The Brown Swiss breed is thought to be the oldest of all the dairy breeds by most historians. Originating in Switzerland, they were bred to be triple-threats: dairy, beef, and draft cattle. This is why they have a beefier appearance.
As far as coloring goes, they’re a light brown color. However, when I’ve seen these cows up close, they always look like a really pretty silver color to me. Maybe it’s just me, I dunno…. Brown Swiss are the second largest milk producers, next to Holsteins, and also the second largest dairy breed in the world. According to breeders, here’s why:
1) They have excellent feet and udders. (Need I say more? I mean, who needs to explain that?) I didn’t know that feet had anything to do with one breed being better than another one. Apparently, this means that a Brown Swiss hardly ever gets down and can’t get back up. They’re very sturdy and this allows them to stay in the milking herd for more lactations than many other breeds. This is also why breeders like to cross the Brown Swiss with other dairy breeds. They are renowned for generally improving the production and strength of the parent breed.
So, all you people with wide, platypus feet out there (i.e. me) are just peachy. Although, it’s been my experience that good feet have not ever saved me from falling up, down, sideways, or backwards in my lifetime. ( I like to size myself up to dairy cows every now and then. It’s perfectly normal.)
2) They produce a lot of milk. One cow can produce 8 gallons a day. The added advantage for a dairy farmer with Brown Swiss cattle is the fact that these cows have the best fat-to-protein ratios of any dairy breed. (Butterfat is the money-maker). So, if you take a Holstein farmer vs. a Brown Swiss farmer, the Brown Swiss farmer is going to get paid more for 100 pounds of milk than the Holstein farmer. Brown Swiss milk is also highly coveted by cheese manufacturers.
3) Brown Swiss are very long-lived and can “stay on the line” (there’s some milking terminology for you) until they’re 12-15 years old. I read that they’re 5th lactation is when they reach they’re peak. Most dairy cattle are about spent after 4 years. The down-side to the longevity factor is the fact that they take a lot longer to mature. If a farmer doesn’t have ample replacements at varying age groups, this could pose a problem.
4) Lastly, dairy farmers love the temperament of this breed. They’re extremely docile and very curious. They can also handle the heat very well. Apparently, this means they’re more effective at breeding. (I’ll have to get back to you on that one…)
Anyway, there’s another one of The Dairy Maid’s riveting tutorials for you. Stay tuned for more of my spell-binding knowledge of Guernseys.
Still scratching my head about the breeding thing,
The Dairy Maid