Robert’s doing a job for the Vögeli brothers, Hans and Urs, in Gächlingen right now. Hans operates (for Switzerland) a big farm with about 500 head of feeder cattle, and Urs is a busy farm contractor. Last week Robert caught an employee washing windows in the shop. “Did you run out of work?” he teased. No, they were getting ready to celebrate big time.
Last weekend Urs and Barbara Vögeli put on a two day party to celebrate 25 years Vögeli Vvv agriculture contractors (http://www.voegelivvv.ch). Just two weeks ago they buried their 95 year old father Hans Vögeli, a week before that his wife and their mother Hedi. That was in the middle of the grain harvest. Urs said he didn’t have time to mail out party invitations as planned – he couldn’t very well add them to the death announcements it is customary to send friends and relatives. So he was both very pleased and surprised at the crowd over the weekend, which included a Sunday church service, a concert by the village band and lunch at the community hall. The machine shed-turned-pub, seating around 80 people, was full much of the time.
Urs, an agriculture mechanic, started the business in l987 with a feed chopper. Gradually over the years he acquired other machinery, and took over custom outfits that were selling out. Now the company employs seven people, including Cornelia Witzig, who works 60 per cent as a nurse and 40 per cent for Urs. She says she needs the balance the fieldwork gives her life.
The main jobs start in early spring when farmers begin putting out liquid manure and end late November/December with the transport of sugar beets to the factory, and back transport of the sugar beet byproduct for feed. Urs says his transport trucks are his ‘cash cows’, as they work all year. There is hardly a farm machine that Urs doesn’t own. He even has a rock picker.
A Deutz 4065HTS combine stands in the yard, with a 4.5 meter (15 foot) header. His brother’s Polish farm worker told him, “Switzerland is too small for that combine.” Urs has a 7.5 meter (26 foot) header on a combine working in Germany right now. Does he use that on the Swiss fields too? – Yes, he tells me. It would make short work of some of these one and two hectare fields! The main combining season usually only lasts a good week, Urs tells me; a crazy busy season, and a short time to put these combines to work.
Even successful businesses make mistakes sometimes. 2011 started out as a very dry year. In August all farmers were worried there would be a severe shortage of corn silage. Urs speculated – and bought a larger amount of corn straight from the field. It rained, the corn filled out, and it ended up being a decent harvest and a bad move for Urs. He still has quite a bit of that corn.
You win some, you lose some. Judging by what’s displayed in the yard and the party celebrations, Urs and Barbara Vögeli win more than they lose!