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Cowshed, Mittelargenalpe (Vorarlberg)

Number: 80
Built: 1709
Year of translocation: 1977

This communal cowshed and dairy was built in 1641 and retains many originally medieval features. Until 1977 it stood on an alp about 1,700 m (over 5,000 feet) above sea-level near Damüls in Bregenzerwald and served around 80 farmers from Schwarzenberg who used the alp for summer pastures. When the farmers decided they needed modern facilities, the old building was dismantled and moved to the Museum. A new dairy was erected and went into operation in 1978.   

Cheese has been produced on the Mittelargen alp since the 17th century. The cheese which is made there and on many of the other alps in the region is an aromatic hard cheese, locally known as Bergkäse or mountain cheese.

In 1970, when the dairy was still working at full capacity, the dairy-men produced around 200 loaves of cheese during the summer.

The building is a rectangular single-storey structure, measuring 20m by 30m. It is built of log construction with notched joints. Around 25,000 shingles cover the outside walls.

The roof is an ancient purlin roof. Six sturdy trusses support fourteen purlins, creating a structure which was strong enough to carry snow up to several feet deep.

The roof has a total surface of 540 sqm and is covered with around 50,000 shingles.

The building is divided into three sections. The two end sections house the cowsheds, each with standings for 40 cows. The central section is occupied by the dairy where 750 litres of milk were processed every day by the Senn and his helpers. Work started at four in the morning when around 60 cows had to be milked the first time. They were milked a second time in the evening. Alps in the Bregenzerwald traditionally did not employ women.

In the loft above the dairy were simple bunk beds as well as storage space for hay which was used to feed the cattle in bad weather. There was also a separate store room with its own roof in which food and other provisions were kept.