Swiss Original Braunvieh

Switzerland is the country of origin, the cradle of Braunvieh. Documents report that Brown cattle began to be bred at the Einsiedeln Abbey around 1000 years ago.

Origins and history

In the early 19th century different kinds of Brown cattle were bred in Central and Eastern Switzerland. The frequent animal exchange, however, led little by little to a homogeneous Swiss Braunvieh breed. Due to harsh environmental conditions and Alpine farming, along with natural selection and through the breeding efforts of up- and lowland farmers, Braunvieh became a preferred cattle breed, sought after and appreciated also abroad. It started to appear in the neighboring Alpine countries centuries ago, and the first exports to the US and other countries occurred as far back as 1869.   

After the set-up of the Swiss Brown Cattle Breeders’ Federation in 1897, the breed was further improved and harmonized. At that time, the breeding aim was still three-fold: cows had to deliver milk and beef and be suitable for pulling carts and logs. Hence, a very versatile animal was developed: robust, resilient, fertile, long-living, efficient, adaptable and very well balanced in its body shape and color. Its strong legs and feet allowed to search for fodder even in difficult areas with sparse grass and few water sources. Its robust skin with thick brown hair and its blue-black eye pigmentation can better tolerate extreme sunlight (empirical values from tropical countries). Its dual purpose attitude (milk and beef performance) allows owners to fulfill any production requirements.  

In the late 1960s the demand for higher milk performance and larger-framed cattle increased. In order to achieve these traits more rapidly, many Braunvieh cattle breeders used American Brown Swiss genetics in their mating programs. Staunch Braunvieh breeders, instead, insisted on pure breeding. They improved milk performance through a rigorous selection within the OB population while strictly preserving the beef attitude.

Current situation

Around 500 Original Braunvieh breeders are currently organized in an association. Their animals are registered and marked as OB in the Herdbook of Braunvieh Schweiz if they are proven to be full blood. OB cows show a high performance: they produce 6000 kg and more of high-content milk per lactation. If necessary, their progeny are also best suited to fattening at any age. OB bull calves are therefore much sought after by fattening farms. They guarantee daily weight gains ranging from 1200 to 1300 g as well as an optimum slaughter yield and beef quality.

Exchange and trade with Original Braunvieh

Prior to performing international trade, imports or exports under the trademark “Swiss Original Braunvieh”, it is necessary to check the pureness of the breed, as already urged by the delegates during the international conference in Zug on 18.4.1993. This control function is accomplished by the Herdbook Office of Braunvieh Schweiz. To this purpose, a pedigree certificate has to be submitted, thus allowing for a thorough control of animals with a Swiss pedigree. Clearly, the differences among the three breeding strategies and breeds have to be recognized and respected also abroad:

Swiss Original Braunvieh:

  • Swiss Original Braunvieh: 100% full blood pedigree; dual purpose breed
  • Swiss Braunvieh: different degree of mating; dual purpose with strong emphasis on milk performance  
  • Brown Swiss: Braunvieh reared in the US; milk breed

Where can Original Braunvieh be bred?

  • basically everywhere
  • in topographically difficult regions
  • in areas with harsh environmental conditions and scarce fodder supply
  • in extremely wet or dry areas  
  • in tropical or cold regions

What is Original Braunvieh suitable for?

  • for pure breeding with a view to milk and beef production  
  • for suckler and nurse cow husbandry thanks to their strong maternal instinct and calm temperament
  • for crossbreeding with fattening breeds in general and with zebu cattle in tropical countries (to improve milk performance without impairing the fattening performance)
  • for crossbreeding with dairy breeds to improve the beef performance

Why to choose Original Braunvieh?

Contributing to a breeding program with the extraordinary features of an animal cannot but be beneficial: an animal, that survived for many centuries against harsh environmental conditions and natural selection. It is able to cope also with unfavorable climates and poor fodder supply. It has an ideal combination of milk and beef attitude.

What can we offer?

Today, in Switzerland we have a large variety of progeny-tested and young OB sires. Also semen for artificial insemination is available. We can offer donor cows for embryo transfer. OB cattle of all ages and best quality are available for export. Thanks to Original Braunvieh, dual purpose and success are guaranteed.