Brown Swiss cattle originated in the Swiss Alps, where the harsh climatic conditions have contributed towards the breeds general tolerance. Most sources point to the Brown Swiss as being the oldest dairy breed in the world. Some bones that have been retrieved in archaeological projects in Switzerland date back to 4000 BC and have resemblances to today's Brown Swiss cattle. The main sites of the breed's early development were inhabited by Germans, and it is thought that German cattle imported were used to improve the native stock.
People tend to get confused between the Braunvieh and Brown Swiss breeds. Brown Swiss cattle are actually derived from the Braunvieh beef breed, when breeders decided to select the best milking Braunvieh and focus on milk production in their subsequent breeding programs. This new dairy type continued to evolve and later, the Brown Swiss dairy cattle breed was officially established.
Brown Swiss cattle are a dairy breed, known for their immense production of milk per annum. Their milk is particularly well suited for the production of cheese due to the close fat to protein ratio and its sheer volume. Their low somatic cell count is extremely valuable to the lifespan of the breed.
As the name suggests, their coat colour is light brown and they have been bred both polled and horned. Long gestation period, foraging abilities, large body frames, heat and cold tolerance and hardiness are also characteristic. This breed is also known for its sound feet and legs. Their origins have enabled them to perform well in a range of climatic conditions including hot and cold temperatures.
In 1974, Brown Swiss cattle were first introduced to Australia via semen that had been imported from Canada. Richard Brown of Camden Park Estates introduced Brown Swiss to Jerseys that were part of a predominantly Guernsey herd. Later, bulls were imported. Most Australian Brown Swiss cattle have been graded up from other breeds including the Jersey and Holstein Friesian. Today, most embryo transfers are being imported from the United States.
Brown Swiss Cattle breeders of Australia maintain and promote the breed with in australia.
Brown Swiss cattle are distributed throughout Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Europe, the United States and Australia, Canada and New Zealand.