Brown Swiss cattle are believed to be the oldest breed of dairy cattle. They originated from Switzerland with bones dating back to 4,000 B.C. Many generations of milking cows evolved into today’s Brown Swiss cattle. Initially, only 25 bulls and 140 females were imported from Switzerland to the United States.
The Brown Swiss is also an American breed of dairy cattle. It derives from the traditional triple-purpose Braunvieh of the Alpine region of Europe but has diverged substantially from it. It was selectively bred for dairy qualities only, and its draft and beef capabilities were lost. Milk yield was measured in 2013 at 10231 kg (22600 lb) per year:142 the milk has about 4% butterfat and 3.5% protein and is suitable for making cheese.
The American Brown Swiss is of medium size. The coat is usually a light grayish brown but varies from almost white to gray or dark brown. There may some shading in the coat, with the forequarters often darker than the legs and hind parts. The muzzle is black, ringed with creamy white.
It is a dual-purpose breed with a strong focus on milk performance. Aside from the milk production and the udder composite, a special emphasis is put on the adaption qualities, longevity, and the solid feet and legs of the Brown Swiss cow. The Brown Swiss is highly adaptable to diverse geographical regions of milk production, such as mountainous areas, extreme climates and forage conditions or tropical environments and as well adaptable to intensive systems. The favorable composition of the milk protein, especially for cheese making is considered in the breeding as well.
Characteristics of Brown Swiss Cattle
The Brown Swiss you see grazing across the United States countryside descend from Switzerland. Brown Swiss cattle can be grey, dark brown, tan, or even almost white. Their hooves, muzzle, and switch are usually black. They are often noted for their docile temperament. Their average gestation length is 287.2 days, a week longer than most other breeds which average 280 days.
The Brown Swiss or Braunvieh is light brown with a creamy white muzzle and dark nose, dark-blue eye pigmentation which helps the breed to resist extreme solar radiation. The cattle have been bred horned and polled, when horned the horns are short and white growing dark towards the top.
Brown Swiss cattle have brown or tan fur, white muzzles, and floppy ears. Cows typically weigh up to 1,500 pounds, while bulls weigh upwards of 2,500 pounds. They developed dark blue eyes due to the pigment’s ability to block out solar radiation. With a strong build, balanced legs, and well-formed feet, brown Swiss cattle are very adaptable to different living conditions and are able to produce milk until they are 15 years of age. They are quite an ancient breed, with some historians reporting that their origins may go back as far as 4,000BC.
These cattle are fairly large compared to their European counterparts. They reach weights of about 600kg for cows and 900kg for bulls. They are often called Braunvieh, which is German for ‘brown cattle’. This is because Brown Swiss actually descended from the Braunvieh breed, which is a dual-purpose cow. Brown Swiss is considered the primarily dairy-focused strain of Braunvieh. Their colouring is variable, ranging between grey, brown, tan, and white. Their ears are their most distinctive characteristic, as they are long, large, and fluffy. Their hooves are usually black, as is their muzzle
#2. Friendly Temperament
Brown Swiss cattle are also well-mannered and peaceful creatures. They breed very well with other milk and beef cattle. Also, they can be polled or horned, depending on how they have been bred. . They also have good temperament. Many farmers find that Brown Swiss cattle are very docile and quite clever. This can be a great assistance when it comes to milking.
Meanwhile, it’s vitally important that farmers take caution around all bulls, regardless of breed. This is something important to consider, as many farmers don’t wish to dehorn their herd. Horned animals can sometimes be a danger to other livestock, however. Brown Swiss cattle are well-suited to Irish climate, as they’re bred from the changeable weather of the mountain-side. Rough terrain shouldn’t be an issue either, as their ancestors roamed freely along the Alps. Their naturally strong and sturdy hooves and legs prevent health problems from occurring.
#3. Excellent Milk Yield & Quality
Their milk is known for its excellent cheese-making quality! It has an average protein content of 3.5% with 4% butterfat. Since the fat content is about 4.6% on average, this gives Brown Swiss milk the closest fat/protein ratio compared to other breeds. They also produce an average of 9,000kg of milk per year and have quite long gestation periods. Bulls are ready at about 12-14 months for successful breeding, while cows mature at an average age of 332 days. Crossed cattle from Brown Swiss bulls or dams are also about 15% more fertile. They have great longevity, and this helps to keep herd replacement costs down. Cows are able to keep producing even when they reach their mid-teens. However, peak milk production is often reached at their fifth lactation or after.
On average, Swiss cows produce more than 220,000 pounds of milk in a lifetime. They generate high yields of milk and cheese, as the fat to protein ratio is ideal for production. Apart from being a top choice for milk production, brown Swiss cattle also have excellent genetics to be used in meat production; having almost 4 percent more weight per cow than competing breeds. However, they are raised generally for milk production, while a genetically similar breed, Braunvieh, is raised mostly for meat production.
German Brown Swiss are specialized dairy cows with an outstanding lifetime milk production. The breed perfectly balances milk quantity and quality. Milk from Brown Swiss cattle has high butterfat content and is high in protein making Brown Swiss the N°1 breed for protein in Germany. Their milk is equally unique from other breeds as it demonstrably gives a high cheese yield due to Kappa-Casein BB. Also, Brown Swiss has a high share of Beta Casein A2/A2 sires. The modern Brown Swiss-type combines environmental sustainability and profitability in an ideal way.
#4. Highly Adaptive
Brown Swiss adapt well to high altitudes and hot or cold climates. In the cradle of Brown Swiss, breeding with its adverse climatic conditions the excellent qualities of the breed were consolidated over decades and last to this day. On the mountain pastures already, the young cattle have to walk long distances on uneven ground and thus the breed developed strong and sound feet and legs. A background of extreme terrain and weather has produced a cattle breed that is recognized for being hardy and rugged all over the world.
Brown Swiss cattle live in different places around the world, such as the United States, Switzerland, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand. Due to their history from Switzerland, they can endure both hot and cold weather extremes and variable, often hazardous, landscapes, which makes them desirable for agricultural uses.
#5. They are Hardy Breed
Brown Swiss are known for their excellent health since they have high disease-resistance and a low somatic cell count. Combined with their strong udders, cases of mastitis are quite rare. Crossbreeding is quite good for them. Their calves during weaning are about 5-10% higher than other crosses like Hereford/Angus. Although mainly a dairy cow, the Brown Swiss is an efficient producer of both milk and beef! Their foraging instincts are excellent, meaning that they can thrive regardless of pasture quality.
These days, the beautiful Brown Cattle can still be found across the globe, including in the United States, where the largest concentration is in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio. The world population of Brown Swiss is reported to be about 6 million, which ranks either first or second in the worldwide population of dairy cattle.