The Brown Swiss Breed in Australia
The Brown Swiss breed originated in the north eastern part of Switzerland with bones resembling the skeletons of today’s Brown Swiss cows found in the ruins of Swiss lake dwellers dating back to around 4000 BC.
Now the world’s second most populous dairy breed at approximately 14 million animals, Brown Swiss were first introduced into Australia in 1974 via imported semen from Canada.
The breed is particularly suited to Australian conditions, noted for its dairy strength and outstanding feet and legs, reputation for longevity and ability to produce high milk volumes, with the best fat-to-protein ratio of all dairy breeds.
These factors combined with their gentle nature and adaptability to the widest range of farming systems make Brown Swiss cattle one of Australia’s fastest growing dairy breeds.
Where it all began
The first herd to introduce Brown Swiss genetics was at the historic Camden Park Estates in New South Wales, also home to the famous original merino sheep flock of the MacArthur family, using semen imported from Canada in 1974.
Camden Park Estates livestock manager, Richard Brown, introduced Brown Swiss to a small herd of Jerseys in a predominantly Guernsey herd totalling around 4,000 head of dairy cattle. The eleven heifers born from these matings became the first Brown Swiss to be officially registered in Australia.
Richard’s belief in the suitability of Brown Swiss cattle to Australian conditions was gained from his work with the breed in Europe, Canada and America, with the popularity of the breed today being a testament to that conviction.
Establishing the Breed in Australia
Together with Geoff Kirton and Jim Conroy, both importers of livestock semen they set about the business of finding suitable bulls to import. The only bulls available had to come through Canada and the first bull that came into the country was a bull called ‘Aarons Champ of Vulcan’. They also imported semen from ‘Great Beauty’, ‘Byers Bay Roxanne Royalty’, ‘Welcome In Nabob’, Welcome in Tex’ and ‘Welcome In Stretch’, with these bulls forming the basis of the original herds of Brown Swiss in Australia today.
In the early 1980’s the impact of semen from the dairy style bull /Narrows Valley High Del’ caught the eye of dairy farmers nationwide, with his influence creating a lift in Brown Swiss production levels in Australia.
At this time the Underhill family, Bennie family, Wake family and Silk family were also able to import live females from Canada. These females, derived from the ‘Dun Rovin Acres’, ‘Terra Nova’ and ‘Eden Ridge farms had a major impact on the breed’s presence in Australia.
Today, Australian Brown Swiss breeders have access to German, Italian, Swiss and French genetics in addition to Canada and the United States.
The Breed for Australian Conditions
Brown Swiss are known as the breed for all climates, adapting with ease to Australia’s colder southern areas, the hot, humid topical conditions of the far north and the arid, dry inland areas of NSW and Victoria.
Talk to a Brown Swiss breeder and they’ll also highlight the breed’s quiet temperament, the strength of their feet and legs and their foraging ability, all attributes that make one of the world’s oldest and most established dairy breeds ideal for the harsh Australian environment.