Number of Swiss farms continues to fall

In 2010, the number of farms in Switzerland fell to below 60,000, according to figures released Tuesday by the federal statistics office. The number of organic farms is also shrinking.

Number of Swiss farms continues to fall

Last year, there were 59,065 farms in Switzerland, 1.6 percent fewer than in 2009. The number employed on them also fell. All in all, 167,462 people worked in the agricultural sector in 2010, a decrease of 1.4 percent. 

Mid-sized agricultural operations between 3 and 20 hectares have been hardest hit, and there were 1,050 fewer of them in 2010 than the year before.

Of those farms remaining, 59 percent of them are located in the flatlands, while 41.3 percent are in mountainous areas.

The number of organic farms has also fallen, have shrunk by 2.1 percent in 2010.

While there are fewer farms overall, more of them are increasing their animal stocks, the statistics office found. Most livestock is made up of pigs and cattle, and their numbers have remained relatively stable.

The number of chickens rose last year, surpassing nine million.

It has been a difficult few years for Swiss agriculture. Income from the sector fell by 3.4 percent in 2010 compared with the previous year, after the 7.7 percent drop in 2009.

The main reasons for the decline were poorer harvests, falling milk prices and the saturation of the pork market. Average earnings per job in the sector have also fallen slightly.

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Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020

The crushing of live male chicks is at the centrepiece of a number of new animal protection regulations to be passed in the new year.

Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020
Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

A number of other changes to mass agriculture will also come into effect in January, including tracking sheep and goats, as well as greater restrictions on pesticides and more assistance available to farmers in the instance of drought. 

In industrial farming across the globe, male chicks are typically shredded a day after birth as they do not lay eggs and are of little value in factory farms. 

Although the practice is relatively rare in Switzerland, it will be formally forbidden from January 2020. 

READ: Germany allows the shredding of live chicks to continue

The law does include some exceptions for smaller egg producers, however if male chicks are to be put to death, this must now be done with CO2 gas. 

The Swiss House of Representatives, when passing the law, called the practice “absurd”. 

Technology exists which can determine a chick’s sex just nine days into incubation. Although this is used in the United States, Germany and elsewhere, it is as yet not widespread in Switzerland. 

Pesticide restrictions, helicopters for thirsty cows

The Swiss government has made army helicopters available to transport water for cattle in the instance of drought. 

Switzerland’s central animal trafficking database will now also track sheep and goats, with the animals to be given tracking ear tags. 

Furthermore, there will be restrictions on certain pesticides, with the carcinogenic Chlorothalonil banned from January onwards. 

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