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
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 breeding.
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
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 Simmentalers.
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 Simmentaler.
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 breeds combined.
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 breed.
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
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 calving)
● 1st in weaning weight
● 1st in yearling weight of
heifers under ‘farm conditions’
● 1st in feedlot growth (ADG in
bull growth tests intensive)
● Most Modern Performance
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
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
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
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;
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 the certificate.
for the Simmentaler’s Sustained Popularity
● 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 the herdbook.
● Compulsory participation in
the world’s best beef cattle performance system.
(CP Massmann, General Manager Simmentaler/Simbra Cattle
Breeders Society of Southern Africa, July 2003)