Each year, the month of June marks the return of the herds to the mountain pastures. More than a tradition, the climb is a key moment in the activity of a breeder. To better understand the importance of mountain pasture climbing in pastoralism and bear witness to the weight of traditions in local agricultural life, is there no more rewarding experience than accompanying a herd to its summer quarters, by following a family of farmers from Megève for four generations?

Preparations on the family farm

It's almost time to hit the road under a beautiful spring sun... after a whole winter spent in the barn, the desire to find life in the open air in the mountain pastures begins to be felt. At the farm, it's the commotion to complete the final preparations: the mobile milking, the bells, the walking sticks and the truck with the things of everyday life and other food.

Guillaume, who created the GAEC in 2008, before taking over the reins of operations in 2014, gives a quick briefing to remind you of the good safety gestures to adopt during the climb. There is a good-natured atmosphere, a mixture of excitement and impatience, mixed with the flavor of reunions with family and friends who have come to lend a hand for the event.

Helped by Nathan, the young employee of the farm, Guillaume takes the direction of the field, clearing the narrow dirt road in his path. In the distance, we can already hear the sound of cowbells echoing the magic of this long-awaited moment. The beautiful milkmaids finally appear in a thick cloud of dust and deafening music.

Departure of the procession, from the farm to the mountain pasture

At the head of the convoy, Gérard, Guillaume's father, opens the road with his pick-up to regulate traffic. Adorned with their most beautiful bells, the 48 cows of the herd then set off from the family farm of Les Granges located on the north-west slope of Rochebrune in the heights of Megève. The least resistant cows will be taken to the mountain pasture by truck.

Let's go for an unusual 3-hour procession, supervised by family and friends, all animated by the same joy of meeting for the event. Four and a half years old, Méline, the eldest daughter of Aline and Guillaume, leads the dance with the complicity of her older cousins ​​aged 4 and 16. The cows knowing the way perfectly, the herd advances at a good pace. The road is lined with pastures where Nathan hurries to step over the fence to control the cattle and prevent them from wreaking havoc in the procession. The route crosses a residential area where a few curious people flock to watch the parade, before joining the forest track.

After a short break to graze the animals, the procession begins a gradual climb into the forest. Little by little, the Megèvan hamlets give way to verdant nature. The clouds cling to the mountains and the sky becomes more and more threatening. Suddenly, at the bend of a bend, the hail fell on the merry troop which continued on its way with the same enthusiasm.

In spring, the season of all contrasts, the spectacle of nature is striking… we witness a veritable explosion of colors and bright lights; Flowering meadows and dazzling green mountain pastures compete in beauty. The closer you get to the high point of this climb, the more the landscape opens out onto the valley and the surrounding peaks, offering an unparalleled view in a bucolic setting.

Cows are proud of their bells. Some are more sensitive to sounds, others know how to tint them better. Plus, it helps them recognize each other.

A season in the Alps

Nestled at the foot of a rocky cirque at an altitude of 1630 metres, the Alpage de Chevan finally appears! Faces light up, everyone quickens their pace. Guillaume and his employee prepare the passage to the pastures located on a hill above the valley. One by one, the animals parade into the enclosure in a harmonious concert of cowbells. The grass is very green, flowery and abundant. The diversity of grassland is a guarantee of quality milk, rich in protein.

Inside the pasture, a collection of bells is suspended from the beams. The alpagists and their breeder friends meet around a large table and feast on homemade recipes and local products. More than a simple moment of exchange and convivial sharing, this festive meal symbolizes the passage to a parenthesis of life apart, away from the world and closer to nature.

Seeing the sun rise over the mountains, enjoying a preserved environment, living to the rhythm of the cows... For breeders, spending an entire summer in mountain pastures in such a corner of paradise means living a privileged moment with the family, but it also means perpetuating essential traditions for pastoralism in the mountains, a time of life that none of them would exchange for anything in the world!

Portrait of the Maillet-Contoz family

Michel Maillet-Contoz bought the Granges farm in 1886, a 12-hectare property where four generations have passed from father to son: Joseph, Roger Gérard and Guillaume. Guillaume created the GAEC IN 2008 with his father Gérard, a heifer breeder.

When he started out, Guillaume settled down with 20 dairy cows, before starting to practice mountaineering in 2014 with 80 cows of the Tarine and Abondance breeds. It was in 2017, under the impetus and with the involvement of his wife Aline, that he began cheese processing. Together they produce Farmhouse Reblochon in winter (November to March) and Farmhouse Abondance in summer (April to October). Only the refining is subcontracted to another farm in Savoie. Milk and cheese are sold directly from the farm located at 1683 route de lady des Granges in Megève.

Alicia (20) and Lucas (16), Aline's niece and nephew, also come from a large family of farmers. Passionate about animals, life in the open air and the mountain environment, they are also destined for a professional agricultural career. Proud of their roots and of their history, it is with passion, conviction and maturity that they in turn claim a vocation for animal production and the management of an agricultural business.

Discover the GAEC Les Alpagistes


A story of passion from generation to generation...

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