The Simmental is a dual-purpose cattle breed tracing back to Switzerland of the Middle Ages. It is believed to be the result of a cross between native Swiss cattle and a large German breed brought to the area by nomads in the 5th century.
For centuries Swiss farmers prized the Simmental for its strength, copious milk, and fast growth. It was not until the 1800s, however, that other nations recognized the abilities of the breed. Then the Simmental spread quickly throughout Continental Europe, taking new names and new forms in each country where it arrived.
The first Simmental in the United States may have been imported to Illinois as early as 1887. The breed had an established presence by the mid-1890s, but did not become popular until “exotic” breeds from Continental Europe began to dominate the American beef industry.
Thus it was that an import of 1971 became known as the first purebred Simmental bull in America. Since importations were costly and complicated because of quarantine requirements, most Simmentals today are the descendents of a few purebred bulls from Canada crossed with a variety of breeds, most notably the Hereford and the Angus.
The Simmental is now one of the top breeds in America, as well as one of the most popular breeds of cattle in the world.
In America, Simmentals are used almost exclusively for raising crossbred beef calves. In other countries, however, they still function as dairy cows and draft oxen.
The Simmental is known for its docile, relaxed demeanor. It is easy to handle and, if accustomed to humans at an early age, may even become petlike in its demands for attention.
Although Simmental cows typically do not object to having a trusted owner handle their calves, they may become protective around strangers.
The Simmental is typically a healthy breed with a sound body structure. Pigment around its eyes protects it from pinkeye, sunburn, and related problems.
However, the Simmental may be prone to mastitis because of its dairy background, and to prolapse and other calving difficulties because of its large frame. The breed also has a few genetic defects, which are being closely monitored.
- Resistance to stress.
- Parasite resistance.
- Adaptability to many environments thanks to diverse bloodlines.
- Fairly good longevity.
- Heavy milk production.
- High yield of beef.
- Lean, flavorful meat.
- Good prices at sale barns for blacks.
- Sturdy structure for draft work.
- Sometimes expensive.
- Variable hardiness.
- Large feed and pasture requirements.
- Poor calving ease (better in black Simmentals).
- Low calf vigor.
- Hard to finish without large quantities of grain.
- Less-than-ideal beef tenderness.