Danielle Rouiller, the love of cows passed from father to daughter

In 1999, Danielle Rouiller took over the former agricultural school farm in Cernier with her father. She knows it well because until then it was here at the professional training center that her father had been the cattle herdsman.

15 Mar 2021
Around Le Gruyère AOP
©Aliénor Held

“Organic farming is a state of mind. It’s very progressive! Little by little as we learn, we have evolved our practices!” 

Danielle Rouiller, president of the milk producers association of Chézard-Saint-Martin

When her father proposed building a case to take over this farm, Danielle suggested turning it into an organic farm. He accepted her suggestion straight away; in fact he was wishing the same thing. So, in December of 1999 they became organic farmers in Cernier.

They had to both train, not just as farmers, but as organic farmers.  The organic farmers are a very closely knit group. They visited several farms in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in order to learn as much as possible about their new career. The choice for a dairy farm was an obvious one as her father knew cattle like the back of his hand. Danielle, who did her studies in agricultural engineering at ETH Zurich, affirms:  “It was more difficult to learn manual farming than organic farming. Organic farming is a state of mind. It’s very progressive!  Little by little as we learn, we have evolved our practices!” 

Danielle Rouiller proposed her organic milk to Daniel Maurer’s cheese shop. At the time, he wasn’t equipped for this type of production and admitted he didn’t know what to do with the milk. It just so happened that the same year Coop was looking to increase its offer of organic cheeses. A true windfall for Danielle as well as for the cheesemaker from Chézard-Saint-Martin who began developing Gruyère AOP Bio!

Danielle Rouiller is also president of the traditional and organic milk producers association. The organisation is comprised of various sizes of producers. It is therefore important for the producers to have a certain flexibility in the amount of milk they produce. They sometimes count on one another to meet the production quotas for Gruyère AOP.

“From the beginning, the demand for Gruyère AOP Bio grew and grew. Consequently, it was an opportunity for all these producers.  As a result, step by step, we were able to all thrive together.” 

For Danielle Rouiller, who today manages the domain with her nephew and his wife, Antoine, member of the Organic Commission of the Interprofession of Gruyère, and Audrey El Hayek, it is important to have a herd that is coherent with an organic philosophy. For example, it is important to have dual purpose cattle.   It’s for this reason that Danielle chose Montbéliardes. She also decided to take a bull. In this way, she could limit the number of artificial inseminations. For several years now, in an effort to strengthen their bond, she leaves the calves for a longer time with their mothers. The calves learn quickly next to their mothers. “If we separate them, we deprive them of this precious know-how. The cow teaches an abundance of things to its little one.”
Without a doubt, it’s for all these reasons that she attaches such great importance to producing quality milk for Gruyère AOP and more particularly Gruyère AOP Bio. 

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