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 was Switzerland’s most important export product. In the period 1900 to 1929 app 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 and 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 founder 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 utelise the dual purpose characteristics of the breed to the utmost. There are 1.7 million 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 inceassed tremendously since the late sixties, with official WSFF recognised Herdbooks in 15 countries. There, like in South Africa, the breed is especially used for beef cattle production and it owes it popularity to its suitability for cross breeding.