3 November 1995

A SWISS ROLE IN ENGLAND…

Swiss Original Braunvieh

Swiss Original Braunvieh cattle are the original dual-purpose milk and meat cattle from Switzer-land. From these the Swiss Braunvieh, the milk-orientated cattle found in the country, have evolved through breeding with the improved Brown-Swiss from America. Most UKBrown-Swiss cattle originate from US stock.

SWISS dual-purpose cattle have a future in UK milk and meat production.

So says Surrey milk producer Paul Crosdil who with neighbouring businessman Les Edgar has brought 11 Original Braunvieh cattle to his 87ha (215-acre) Tyting farm, St Marthas, Guildford, for breeding and evaluation under UK conditions.

The heifers will join Mr Crosdils herd of 75 dairy cows, currently a mixture of Holstein Friesians, Brown Swiss, Jersey and some crossbred cows.

Mr Crosdil believes the UK milk producer is looking for a cow which can produce 7000 litres with high milk protein but still maintain a good body weight, and produce a useable calf for the beef market.

He was impressed by the Original Braunviehs ability to produce high yields from low concentrate diets, with some herds with some herds he has visited averaging up to 7500 litres, he claims.

Take the 30-cow herd run organically at Rossau Farm, Mettmenstetten, Switzerland. "Yields average of 6300 litres in 305 days from only 500kg of concentrates," says farm manager Hansruedi Sommer. "The milk is low in fat at 3.8% and high in protein at 3.4%."

Mr Sommer grows three-year grass leys in rotation with arable crops and forage maize on his 530m (1771ft) high farm. His grass seed mixtures include red and white clover, english ryegrass and fescues with weeds encouraged for their high mineral content.

Forage maize, grass silage and hay are fed to the cows all the year round with zero-grazed grass in summer and waste potatoes in winter. Concentrates are fed to the cows yielding over 20 litres a day, he claims.

Cows are tied in stalls and go outside to exercise only for a few hours each day. It is not traditional to let cows outside because of the high rainfall of 1400mm (55in) which means they cause too much damage to the ground, says Mr Sommer.

Swiss dairy producers feed low concentrate diets because barley is expensive at about £350/t and soya £480/t. However, the Swiss milk price is high at about 50p/litre.

Mr Crosdil says another advantage of the breed is the good temperament of the strong cows that weigh 700-800kg when mature.

"The British Holstein cow produces a light carcass but the Braunvieh is heavier so has a higher cull value," he says. He also believes the cows may live longer due to their survival in the mountain regions of Switzerland.

At Tyting Farm bull calves unsuitable for breeding will be managed on a commercial basis for beef production. Their performance will be compared with other breeds.