Simmental cattle, all-rounders with a long tradition

Robust, undemanding and resilient – Simmental cattle are a dual-purpose breed and, as such, a gift of nature: they represent a form of Swiss agriculture which is natural, uses resources sparingly and operates to high animal welfare standards. Bell is making a significant contribution towards the conservation of this traditional cattle breed through its commitment to the «Verein Original Simmentaler» association.

They are the all-rounders of cattle farming: Simmental cattle from Switzerland. As a traditional dual-purpose breed, they not only provide excellent milk but also firm, high-quality meat. This makes Simmental cattle quite unique and differentiates them from other cattle breeds specially bred for milk or meat production, the so-called high-yielding breeds. Known for their undemanding nature and healthy and robust constitution, Simmental cattle are characterised in particular by their ability to produce high-quality milk and meat from basic fodder even in arduous conditions. This makes Simmentals twice as valuable.

Simmental cattle as an export hit

These outstanding characteristics – in particular their low susceptibility to disease – drew the attention of breeders from Germany and Austria to the Swiss Fleckvieh breed as early as the Middle Ages. The boom in exports began in earnest in 1930. The cattle became world-famous as an export product. They were particularly popular for cross-breeding with other breeds and were soon to be found on every continent. Today, Simmental cattle are one of the most important quality breeds. Estimates suggest there are up to 50 million animals worldwide. The pure breeding of Simmental cattle as practised in Switzerland is, however, quite unique. Committed cattle breeders therefore established the «Swiss Association for the Preservation and Promotion of a Pure Simmental Fleckenvieh Breed». It represented an important contribution towards developing and improving Simmental breeding in Switzerland.

High yield vs. dual-purpose

In contrast to the cattle’s global success the introduction of artificial insemination and cross-breeding with the Red Holstein breed caused a rapid decline in the number of pure-bred Simmental cattle in Switzerland. Consequently the classic Simmental breed with its outstanding original characteristics as a dual-purpose breed faced increasing pressure in Switzerland. The stocks of Simmental cattle began to dwindle rapidly from the 1950s on, when farms began specialising in the production of either meat or milk. Cross-breeding with imported breeds and a focus on high-yield breeds are pushing the Simmental dual-purpose breed more and more into the background. Thanks to the efforts of a number of committed farmers and breeders who are determined to preserve the pure-bred Simmental cattle, there are still around 38,000 pure-bred Simmental cows and bulls in Switzerland today.

Renaissance in Switzerland

During the course of the milk price collapse and changing customer preferences, the focus switched to the topic of sustainability and the desire for natural farming practices in Switzerland which conserve resources, as the Federal Council reported in a paper published in 2017. The Simmental Fleckvieh meets these requirements perfectly as an undemanding dual-purpose breed. In 2017, nine Swiss farmers joined forces with the goal of doubling the number of Simmental cattle in Switzerland. The quality seal «Original Simmental» identifies premium milk and meat products from original Simmental Fleckvieh cattle. The farmers also founded the «Original Simmentaler» association in August 2018. Bell decided to support the farmers’ initiative and to become actively involved in the marketing and processing of Simmental products.