One of the oldest, and today the second most popular, breeds of cattle in the world. It originated in the highlands of western Switzerland and southern Germany, bred as for milk, meat, and as a draft animal; records in economic documents matching the description date back to the 14th century, though the first official herd registry was compiled in 1806.
Simmental are beautiful cattle. The breed is typically spotted red and yellow, with a long, white head, long ears, and powerful legs. There might also be white spotting on the under-carriage, with loose folds of hide in the dewlap and brisket areas. Cows weigh in at somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 pounds, bulls between 2,200 and 2,800.
Variations exist according to region and breeding characteristics. The Fleckvieh
and Pie Rouge
types from Germany and Switzerland are bred mainly for beef, and so tend to be much larger, with thicker, longer muscles. The Pezzata Rosa
are bred mainly for milk, and so are much rounder, with concentration on the form of the udder
s (rounded and hanging straight down is desirable; less so if the teats curve inward or outward, or develop a "balloon-shape"). The smallest is the French Abondance
The Simmental has many desirable characteristics. Bulls reach an early sexual maturity at 15 months, at which time they may service an average of 25 cows in one season, or up to 50 if managed properly at a later age. Cows produce somewhere between 16-24 pounds of milk per day, compared with 10-15 for most other breeds, and can give birth up to once a year for up to 12 years. They are robust, resistant to disease, and adaptable; they have been succesfully raised on 5 continents so far. All have a high fleshing ability, cutting ability, and muscle expression, and low marbling, leading to extraordinarily high quality beef. They are also very docile, probably due to their long use as draft beasts.
American herds are commonly cross-bred, usually indicated by shorter ears; most are descended from the sire Parisien, brought to the Americas in 1968. Currently popular is also the Simbrah, a mix of the Simmental and the popular Brahman, bred for maximum beef production, though it lowers the general quality.