Brown Swiss Fable
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The Fable of the Brown Swiss in America

Written and Translated by George Ulrich.

Here is some information about the Brown Swiss in the USA and Canada. This information was already published in Switzerland in the Schweizer Original Braunvieh: Original Zuchter Sondernummer 3, September 1991 and in another Swiss Farmer Magazine but it is in German. I gave it the title: The Fable of the Brown Swiss in America (here is a shortened English version).

The reason for this title was, in Switzerland, in every agriculture School and even at Breeder's meetings the people from Zug tried to brainwash everyone to believe that the Brown Swiss were a breed similar to the Braunvieh in Switzerland, only developed through selection according to extreme high production and their roots of the breed would go entirely back to Original Braunvieh which were imported more than 100 years ago from Switzerland. I was taught this and was tempted to believe this until my brother, Hans Ulrich (Jr.), emigrated to Canada more then 35 years ago. When he saw the cattle he got not only suspicious but he was convinced that this kind of change of the breed over close to 100 years was impossible without using the influence of other breeds, but he was never interested in raising this breed so he never investigated the cause of the changes. When I came over in 1969, I was interested in raising this breed, but before I got involved with a breed I wanted to know what was behind them so I investigated how they were developed into a straight Dairy Breed without any beef characteristics. I found out that it is true that more then 100 years ago a couple of Braunvieh breeders from Switzerland emigrated to the USA and were able to take some of their own cattle with them. But in the USA the distances were more pronounce then in Switzerland and at that time there was no A.I. or motorized transportation so the only way to go to a bull was to walk with the cow. So inbreeding became the biggest problem and to avoid too close an inbreeding they decided to open the herd book and still keep it open to get a wider gene pool.

It is quite interesting to see that the ideal type of cows practically are the same in all five dairy breeds in the USA Typically high producing characteristics, all dairy breeds in the USA follow the same characteristics and disqualify every sign of dual purpose or beef characteristics as a main fault, this is the reason why all American Dairy Cattle are too narrow and over refined. So all the American Dairy Cattle are developed with one goal in mind: only MILK! With a high dependency on high energy grain, because on this continent it is cheaper to feed grain then roughage to attain high milk production. This is the opposite to Switzerland where the cow is to produce with roughage and can only be supplemented with high energy at the beginning of the lactation. We also always believed, since the beginning of raising Braunvieh, that we must have a dual purpose cow, where it is possible to produce milk and beef with the same animal. Finally other countries are realizing this too. Even here in North America where they tried practically every breed, they are finally starting to realize that it is necessary to have a dual purpose cow in order to produce beef efficiently. Here in North America it is done by raising the calf on the cow over a period of 7 to 9 months. From this time on the cattle will be separated as replacement stock or feeder cattle and will be fed differently. The replacements are fed on a growing ration and the feeders will be pushed to the limit and as soon as they reach about 1150 to 1200 lb. (522 to 545 kg), this is only possible if the breed has enough milk to raise a big enough calf on the mother and also has excellent feed conversion. Especially these characteristics were lost when they opened the herd book of the Brown Swiss to all other breeds. This is the reason why in the States we have an organization which raises Original Braunvieh and this association regards Brown Swiss as a different breed (rightly do they do this), the same as in Mexico where they identify the original Braunvieh as European Braunvieh in contrast to the Brown Swiss. So in conclusion people who don't care about the heritage of the breeds are unable to distinguish between the two breeds. The others will see that the Brown Swiss have no characteristics in common with the Original Braunvieh, except the color.

As proof for my above statement here is some statements from a Brown Swiss publication, Brown Swiss Bulletin August, 1976, it is about a July 19-20, 1976 meeting of the Board of Directors. This was published as an encouragement for the Breeders in the USA to become enrolled in an upgrading system.

Identity Enrollment - The following clarification was added to Step 3 of the requirements "If a daughter of a Step 2 female, recorded in the Identity Enrollment Herdbook, meets the production requirements for her offspring to enter the Official Herdbook before her dam meets these requirements, she is eligible to go directly into the Official Herdbook, and she (this eligible female) must be registered in the Official Herdbook before her offspring will be eligible for registration in the Official Herdbook. After a Step 2 Female meets the production and type requirements, any female offspring from any succeeding generation born prior to this time is eligible for registry in the Official Herdbook provide that they have first been registered in the Identity Enrollment Herdbook. Bull calves born before their Identity Enrollment dams become eligible for registration in the Official Herdbook are not eligible for registration.

Certified Cow

1. Must have completed one lactation record.

2. Must exceed her contemporaries by 110% for both milk and fat.

3. Must have an overall rating of breed average for type.

4. To receive the "Certified" designation, the owner must submit the Certificate of register with a $1.00 fee.

5. Once recognized, the "Certified" designation is permanent.

The American people opened the herd book in 1924 and started the up grading program. In Switzerland they started in 1966 with the so called "interbreed tests". They gave the right for 33 farms to use Brown Swiss semen. Until 1966 it was forbidden in Switzerland to cross the four breeds that were in Switzerland. A few breeders imported illegally semen from the United States. The Simmentals and Freiburger (Black and White animals) used illegal Holstein Semen thus improved the milking ability tremendously. So the Board of Directors of the Braunvieh Breeders became very concerned about the competition, that is why they asked for the allowance from Bern to use Brown Swiss semen which they explained to the breeders as going back to the Original Breed some 100 years ago. They were never totally convincing with their explanation. That was why they first used the "interbreed test" and secondly they used the word "crossbreeding program". This leaves me with the question, how can one call it crossbreeding program if it is an interbreed test...? The biggest mistake that was made when they started to call the crossbreed a Braunvieh. They made no distinction in the herd book between the two. They also always compared the performance from the original with the crossbreed once, which is highly unfair. The original have no genetic hi-bred figure.

So with this information it should be clear that nobody can speak about a straight true breed when they talk about American Brown Swiss. It is a mixture of many breeds. So Brown Swiss might go back to Braunvieh but they are very much different, with much different blood mixed into the breed.

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