Why Are Simmental Cattle So Popular?

Origin of Simmental Cattle

Simmental cattle, also known as Swiss Fleckvieh cattle, derived its name from the Simmental valley of the Simme river located in Bernese Oberland in Switzerland. In the 18th century, this particular breed of cattle originated there, establishing the first Herd Book in 1806. According to early records, a cross between a smaller breed in Switzerland and more extensive German cattle resulted in the creation of Simmental Cattle. This dual-purpose (milk and meat) Swiss cattle breed has white patches in its reddish skin. This breed has a long history with evidence of contribution to creating famous European breeds, including Fleckvieh in Austria and Germany, Montbéliarde in France, and Pezzata Rossa d’Oropa in Italy. 

Apart from Europe, the Simmentals marked a successful establishment in Namibia in 1893 and South Africa in 1905. Even though many countries allow black and solid brown Simmental cattle in their countries, Namibia and South Africa have some exceptions. These countries only register typical colored Simmental cattle. For instance, yellow – dark red or brown colors. Often, they consider white patterns or patches on the forehead and lower leg area. Due to the absence of registration, there are neither solid red nor solid black Simmental cattle. 

Owing to the capability to adapt, Simmentals has now spread into all five continents, thereby becoming the second giant cattle breed in the world, superseded only by the Brahman cattle. Hence, different countries call Simmental Cattle by different names.

Names for Simmental Cattle

Name Country
Fleckvieh Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Switzerland (SF-division),   Germany, and Uruguay
Fleckvieh Simmental  Argentina
Simmental Bulgaria, Canada, United Kingdom, USA, Colombia, Denmark, France (early 1990s name change from Pie Rouge), Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland (SI-division), Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Simmentaler Namibia and South Africa
Spotted cattle Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina


Characteristics of Simmentals

Common skin color variations of Simmental cattle include yellowish brown, dark red, and straw. These cows have white patches behind their shoulders and flanks apart from most on the body and frequently have red pigmentation around their eyes. Compared to other breeds, Simmentals are muscular and have strong bones. The Simmental breed generally has white faces that pass to crossbred calves. However, their white faces are genetically distinct from Hereford’s white head. American Simmentals show unique color changes as they are colored differently, predominantly black or red. 

Often Simmental cattle have large frames and strong muscles. On average, Simmental cows are approximately 135-150cm tall and weigh around 700-900kgs. Simmental bulls are 150-160cm tall and weigh around 1300kgs.

These characteristics add to their value and stand out among other cattle breeds in milk and meat production.

How do Simmental cattle differ from other cattle breeds?

The primary distinguishing fact of Simmentals is their muscular growth and milk richness. However, they are not the sole reason for making Simmental Cattle the second largest breed spread worldwide. The list of reasons continues as follows.  

  • Ease of handling and calving (short intervals between calving)
  • Early maturity and reasonable growth rates
  • Better grazing ability followed by feed conversion and efficiency
  • Longevity, high and long-term fertility
  • Excellent mothering ability

What is Simmental Cattle best known for?

Around the world, the Simmentals have a high demand for several reasons. 

  1. Tremendous success in crossbreeding purposes
  2. The impressive growth of weight despite the type of breed (crossed or pure)

Simmental breed was once the most important cattle breed in the Soviet Union, where the Russians could develop six strains through wide-ranging crossbreeding. 

Strains Combination of Cattle
Far Eastern Simmental  Transbaikal and Yakutian × Simmental
Siberian Simmental Siberian and Buryat × Simmental
Steppe Simmental Russian × Simmental bulls
Ukrainian Simmental  Grey steppe × Simmental bulls
Ural Simmental  Siberian and Kazakh × Simmental
Volga Simmental Central Russian Kalmyk and Kazakh × Simmental bulls

Uses of Simmentals

As mentioned above, Simmentals are famous for meat and milk production. Given sufficient nutrients, the young Simmental cattle show rapid growth compared to other cattle breeds. Similarly, their milk yield is larger than the other breeds. So, does their combined weaning gain.  

Types of Simmental Cattle

Simmental-Fleckvieh has a larger within-breed-type variation, as summarised in the Table below. 

Type of the Breed Details
Dual purpose The main emphasis is on milk
Truly dual-purpose  All cows are rich in milk, while bulls are good in weight gain
Moderate beef  Has extensive ranching with moderate to small frame size
Dairy type or specialized dairy breeds  Particular reference to Swiss Fleckvieh (code SF), who has the French Montebeliard breed and over 55% Red Holstein blood
Extreme beef type Belong to large frame size in comparison to specialized beef breeds like Charolais.

Simmental Cattle Cross Breeding

The primary objective of the selective breeding of Simmentals is to maximize milk and meat production. Over the generations, crossbreeding has resulted in producing a balanced hereditary proponent. It contains well-conformed, muscular, and highly adaptable animals. Hence these animals quickly adapt to different conditions, including rural smallholders to large ranching operations. In simple terms, Simmental Cattle has shown satisfactory results from crossbreeding as it has resulted in providing large frames and better beef of better quality with white fat, improvements in milk yield, and muscular development of calves.  

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