Simmentaler Society of South Africa      (051) 446 0580 / 2


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Breed History


The 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 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 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 Simmentalers.
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 Simmentaler.
Breeders’ Society

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 related tariffs.
Industry Leader

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.
Simsational Performance

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 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, 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 the certificate.
Reasons 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)


Registered as Registering Authority
(Reg Nr. 62/98/R-05)

Founding Member of the World Simmental-Fleckvieh Federation


(051) 446 0580 / 2


Genius Loci Office Park Building 1


6 CP Hoogenhout Street
Langenhovenpark, Bloemfontein

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