name Simmentaler is derived from the Simme river
valley (“tal” in German) in Switzerland, where
the breed originated. The breed is a descendant
of the Aurochs (Bos Taurus primegenius), the
indigenous cattle of Europe, and its low
relationship with Zebu, Sanga and British breeds
renders it the ideal breed for cross breeding
due to increased hybrid vigour (heterosis).
Simmentalers, and not watches, once were
Switzerland’s most important export product. In
the period 1900 to 1929 approximately 150 000
Simmentalers were exported via rail to
neighbouring countries and Eastern Europe. There
was a great demand due to the superb triple
purpose characteristics of the breed, viz. milk,
beef and suitability as draught animals.
The World Simmental-Fleckvieh Federation (WSFF)
is, after the Holstein, the largest
international stud cattle federation, where
Simmentalers are also registered under other
names, like Fleckvieh, Abondance, Pezzata Rossa,
Montbeliarde and Simmental. The WSFF was
established in 1974 with, amongst others, South
Africa and Namibia as founding members and today
100 000 registered breeders in 28 countries with
15.3 million recorded animals belong to the
Federation. The registration and performance
testing systems of the Southern African Society
enjoy worldwide recognition through the WSFF.
In Europe there are 11 countries with 98 000
breeders that belong to the WSFF and that
utilise the dual purpose characteristics of the
breed to the utmost. There are 1.7 million cows
under official milk testing. The average
production of 850 000 milk tested cows in
Germany and Austria is 6500 kg milk, 4.2% fat
and 3.5% protein. Sons of these dairy cows that
have been bought at stud auctions, weigh 620 kg
at 17 months. That is a daily weight gain of 1.3
kg from birth, which is better than the
countrywide average of most speciality beef
breeds in South Africa.
Outside the European continent the popularity of
the breed has increased tremendously since the
late sixties, with official WSFF recognised
Herdbooks in 15 countries. In Europe, like in
South Africa, the breed is especially used for
beef cattle production and it owes its
popularity to its suitability for cross
It started in Namibia
Outside of Europe, Namibia was the first country
where the breed was successfully established.
The first imports were in 1893 by the government
of the then German Colony, that promoted import
for cross breeding, with a view to “improving
the milk and beef production of the indigenous
animals” (Stals). The most important reason for
the popularity of the Simmentaler in the first
half of the previous century was its dual
purpose characteristics. In the fifties the then
South West Africa that had no dairy cattle
produced on average of 9,2 million pounds of
butter and 367 300 pounds of cheese per year.
These dairy products were produced predominantly
by purebred Simmentaler and Simmentaler crosses.
At present the number of Simmentaler breeders is
only exceeded by the Brahman. More than half of
all stud breeders in Namibia that farm with
breeds of British and European origin, breed
South Africa (SA)
The first Simmentalers arrived in South Africa
in 1905 when President M T Steyn of the Republic
of the Free State established a stud on his farm
Onze Rust, near Bloemfontein. The breed had,
however, maintained an inferior position until
the early sixties when the excellent performance
of the Simmentaler in official interbreed tests
were revealed. It soon became clear that the
demand was exceeding the supply and in the
period 1960 to 1970 large numbers had been
imported into South Africa, initially from the
then South West Africa, and later Fleckvieh from
Germany and Austria. From Switzerland and France
there were no noteworthy imports. Since 1975
imports have decreased considerably as a result
of the development of a locally adapted
Breeders in Namibia and South Africa established
a breeders‘ society for Southern Africa in 1964.
Today this young breeders‘ society is, as far as
animal numbers are concerned, the third largest
of 32 non-dairy breeds, surpassed only by the
Bonsmara (local synthetic) and Brahman (Zebu).
In comparison with the 16 other British and
European non-dairy breeds, Simmentaler have more
female animals than the 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest
The main objective of the Society is to provide
its breeders with comprehensive advisory
services. This is handled by independent
accredited Breed Advisors. Apart from these
consulting services and compulsory inspection of
all animals, the Society manages its own modern
registration system and world-famous BREEDPLAN
performance services. This comprehensive
one-stop service package costs a breeder with
100 animals the equivalent of two culled weaners
per year. Breeding programmes are conducted in
accordance with the breeding objectives of the
Other important objectives are the commitment
towards animal improvement in Southern Africa,
the promotion and genetic improvement of the
Simmentaler, to act as registering authority in
accordance with the Animal Improvement Act 1998,
free access to the pedigrees, breeding values,
calving records and other particulars via the
internet, and sustained improvement of services
to its members at market related tariffs.
The Breeders‘ Society is rated as progressive
with new programmes to serve the industry.
Already in the mid-seventies the breed was the
first to move away from the subjective way of
judging, by combining performance and appearance
in the show ring. This is the only breeders‘
society where judges are bound by the
constitution to use production figures in
placements of cows.
An AI bull testing scheme, farm growth testing
scheme for young bulls and a star cow register
for cows that excel have already been introduced
in the eighties. The well-known Simdex system (SIMmentaler
reproduction inDEX) that expesses intercalf
period, age at first calving, number of calves
and even embryo flushes as one figure, was
instituted in 1988. It was also the first
breeders‘ society that, after deregulation,
established its own modern systems.
How does the breed perform compared with the ten
best known performance tested breeds (more then
2 500 performance tested female animals - Beef
Breeding in SA, 1993-98)?
1st in reproduction index (1CP and age first
1st in weaning weight
1st in yearling weight of heifers under ‘farm
1st in feedlot growth (ADG in bull growth tests
Most Modern Performance Testing Technology
Objective performance information of hundreds of
thousands of Simmentalers, together with
extensive pedigree links, coupled with modern
computer technology enables the Society to
express performance in a valuable figure, viz.
BLUP Breeding Value. The Breeding Value is the
best prediction of how an animal will breed and
enables the buyer to compare animals of various
breeders and age with one another.
The Society makes use of the world’s most
advanced beef cattle genetic evaluation system,
viz. BREEDPLAN International, to process
breeding values for a range of important weight,
milk, reproduction and carcase traits. These
values are available free of charge to everybody
(not only breeders) at www.simmentaler.org,
select Animal Enquiry.
The Bull Buyers Friend
This is the first society in SA that has
replaced – already in 1998 – the old fashioned
“mom and dad certificate” with an modern five
generation performance certificate. This piece
of paper is the most powerful selection aid for
the Simmentaler bull buyer:
To bring about constant genetic progress in any
cow herd, the new bull has to be genetically
better than the previous one. The only way to
achieve that is to look at the breeding values
on the certificate (or auction catalogue or web
page), because by means of this you can compare
bulls over years and herds.
Since the inception of the Society, inspection
by our own breed experts has been a prerequisite
for registration. In this system strong emphasis
is laid on visual traits with functional merit.
Animals that do not comply with the
requirements, will not receive a certificate;
neither will any of their progeny. The
certificate of a Simmentaler is therefore proof
that the animal, as well as its ancestors, have
been inspected according to stringent standards.
The bull is the most important investment the
farmer makes in his herd. An unapproved bull
without breeding values can cost him dearly.
Utilisation of the Simmentaler breeding value
and pedigree certificate reduces this investment
risk. That is why you should ALWAYS insist on
Reasons for the Simmentaler’s Sustained
The breed can be used with great success in
cross breeding for breeding of BOTH cows with
plenty of milk and heavy weaners/oxen.
Large numbers to choose from - more performance
tested bulls than the 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest
British/European beef breeds combined.
Excel in a number of traits - see proofs above.
Comprehensive advice and other breed improvement
services to its breeders.
Animals that do not pass stringent inspection by
breed experts, are permanently eliminated from
Compulsory participation in the world’s best
beef cattle performance system.
(CP Massmann, General Manager Simmentaler/Simbra
Cattle Breeders Society of Southern Africa, July