The Breed

About Braunvieh Cattle

By Jim Knowlton - The most asked question directed at Braunvieh breeders is, "What is a Braunvieh?" or "What kind of a crossbreed is Braunvieh?"

Braunvieh is not a crossbreed or a new breed developed using two or more breeds. On the contrary, Braunvieh may be the oldest pure breed on earth, with records dating back to 800 B.C. Recently, archeologists have found cattle bones among the ruins of the ancient Swiss Lake Dwellers similar to those of the present day Braunvieh. This would date these cattle in the region to the Bronze Age.This is the large docile breed associated with the scenic Swiss Alps. Development of the breed came into its own in the 18th century in the mountain valleys of Switzerland and production records on milk and meat performance were established in the 19th century.

Today, roughly 40% of the cattle in Switzerland are Braunvieh and they have spread throughout the world. Due to their high performance and adaptability, Braunvieh are used in all major countries of the world. Braunvieh are found in over 60 countries extending from the Arctic Circle to the tropics at altitudes varying between 0 and 12,500 feet. World population of Braunvieh is over 7,000,000 head. Herdbooks are being kept by breeders' associations in 42 countries.

Braunvieh in North America

Approximately 130 head of Braunvieh were imported into the United States from Switzerland between 1869 and 1880. This was the basis for the development of the American Brown Swiss that was declared a dairy breed in 1890, and therefore became a different breed. American Brown Swiss have since spread to Canada, Mexico and throughout the world including Switzerland. In the mid-nineteen hundreds, Original Braunviehs were imported by Mexico where they have flourished as a beef breed. In Mexico, they are used in a commercial capacity to upgrade the beef characteristics of the indigenous Zebu cattle. There, separate herdbooks are kept for the cattle, sometimes referred to as European type Brown Swiss and American Brown Swiss.

Canada's first importation of Original Braunvieh, the bull Aron, was in 1968. Subsequently, more bulls and females were imported directly into Canada in several importations between 1968 and 1985. These were selected in Europe with emphasis on beef production. In Canada, Original Braunvieh cattle are registered by the Canadian Brown Swiss Association and are referred to as Beef Brown Swiss. They are registered separately from the Dairy Brown Swiss. Many breeders in Canada are members of the Braunvieh Association of America and some of their cattle are registered in the United States.

Original Swiss Braunviehs were imported directly into the United States from Switzerland in 1983 by Harlan Doeschot of Firth, Nebraska, who had been in Switzerland looking for Simmental cattle to import and was greatly impressed by the uniformity and reproduction efficiency of Braunviehs. About the same time, Bell Rule Genetics imported Original Braunviehs from Canada. Since 1983, a significant exchange of breeding stock has taken place between American and Canadian breeders. In the 1990s, there have been several importations of Original Braunviehs from Europe in the form of frozen embryos. The Braunvieh breed association in the United States (The Braunvieh Association of America) was organized and incorporated in 1984.

In the late 1960s, in order to increase milk production, Switzerland began importing American Brown Swiss semen to use on the native Original Braunviehs. As a result the majority of the Braunvieh cattle in Switzerland as well as other European countries today have been crossed with Brown Swiss. The Swiss Braunvieh Association registers all Braunvieh cattle in Switzerland, but the cattle that have no Brown Swiss in their pedigree are certified to be Original and have the words Original Braunvieh stamped on the certificate of registry. There is an association of breeders in Switzerland organized for the purpose of preserving and promoting the Original Braunvieh breed, the Swiss Original Braunvieh Association (SOBA).

Physical Characteristics

Braunvieh is a German word which translated into English means Brown Cow. Their hair is various shades of brown, predominately mousy brown, but ranging from light brown with gray to very dark brown. The border of the muzzle is very light, as is the poll, and often a lighter colored dorsal stripe is seen. The udder and inside of the legs and underline also being the lighter shade. A darker, smokier shading is often evident around the shoulders and neck compared to the rest of the body. The switch of the tail is dark brown to black. The skin is pigmented, the muzzle is black, and the hooves are dark and very hard.

Body weights range from 1,200 to 1,500 pounds for adult females and 2,100 to 2,500 pounds for adult males. Steers at optimum slaughter weight are 1,100 pounds at 13 months of age.

The Braunvieh is a very docile, long-bodied, well-muscled animal with correct feet and legs, due to generations of natural selection in the Swiss Alps.

Braunvieh are known as a balanced breed, possessing body confirmation for optimum physiological performance. This and the fact that their hair is sleek and fine in warm weather and can grown heavy in response to extended cold weather makes Braunviehs adaptable to different environments.

The physical characteristic that this breed is rapidly becoming noted for is the carcass traits that are needed to carry the beef industry into the next century. Braunvieh sired steers have consistently hung up top carcasses all around the country including renowned steer test like The Great Western Beef Expo, Sterling, Colorado, and Texas A&M Ranch to Rail program.

This is the breed to lead the beef industry into the new millennium. Braunviehs put it all together: Maternal, Muscling, Marbling, and Performance.