The Hochalm shuttle.
Transport Magazine

The Hochalm shuttle.

On the Seiser Alm in South Tyrol, the Actros is used to collect the milk which Brimi uses to make its tasty mozzarella. It’s a really challenging task.

Brimi from South Tyrol turns fresh milk into mozzarella. The raw product comes from farms in the picturesque region of northern Italy. On a milk collection tour in the Actros.

Just after a bend, a milk churn on the side of the road is glistening in the morning sun. Inside it is fresh milk at a temperature of four degrees. Bernhard Niedermair stops his Actros and jumps down out of the cab. On the right-hand side of the tank body, he reaches for a suction nozzle and holds it in the churn. Farmer Siegfried Jaider in his yellow cap and work apron was expecting the driver. A warm welcome and a brief exchange follow. After a few seconds, the churn is empty and the truck’s tank is now 30 litres of milk heavier. With a farewell wave, Bernhard Niedermair is ready to continue on his route to the next dairy farm. Along the Seiser Alm plateau in South Tyrol, there are lots of these mountain huts.

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At home in South Tyrol: after clocking off, Brimi’s Head of Marketing, Thomas Reiter, loves nothing more than a mountain bike ride in the mountains of Italy’s northernmost region.

Bernhard Niedermair and his Actros work for Milchhof Brixen, known colloquially simply as Brimi. The company from the deep Eisack Valley produces ricotta, butter, fresh milk and fresh cream. But the company’s most important product is mozzarella. ”It isn’t a typical product for South Tyrol, but around 40 years ago, we began specialising in its production,” says Brimi’s Head of Marketing Thomas Reiter. It all started with manufacturers from southern Italy obtaining the milk for their mozzarella from the farmers in Brixen due to its especially high quality. Today, Brimi is Italy’s third-biggest provider of the cheese speciality.

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Trucking in the high Alps: up the Seiser Alm, where the tight gravel tracks are demanding not only on the drivers but also the trucks.

Mozzarella is produced in line with strict hygiene conditions and is a product which contains only very few ingredients: apart from milk, it just needs a little salt. Brimi obtains its milk from Siegfried Jaider – the man with the yellow cap – and around 1,100 other farmers. ”We’re a co-operative,” says Thomas Reiter. That has a number of benefits: Brimi always has plenty of high-quality milk. The farmers are remunerated for their milk with a price which, by international standards, is above average. In this way, they can work, and the farms and the mountain huts remain operational. Reiter explains: ”Together with our farmers, we as a company indirectly contribute towards the preservation of the South Tyrolean countryside and that makes the landscape an attractive place for the many tourists who come here to walk.”

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Not all milk is equal: Brimi obtains three sorts of milk from its farmers. They differ among other things in the feed which the cows receive. The organic hay milk is subject to the most strict requirements.

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Enormous quantities: annually, the Brimi co-operative collects around 100,000 tonnes of milk from its member farms. In the plant, around 15,000 tonnes of mozzarella are produced.

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Enormous quantities: annually, the Brimi co-operative collects around 100,000 tonnes of milk from its member farms. In the plant, around 15,000 tonnes of mozzarella are produced.

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It’s not just about quantity: Brimi farmers are paid according to the quality of their milk sorts. Criteria here include things like the milk’s fat and protein content.

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It’s not just about quantity: Brimi farmers are paid according to the quality of their milk sorts. Criteria here include things like the milk’s fat and protein content.

Beautifully green meadows with grazing cows – among which some rare breeds like the Tyrolean Grey – not to mention weathered mountain huts and the sound of cowbells: the Seiser Alm is South Tyrol at its most beautiful. In the summer months, many of the farmers bring their livestock up here to graze. And that means plenty of work for Brimi! The co-operation guarantees each of its members daily collections. Regardless of whether it’s 30 litres or 1,000 – irrespective of the location. Even if a mountain hut is located at an altitude of 2,000 metres or if the location for milk collection is only accessible at walking pace via a gravel track, the man in the Brimi overalls is sure to come by at his fixed time.

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Tourist magnet: the Seiser Alm is a well-loved destination for walkers, e-bike riders or – as here – horse riders. Drivers need to be attentive at all times.

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But to enable this, the company needs the best vehicles around. Twelve milk collection trucks are in operation at the Brixen-based company, including two Actros models. In the short-radius distribution fleet, there are two Atego trucks which Brimi predominantly uses to supply local restaurants and retailers.

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cows at each of Brimi’s farms on average.

“We drive in high Alpine terrain – and not just in the summer, but also in the snow and ice. And in such conditions, the safety of our drivers is of paramount importance.”

Thomas Reiter, Head of Marketing at Brimi

The Actros 2545 truck which Bernhard Niedermair is driving today is especially well-loved thanks to its MirrorCam system. ”We drive in high Alpine terrain – and not just in the summer when we’re on the Seiser Alm, but all year round. Our farms are often located at altitudes of 1,400 metres. And in such conditions, the safety of our drivers is of paramount importance,” says Mr Reiter. MirrorCam is perfect here: with its cameras and its displays inside the cab, it enables better all-round visibility.

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Additional systems in the Actros serve to increase safety yet further: there is a reversing camera or Sideguard Assist which uses visual signals in the MirrorCam displays to warn the driver about pedestrians or cyclists. ”What’s more, the truck has plenty of power to tackle even the steepest of mountain roads – and for the journey back into the valley, it also features a powerful retarder,” says Thomas Reiter. All milk collection trucks of the South Tyrolean company are right-hand-drive models. ”Our drivers have to get in and out a lot. If they had to do that on the side of the vehicle closest to the traffic, it would cost more time to get to the suction nozzle and the milk container which awaits them. But above and beyond that, it would just be more dangerous.”

This configuration is one of the reasons why today, as on so many other days, Bernhard Niedermair reaches the end of his tour on-time and can return safe and sound to milk collection point number 1 at Brimi’s depot in Brixen. With a series of well-trained movements, he connects a huge pipe to a valve sticking out of the white-tiled wall. On a small screen, a number incessantly climbs up and up. Around 15 minutes later, exactly 11,000 litres of fresh milk from the cows on the Seiser Alm plateau have flowed into a tank inside the building. And in just a few hours, it will be turned into a real South Tyrolean mozzarella.

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Strict criteria: after every delivery, the milk is tested in Brimi’s in-house labs for so-called inhibitors. The hygiene and quality requirements here are fundamentally strict.

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Highly efficient systems: Brimi’s production operates 365 days a year. In 2020, the 200-strong staff of the company enabled the business to achieve a turnover of more than 100 million euros.

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Highly efficient systems: Brimi’s production operates 365 days a year. In 2020, the 200-strong staff of the company enabled the business to achieve a turnover of more than 100 million euros.

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Highly efficient systems: Brimi’s production operates 365 days a year. In 2020, the 200-strong staff of the company enabled the business to achieve a turnover of more than 100 million euros.

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Highly efficient systems: Brimi’s production operates 365 days a year. In 2020, the 200-strong staff of the company enabled the business to achieve a turnover of more than 100 million euros.

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Highly efficient systems: Brimi’s production operates 365 days a year. In 2020, the 200-strong staff of the company enabled the business to achieve a turnover of more than 100 million euros.

Photos & video: Alexander Tempel