Simmental cattle are a versatile breed of cattle originating in the valley of the Simme River, in the Bernese Oberland of western Switzerland.
The Simmental is among the oldest and most widely distributed of all breeds of cattle in the world. Although the first herd book was established in the Swiss Canton of Berne in 1806, there is evidence of large, productive red and white cattle found much earlier in ecclesiastical and secular property records of western Switzerland. These red and white animals were highly sought because of their “rapid growth development; outstanding production of milk, butter, and cheese; and for their use as draught animals.” they were known for their imposing stature and excellent dairy qualities.
The Simmental has historically been used for dairy and beef, and as draught animals. They are particularly renowned for the rapid growth of their young, if given sufficient feed. Simmentals provide more combined weaning gain (growth) and milk yield than any other breed.
No other breed in the world has such a large within breed type-variation as Simmental-Fleckvieh which is classifiable in the following types:
- Dairy type like specialised dairy breeds (referring to Swiss Fleckvieh (code SF) with over 55% Red Holstein blood and the French Montebeliard breed);
- Dual purpose but major emphasis on milk;
- Truly dual-purpose (all cows are milked and bulls excel in weight gain);
- Moderate beef type (suckler, extensive ranching with moderate to small frame size);
- Extreme beef type (suckler, comparable to specialised beef breeds like for example Charolais, large frame size).
The traditional colouration of the Simmental has been described variously as “red and white spotted” or “gold and white”, although there is no specific standard colouration, and the dominant shade varies from a pale yellow-gold all the way to very dark red (the latter being particularly popular in the United States). The face is normally white, and this characteristic is usually passed to crossbred calves. The white face is genetically distinct from the white head of the Hereford.