Dairy Cattle Breeds

The Brown Swiss

Like the Jersey, Guernsey, Holstein and Ayrshire, the Brown Swiss is a dairy breed and is believed to be the oldest of all. It is the second largest producer of milk per annum after the Holstein. Butterfat average is 4% and protein 3.5%. These proportions are ideal for the production of cheese and the Brown Swiss has an enviable reputation in this regard. Producers of cheese from Brown Swiss cows receive more per pound of milk than do producers using other breeds. Particular traits of the Brown Swiss include a long gestation period, large furry ears, large size and an extremely docile temperament. The Brown Swiss is a hardy breed and needs little special maintenance or supplementary feeding.

Brown Swiss CowCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brown_swiss.jpg

The Brown Swiss is endemic to the slopes of the Swiss Alps and is thus resistant to extremes of temperature and other common bovine problems. In its native Switzerland it is often called the Schwyer or Brown Schwyer. Originally, Schwyzer Braunvieh cattle came from northern Italy and southern Germany.

It is believed that large cattle were brought in from Germany to improve the size of Swiss cattle which at the time were quite small. The Brown Swiss is known as the Braunvieh in German speaking countries. There are few records of which breeds may have been used in the improvement of the Brown Swiss. Around 1860 the cattle of Schwyzer were predominantly darker on the shoulders and hindquarters than on the bodies. Today many still carry a dorsal stripe of light coloured hair down their backs. It is believed this hair colour has been inherited from the Pingzau of Austria which was one of the breeds brought in from Austria.

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In the US, the Brown Swiss was declared a dairy breed in 1906. The United States actually established a Herd Book in 1891, twenty years before such a Herd Book appeared in the breed's native Switzerland. The initial importation from Switzerland to the United States included 25 bulls and 140 females. In the USA, Brown Swiss were bred for size. This was done in order to promote a greater difference between Jerseys and Brown Swiss. The breed has been exported to Russia, Italy, Germany and the US as well as other countries. It has gained a very favourable reputation as a producer of high quality milk.

Switzerland is renowned for its production of cheese. The Brown Swiss evolved in the north east of Switzerland. In summer, herds were (and still are) taken into the mountainous regions and grazed on the lush pastures. Cheese-makers and herdsmen accompany the cattle. As autumn approaches, the cattle are returned to the lower country where they are housed over the cold winter.

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The Brown Swiss is noted for its outstanding feet and legs. It is important that they are able to make the trip up and down the mountains to their summer pastures so good feet and legs are essential. It is of medium size with a deep chest and well covered hindquarters. Dairymen are attracted to the Brown Swiss because of its well attached udder and high resistance to a dairy's nightmare, mastitis. Being well covered, aged animals and culls have quite a high carcass value.

They have excellent longevity and produce large volumes of milk for a longer period than other breeds. Good longevity also means they produce more calves. The world population of Brown Swiss is about 7 million. A population of this size places the Brown Swiss among the top ranks of dairy cattle.