Allgäu young farmer Tobias Guggemos gets his cows looking beautiful for agricultural shows in the Alpine region. However, this “cowfitter” is focussed on more than just good looks. Text: Klaus Mergel. Photos: Christoph Jorda
Young farmer Tobias
When young men find something “beautiful”, they are usually talking about women, music or cars. Tobias Guggemos from the Eastern Allgäu has his own take on aesthetics. “A cow is beautiful,” he says. A breeder like this 24-year-old may well have different criteria for judging an animal, perhaps by the pelvis or the udder. “But fundamentally, a cow is always a beautiful animal.”
Cowfitter as a sideline, just for fun
The Allgäu young farmer knows what he’s talking about: he has an interesting sideline. When he has time off from his work on the family farm in Rückholz, he acts as a “cowfitter”, preparing cows for agricultural shows. He has been doing this for six years, just for the fun of it. “In our breeders’ club in Füssen, we help each other out. At a show, one of the others might keep an eye on my animals,” he says.
Guggemos has already taken his cows all over the Allgäu as well as to Austria and Switzerland. It’s not about milking performance or fighting weight. The prizes go to those animals that show the best development in growth and appearance. “In Switzerland, the yardstick is especially high,” he says. There, a cow can fetch up to 20,000 euros at auction, while in Germany the maximum price is 5,000 euros. “The Swiss are mad about cows,” explains father Christian.
With his blond mop of hair, blue eyes and broad smile, Tobias looks exactly as you might imagine an Allgäu farmer to be. “I’m a farmer through and through,” he admits. He has been a fully qualified farmer for two years. And father Christian’s proud expression indicates that his son’s passion is a source of great joy to him.
Chickens, horses and 82 cows
The farm run by the Guggemos family is situated on a small hill in the idyllic meadows of the Eastern Allgäu: a holiday farm with many animals for guests with children. It smells of fresh grass and hay. You get great views of the Breitenberg, Alpspitze and Säuling mountains.
On the left, the panorama includes the Zugspitze, with the Grünten peak on the right. The whole place is full of life: four hens, seven horses, two ponies and every year a pig. Otherwise it is a rather female-dominated outfit: 82 brown and grey Brown Swiss milking cows.
One of them is currently being clipped by Tobias Guggemos for a show. Verona stands quietly in the 3-metre long fitting stall. Weighing 600 kilos and standing 1.57 metres tall, she fits comfortably into this aluminium frame. Her mighty jaws chomp away slowly as the clipper glides over her coat. Drops of spittle form, every now and then her tongue emerges to lick them away. “She’s still chewing. That means she feels at ease,” explains cowfitter Guggemos.
Beautiful cows tend to live to a ripe old age
The clipper buzzes, brown and grey hairs fall to the floor - it feels almost like a wellness treatment. And there’s plenty of fresh hay and concentrate. Verona seems to be enjoying the procedure in the same way that many women enjoy their trip to the hairdresser.
The most important thing, according to the young farmer, is the “top line” - the line along the back that he trims to shape with the clippers and some hairspray. And naturally an udder with plenty of veins. “It’s all a bit like a beauty contest,” he reveals.
But unlike with dogs, for example, the standards of “beauty” for farm animals are not arbitrary. With cows, it’s all about health: A broad chest, to ensure there is enough space for the heart and other organs. A stable back, so the animal doesn’t suffer from backache. A high udder, well supplied with blood. A broad pelvis, to make calving easier. “A beautiful cow tends to live to a ripe old age too,” says father Christian.
A name for every cow - and plenty of trophies
In the Guggemos family living room, an entire wall is now covered with trophies and prizes, awarded to their animals in competitions in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Every cow has a name, which is unusual for such a large farm.
Allgäu without cows is just unimaginable!
Verona, too, has already won prizes at a few shows: 2016 Reserve Champion in Buchloe, 2017 Reserve Champion at the Federal Young Breeders’ Show in Bad Waldsee. “She is straightforward, a real pro,” says cowfitter Guggemos.
Neither father nor son earn any money from the shows. They occasionally get a non-cash prize, such as a tool. What counts is the joy of taking part - and their attachment to their animals.
Most of the cows on the Guggemos farm are classic Brown Swiss cattle, typical of the Allgäu. But they also have a couple of Holsteins and one Jersey. For the young farmer, it’s obvious: “Allgäu without cows is unimaginable. No other animal can make such good use of our grass.” And as for himself: Tobias Guggemos without the Allgäu is equally unimaginable. “I belong here, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool farmer and Allgäuer.”
Information about holidays on the Guggemos farm: guggemos-bayern.de (only in German)