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Published on 7th April 2022 by staff

Brown Swiss Cattle

Brown Swiss Cattle

The Brown Swiss is an American cattle breed primarily specializing in dairy. It used to be a triple-purpose breed but is rarely used for draft or meat nowadays. The milk of the Brown Swiss is perfect for making cheese.

This breed descended from the Braunvieh, a native of the Alpine region but has diverged significantly from it. “Brown Swiss” is the name given only to the American breed, not the original Braunvieh, referred to as “Swiss Brown”.

Also Known AsAmerican Brown Swiss
Physical CharacteristicsMedium-sized, muscular build, floppy ears, dark blue eyes that help protect from excess solar radiation
Temperament/PersonalityDocile and friendly
Coat colorMainly light brown but can vary from dark brown to gray or even white; the coat might have some shading with theforequarters appearing darker than the legs and hind parts
Muzzle colorBlack, ringed with creamy white
SizeMedium
WeightMale: 900 kg (1984.16 lb) Female: 590–640 kg (1300.73-1410.96 lb)
Height80.52-145.28 cm (31.7-57.2 in)
UsesDairy,  in crossbreeding
DietPrimarily greens, also grains and silage
Lactation Period305 days
Gestation Period290 days
Lifespan10-15 years
Climate ToleranceHeat tolerant, but also do well in the cold
Price$800 to $1,500
Country of OriginUnited States of America
Standard and Qualification Information Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders’ Association

History and Development

According to studies, the Brown Swiss derives its lineage from the Braunvieh cattle known for its triple usage – as a draught animal, as well as a dairy and meat cattle.

The Braunvieh was brought into the United States for the first time from its native land in 1869 by Henry M. Clark. His shipment comprised seven female Braunvieh and one male. From then till 1906, the Braunvieh breed was imported by European immigrants. A total of 167 imported animals are believed to be the ancestors of the modern American Brown Swiss breed.  The Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders’ Association was formed in 1880, with the first herd book commencing in 1889. Near the end of the 19th century, efforts focused on rearing them primarily as dairy animals.For this purpose, in 1911, a production register for cows was opened.  However, in the mid-20th century, this focus on breeding for dairy led to a loss of genetic diversity, increasing transmissible genetic defects like weaver disease and spinal muscular atrophy.

Brown Swiss Dairy Cattle
Images of Brown Swiss Cattle

The Brown Swiss was then exported to several countries worldwide– either full-grown cattle or the embryos or semen. By 1990, the global population of this breed was estimated to be seven million.

Milk Production

During a single lactation period, the average Brown Swiss cow will produce over 22,000 pounds or about 2,600 gallons of milk. Its milk is unique, containing about 4% butterfat and 3.5% protein. This makes their milk ideal for producing cheese, being coveted by cheesemakers globally.

American Brown Swiss
Brown Swiss Cattle Calf

Meat Production

Due to being selectively bred for milk, the meat-producing capabilities of the Brown Swiss fell drastically. Very few are bred for beef nowadays.

Pictures of Brown Swiss Cattle
Swiss Brown Cattle

Interesting Facts

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