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How do I improve my Braunvieh Cattle?

In order to be able to determine that your breeding practices are successful, you need to have a standard of measurement.  You actually need two standards, your own herd averages and the breed averages to compare your animals to.  The breed average for the beef Original Braunvieh was detailed in the May/June 1993 issue of  the Schweizer Braunvieh magazine.  We have summarized the information, originally presented in German here. We are fortunate to have a good variation for weight and size within our breed which enables Braunvieh animals to be very adaptable to various conditions.  For instance in the alpine altitudes you want to have a smaller animal than in the lowlands.  This variation in the breed allows you as a breeder to produce the most economical animal for your situation.

What should I be concerned about in my breeding program?

There are a number of very important factors to consider in any breeding program.  In an Original Braunvieh program specifically these factors are:

Fertility
Feed conversion
Milking ability
Calving ease
Early maturity
Adaptability

In order to be able to track progress over time record keeping is very important.  The Braunvieh breed started to keep official records for the past 850 years since there was a vision in these breeders to improve their breed.  This gives us a long history to compare against.  The official herd book has been in existence for 100 years.  The performance criteria that you need to keep records of are

Birth weight
Weaning weight (205 day)
Yearling weight (365 day)
Height
Mature weight
Feed ration

Using these values you can determine a herd average and compare them to previous years to see that you are improving.  You can also compare them to the breed averages.  If you are not improving from generation to generation then you are doing something wrong.

Below are some more details on the important factors to consider in your breeding program.

Fertility

By far the most important factor is fertility. The Braunvieh breed has proven to become fertile at a very young age and stay fertile to an extremely high age when compared to other breeds.  It is no exception to have 16, 18 or even 20 year old cows producing reliably, and calves start to cycle at 5 months of age.  The Braunvieh bulls reach sexual maturity at an early age and can be used slowly with 10 months of age and keep their fertility until death at an old age.  It is not uncommon to have bulls at 12 (like Aron) - 18 years (like Dado) of age still producing semen.

Feed Conversion

Feed conversion is the measurement of how efficiently an animal is able to convert feed.  This includes how much of the feed is needed to maintain the animal and how much is needed to produce beef or milk.  The better the animal the less feed it requires to produce an equal amount of beef or milk.  Keeping this in mind, extremely high performance animals that were fed like crazy are not necessarily the best feed converters.  For this reason it is of ultimate importance to know the feed ration given to an animal before you can compare the performance.  It has been proven through many performance tests that the Braunvieh breed is able to out perform all others in this area.  What this means to you as a beef producer is that for the least feed cost you are able to gain the most meat production.  It doesn't take a lot of intelligence to figure out which animals are the most economical to keep.  It has been discovered that this breed crosses the most successfully with the indigenous breeds found in the tropical climates where the feed value is very low.  What is important is that even under very poor feed conditions, Braunvieh remain fertile.

Milking Ability

Under milking ability we don't mean only production volume but rather an even lactation curve, or persistency with a late peak.  This characteristic allows the cow to recover quickly after calving and not deplete her body of nutrients throughout the lactation, which allows her to be bred before reaching peak production.  Ideally she should be able to calve again within 12 months of calving without any feed supplement.  In order to prevent mastitis and raise the largest calf it is important that the milk production increase slowly on an as needed basis rather than decreasing like some breeds.  The quality of the milk is more important than the quantity.  Braunvieh is well known as one of the breeds with the most milk solids.

Calving Ease

The Braunvieh breed has an extremely big birth canal opening in relation to the size of the cow compared to other breeds.  This is important in the ability to produce unassisted live calves.  Mothering ability of the cow is very good.  What this means is that a cow will never desert her calf after it is born and actively protects it.

Early Maturity

Early maturity not only includes early male and female sexual maturity but also early maturity in feedlot production.  This means that an animal that is ready for slaughter at an early age, hence has eaten a small amount of feed, and yields a  high carcass percentage at the highest marbling grade is the best one to raise.
Braunvieh have proven to pass on this characteristics in a dominant way to any crossbred animal.  For instance we have personally used them in a Holstein x Braunvieh cross bred program.

Adaptability

Under adaptability we understand the ability of the breed to adapt to various living conditions, for instance high altitude, severe temperature extremes, and severe feed conditions.  Braunvieh is able to sustain feed shortages over an extended time without any harmful effects to their performance potential.  This is very important in many regions of the world that experience seasonal growth with droughts or severe winters when there may be feed shortages.  In this instance Braunvieh are still able to produce calves and continue milking and because of their amazing resiliency recover quickly under normal conditions.

What is Braunvieh International's breeding strategy?

The Ulrich family have been breeding Original Braunvieh cattle for over 100 years with the above characteristics in mind. Since the beginning we have selected animals to be included in our breeding program that came from families that had proven records of passing on the above mentioned characteristics to their offspring in a dominant fashion.  Since moving to Canada in 1969, I was instrumental in starting Starline Braunvieh and was solely responsible for the mating selections of the animals.  This continued until 1991, at which time I severed all ties to Starline Braunvieh, moved my cattle to Mexico, and started working with a new select group of Braunvieh breeders in Canada and South Africa.  My breeding strategy has not changed and I select animals, whose pedigrees I know and that are guaranteed  100% full blood only.  This web site contains examples of animals that come from my breeding.  All the bulls listed below were either raised or selected by my father or myself.  You be the judge of their impact on the breed.

Bred by Hans Ulrich Sr.

Aron (Egg)

Selected by Hans Ulrich Sr. for export to Canada

Nelson (Bubikon)
Norman (Mettmenstetten)
Jordan (Meilen)
Dado (Auser Heinzenberg)
Ueli (Hombrechtikon)
Robi (Sargans)
Marcel (Lehn)
Argus (Uster)
Delfin (Einsiedeln)

Selected by George Ulrich for Export or Import

Meiko (Haldi) - semen export to South Africa
Willabar Bouncer 3G
Maranatha Arthur 4Y
Swiss Tradition Ricco TWO 7C

Bred by George Ulrich

Starline Imperial 9X
Starline Terrence 1X
Starline Falcon
Starline Felix
Starline Farley
Starline Jason
Starline Sullivan
Starline Stardust 38R
Starline Neru 55W
Starline Lutz
Independent Robert E. Lee 8E
Independent Hansel 6F
GU Romeo AOZ 1G
Leonardo AOZ 1J
 

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