Photos taken using a drone on 22. August 2017 by Thomas Widmer, post production by Malgorzata Sitnik.
The "Früebüel" site has been run by the ETH Zurich as a research station since 1989. The site is located on the Walchwiler mountain in the Kanton of Zug at 1000 metres above sea level. The site has a total surface area of 61.9 hectares, of which 9.7 hectares are a nature reserve, 39.5 hectares of forage and 8.2 hectares of forest.
The site is currently primarily used for research with cattle and suckler cows to determine the basic requirements for ecological and efficient livestock farming in grassland areas. It is an optimal location for the breeding of experimental animals under comparable and controlled conditions. As this special location finds itself in an ecologically interesting landscape which is structured on a small scale, it offers the possibility to conduct other research work in areas such as landscape ecology and sustainability.
There are barns which house sheep and sheepdogs before and after the alpine farming season. Furthermore there are buildings to house small suckler cows and their offspring and for questions relating to research with cattle.
An enclosure for wild animals (fallow and roe deer) of 6 hectares is being created, including a winter and summer shelter. Other special animals such as exotic cattle breeds, yaks and camelids can be kept in the enclosure for research purposes. Besides barns, there are also living quarters, offices and simple laboratories available for employees and researchers.
The facilities at Früebüel allow research into breeding cattle and suckler cows kept in groups both inside and on the pasture. Due to its altitude, the site is ideal for approaching questions related to mountain farms and the foothills of the alps. The enclosure for wild animals allows research into fallow and roe deer, and is the only of its kind in Switzerland.
- 1943: Acquisition of the site by the Swiss Confederation to use it as a military prison
- 1989: Hand over of Früebüel to the ETH Zurich for research purposes
- 2005: Implementation of measuring station for grassland sciences
- 2014: Connection to the high performance network
- 2017: Take over of operational management by Strickhof as part the AgroVet-Strickhof cooperation
- 2017: November: Building license for facilities for fallow and roe deer, breeding cattle, suckling cows and sheeps.
Upland moor of the Walchwiler mountain as a source of energy supply during the world wars
The upland moor on the Walchwiler mountain played an important role in the supply of energy in both the First and Second World War (as did other upland moors in Switzerland). The upland moor is very big and was easily reachable. During the world wars a great amount of peat was cut mechanically (not by hand) to supply energy to the region. In Eigenried 350 people were employed by four companies to cut peat, which was comissioned by the government as part of their war provisioning. The people lived in primitive barracks on the outskirts of the working area. There are plenty of reports and photos documenting the mechanical peat cutting.
Even after the Second World War peat cutting continued until the 1960s to improve the ground in gardens. As a result, the Eigenried upland moor was considerably damaged as it dried out due to the peat cutting. Compost products gradually replaced peat as a ground improver.
After a break, peat cutting resumed during the Second World War and people were confident that the 3-5 metre deep peat spread over 10 hectares of the upland moor would provide plenty of peat over the years to come. In the 1960s the damage became evident and peat cutting was abandoned in the whole of Switzerland. A moor protection initiative was launched, which was implemented by the federal constitution.
Zuger mountain as a military prison
In 1943, the Military Department of the Swiss Confederation bought Früebüel from the Walchwil Corporation in order to build a military prison, as the prison in St. Maurice VS had to move location. 46.134 hectares of land were bought for CHF 166'085 (CHF 3600 per hectare). In 1944 the Military Department bought a further 15.72 hectares of land from the Walchwil Corporation for CHF 56'581 (CHF 3600 per hectare). Since 1944 the surface area belonging to the Swiss Confederation has remained at 61.9 hectares.
From 1943 to 1988 Früebüel was a military prison. During the Soviet - Afghan war (1979-1988), Switzerland took on eleven Soviet citizens that had been captured by the Afghan resistance fighters, as the latter were not able to treat the prisoners according to the Geneva convention. Both sides agreed with the decision, and the prisoners were held for two years on the Zuger mountain.
The resistance fighters were still imprisoned for some time once Früebüel was being used by the ETH. The military prison included a farm and four residential buildings comprising nine flats for employees including supervisors. The barracks were demolished in the 1990s and in 2010 the barbed wire fence was removed (see photo).
After acquistion of the site by the ETH, the barracks were still used by the Military Department to house asylum seekers. The acquistion contract stated that the builings must remain so that their function as a prison could be resumed at short notice.
Früebüel Site (Walchwil ZG)
Früebüel is located on the Zugerberg mountain:
Agrovet-Strickhof Früebüel Site, Building FVG, Früebüel 4, 6318 Walchwil (ZG)
Phone: +41 58 105 90 12