tendency of Swiss farms to specialise and grow in size has not been without consequences for agriculture. Working time is an increasingly scarce commodity, whilst the incentive to farm low-yield, high-intensity land is decreasing. This has consequences for agriculture: the forest is reclaiming land that farmers have given up working, biodiversity is dwindling, and the mosaic-like cultural landscape is changing. How can we, for example, keep the grassland open in the mountain area in a cost-effective manner? Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART compared various methods, using absorption costing. With uncovered costs of CHF 161 to CHF 435 per hectare for all slope angles and plot sizes, mulching fared the best. On steep slopes or small plots, grazing young cattle, sheep or goats is economically more advantageous than mowing for dry-forage production (CHF 713 to CHF 1162). Clearly the most expensive process is haymaking for thermal use (burning), which costs from CHF 1115 to CHF 2091. If a farm is able to use the eco-hay internally, disposing of the latter by burning is neither financially nor ecologically worthwhile. Mowing, mulching and grazing support species composition and ecosystems in different ways. For this reason, the simultaneous use of the methods on different land is proving the most advantageous for the mosaic-like cutural landscape, and contributes to its preservation.

To the archive