The Simmental is among the oldest and most widely distributed of all breeds of cattle in the world. Although the first official herdbook was established in the Swiss Canton of Berne in 1806, there is evidence of large, productive "red and white" cattle being found much earlier in ecclesiastical and secular property records of Western Switzerland.
Those red and white animals were highly sought because of their "rapid growth development; outstanding production of milk, butter and cheese; and for their use as draught (draft) animals." They were known for their gentle nature, impressive stature and excellent dairy qualities.
As early as 1785, the Swiss Parliament limited exports because of a shortage of cattle to meet their own needs. The Swiss "Red and White Spotted Simmental Cattle Association" was formed in 1890.
Since its origin in Switzerland, the breed has spread to all six continents. Total numbers are estimated between 40 and 60 million Simmental cattle worldwide, with more than half in Europe. The worldwide spread was gradual until the late 1960s.
Records show that a few animals were exported to Italy as early as the 1400s. During the 19th century, Simmental were distributed through most of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Russia, ultimately reaching South Africa in 1895. Guatemala imported the first Simmental cattle into the Western Hemisphere in 1897, with Brazil following in 1918 and Argentina in 1922.
Only in the United States are Simmental measured and selected totally for efficient, economical production of quality beef. Unlike most of the European performance programs involving Simmental cattle where emphasis is on the measurement of milk production, the American Simmental Association has developed performance programs that focus on meat production.
As a result of performance programs, the ASA was the first breed association to publish a sire summary. The American Simmental resulting from this effort meets today's demand for a beef animal that can thrive under a variety of conditions. They have bred-in ability to adapt to hot and cold temperatures, to dry or humid climates, to range conditions or confinement rearing.
Breed Registry and Programs
The ASA was founded by a contingent of breeders who came from other breed backgrounds and shared a common goal of establishing a breed base on sound, performance principles. Thus, in its 30+ years of existence, ASA has often been in the forefront of beef industry innovation and progress. In 1971, ASA published the first beef breed sire summary, and since that time has: 1) initiated a cow recognition program; 2) developed Simbrah, a heat tolerant, insect-resistant breed combining the genetics of Simmental and Brahman; 3) developed the first multi-breed EPDs; 4) been a leader in incorporating performance data into the show ring; and, 5) more recently, established the industry standard for proving carcass merit. Most other breeds have followed the leadership of ASA.
The growth of Simmental cattle in North America is really a reflection of what has already occurred in most agricultural countries of the world. It appears certain that Simmental will continue to play an important role in the future of the American beef producer.