Other common names: Brune des Alpes; Bruna alpina; Beef Brown Swiss; Brown Mountain; Grey-Brown Mountain; Swiss Brown
Records from 800 B.C. indicate that Braunvieh cattle have roamed the Swiss Alps since then. Braunvieh (German word for “Brown Cow”) is considered the oldest pure breed of cattle on earth. Through natural selection from 12 types of brown cows in the Swiss mountain valleys, the Braunvieh became a desirable breed, exported to several countries in the 1800s. They comprise 40% of the total cattle population in Switzerland and are currently monitored by breeders associations in 42 countries.
The Braunvieh was introduced to the United States in 1869 and became the foundation stock for the American Brown Swiss dairy breed recognized in 1890.
Appearance / health:
True to their name, Braunvieh are brown –- from light brown to grayish brown or very dark brown. A dark shade is seen around neck and shoulders. A lighter shade is evident around the muzzle, inside the legs, and along the belly. A pale colored dorsal stripe is sometimes present. The muzzle, tip of the tail, and hooves are black.
The body of the Braunvieh is long and muscular. The hair is fine and sleek in the summer, but grows thick and heavy in the winter, making the animal adequately adapt to climate changes.
Like other livestock, cattle require regular vaccinations and inoculations (for example, rabies inoculations) for disease prevention and health management. Similar to other mammals, cows can suffer a variety of ailments and health issues. A veterinarian should be on call and provide regular checkups and monitoring for the entire herd.
Behavior / temperament:
Cattle are docile animals that have strong maternal instincts. They are big and bulky, and could, therefore, inflict harm without intending to. Handling and brushing them constantly while juvenile will help train them to be calm and trusting around humans, which is helpful especially when they need to be attended to by the veterinarian or groomer.
Housing / diet:
Housing for cattle is essentially to give them shelter from extreme weather conditions. Barns, rub-in sheds, stalls, and other structures like windbreaks, should be available where the cows graze. Aside from manmade shelters, trees and tall bushes can provide resting places for cattle to minimize heat stroke or wind chill.
Shelters will give the cows the option to seek safe haven from strong winds, extreme heat or cold, and heavy rains. Shelters should be strong, stable, spacious, well ventilated, and waterproof. Barns should be provided with water supply, and stalls should be lined with hay. They should also be cleaned regularly.
Sprinklers and other cooling systems are recommended for areas that overheat during summer months. Professional and humane fencing should be provided. All poisonous plants should be removed from the pasture; and hay should always be kept dry (wet hay grows molds, becoming a health hazard for cows).
A good quality pasture for grazing is the basic dietary requirement of cattle. The recommended pasture size per cow is 10 acres, without which, the diet should be supplemented with hay. The recommended quantity of hay is an average of 2% of the animal’s body weight per day (or 2 lbs. of hay per 100 lbs. of body weight). Supplements include grain mixes, protein and mineral cubes, and salt blocks, depending on the type of cow, its uses, and the local climate.
Providing a constant supply of fresh water is essential. An adult cow consumes an estimate of up to 20 gallons of water per day.