The German word “Braunvieh” means “Brown Cattle”. Braunvieh enjoy the status as being one of the oldest pure breeds, which originated in the alpine regions of Switzerland. Their colour is of various shades of brown with males generally being darker and the calves are born almost white, darkening with age. They typically have dark pigmentation around the eyes, black noses with light-coloured bands around the muzzles, and strong black hooves.
Braunvieh is a medium-sized, dual purpose breed, which excels in maternal traits and docility. They are very hardy, adapting to extreme cold or heat and are known for their longevity. About 40% of the cattle in Switzerland are Braunvieh and, due to their high performance and exceptional tolerance to various climates, they are raised in more than 60 countries, from the Arctic Circle to the tropics, at
altitudes varying between sea level and 12,500 feet.
The history of Braunvieh can be revisited through documents preserved in monasteries, whose occupants took great pride in raising and improving these cattle. Among these historical files, notes indicate trading of brown cattle in the eighth century and provide records of performance dated as early as 1315. Standardized production records on milk and meat performance were established in the 19th century.
In 1869, the first export of brown cattle took place to the U.S., where they became the foundation in the development of the Brown Swiss dairy cow, by constantly selecting for high milk production. In 1968, the first Braunvieh from Switzerland arrived in Canada and there have been several subsequent importations of live animals and semen and later of embryos and the result has been the development of Canadian Braunvieh that have been marketed and proven world-wide.
Braunvieh, having been bred pure for centuries, offer complete outcross genetics for other breeds and have repeatedly proven themselves in cross-breeding programs. Braunvieh add thickness, early maturity and good gains, which makes their offspring perform very well in feedlots. Consistent top placement with the most respected carcass/sire evaluation tests in the beef industry have brought much recognition to the breed and its ability to improve beef quality.
Most of the Braunvieh herds can be found in Alberta, with numbers increasing in other provinces. Highly profitable production, long productive lives, docile temperament, wide range of adaptability and rapid growth are all distinctive characteristics of this breed.