Posted Jul 19, 2014
I fell in love with the Brown Swiss breed for their big eyes, good temperament, and plain beauty. And while those are not traits that make the most production sense, sometimes you choose a work animal because you want to.
Brown Swiss are a large breed of cattle, roughly comparable to a Holstein but normally lower-producing (with some exceptions). Still, there are some production herds that focus solely on Swiss, although often they will offset lower feed:production conversions by mixing in some Holsteins or Jerseys as well.
Basically the downside to Swiss is that you feed a lot of body for a lower amount of milk production, and that increases their expense. However, they are known for very good butterfat, cream, and elements, and are a frequent favorite among cheese-makers, so they do have their place in the productive dairy world.
As a backyard animal they could likely pay for themselves, but not as efficiently as a small breed like a Jersey (which also gives comparable favorable elements); but if you like them and you take care to use your milk well and efficiently, you could still come out on the winning side, and bull calves and unneeded offspring are a good beef option.
In my experience Brown Swiss are friendly animals but they are fairly hard-headed and more difficult to train compared to other breeds.