We woke up this morning on the Family Babel farm (Berghof Babel) to the sound of cow bells as the young stock on the dairy farm ate their breakfast. After our own breakfast we toured the 65-cow dairy, which features robotic feeders and a robotic milker.
The farm uses all of its milk to produce cheese--a total of 50 tons a year that it sells off the farm. The herd is mostly Brown Swiss cows and was proud that it produced the very first breeding bull ever to go to the US from Germany. The farm also has a restaurant and hotel accommodations as "farm holidays" are popular.
Our next stop was the Fendt tractor factory in Marktoberdorf. We had coffee and chatted with the North American director of marketing and some of his colleagues who were in town from Georgia, USA. Afterwards, we got to test drive the tractors. I had to confess that it was my first time driving one and I got to drive the largest model they make, the 900 series. I didn't have to use a clutch (thank goodness) and couldn't believe how easy it was to drive on the test course with the joystick control. After that, we toured the factory and saw how 88 tractors a day are put together from raw steel to a finished machine ready for the farm.
Our host here in Bavaria, Mattias Kick, brought us to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in the afternoon, but didn't tell us we would be hiking for an hour straight up a mountain to get there. We started the climb with gusto (and sausage sandwiches in hand), thinking the walk would be short, but were peeling off layers by the time the castle was in sight 45 minutes later. We walked another 15 minutes to the Marienbruecke bridge, but the view of the castle was breathtaking and worth it.
"Mad" King Ludwig II built the castle in 15 years after eyeing the mountaintop location as a child. However, he only lived in it for less than six months before his untimely death. Too bad, the view is awesome!
We rounded out the day with a visit to the Family Sheitz organic goat and hog farm. The milk from 180 goats goes into the cheese and yogurt products of a private dairy label. The pig meat is sold as sausage and cured hams in the farm's own shop and about two-thirds through an outside store. The farm gets a significant competitive advantage by using wash water from the nearby cheese plant as its protein source for the pigs (using a wet feed system), instead of purchasing high priced organic soybeans. Soy is not widely grown in Germany and usually imported.
We spent the night at an education and convention center operated in connection with the Bavarian farmers association. Brandon was brave enough to try a local bar custom as we talked in the basement lounge after dinner....lard with bacon bits spread on bread. He loved it! The rest of us just enjoyed a dark (dunkel) beer.