7 Aug 2020

How now Swiss Brown cow?

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 7 August 2020
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Photo: Susan Murray RNZ

Thurvalley BK Bree VG86 (or Bree for short) produced the most milk of any Brown Swiss cow in New Zealand for the 2018/19 season.

That is an astonishing 678 kilograms of milksolids in the 2018-19 season. An average dairy cow produces around 400 kg MS.

Her owner, Tony Buehler, grew up helping hand milk a commercial herd of 12 cows in Switzerland.

Bree was named for Tony's birthplace in the Thur Valley in Toggenburg.

His oldest brother got to take over the farm, so he headed overseas and says farming in New Zealand is great, so much freedom.

There are only about 1000 registered Brown Swiss in New Zealand. The breed was first introduced in the 1970s and there are only a few active breeders.

But internationally it is second largest dairy breed in the world and is much used for cross-breeding.

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Photo: Susan Murray RNZ

"Character. They have character," Tony says. "Good in the sun - don't sunburn. Good legs. One of the oldest breeds. I just like them, and I want to be different.

"I don't think they're the best breed in the world - I like Jerseys - but they are different. I grew up with Brown Swiss in Switzerland."

The award winning Bree is nothing particularly special to look at, she's treated the same as any cow in the mainly Friesian herd of 550 cows, but she can boast good parentage with her granddam Briarrose taking the same title twice before.

And Briarrose was one of the first cows Tony bought when he moved to New Zealand.

Tony Buehler settled permanently in New Zealand in 2005. He had come several times before as an exchange student in the Waikato from 1994, alternating summers in New Zealand and Australia with summers in Europe.

"I was working in Sydney just before the Olympics in 2000 and I had a little job to do in Wellington. I walked past an Immigration Office and it said how many points can you score; can you come to live in NZ. So I did the score and put in an application and five years later got residency."

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Photo: Susan Murray RNZ

Tony is involved in embryo work which lets him quickly multiple up any top genetic cow. But he likens the process to "visiting the casino", you don't know whether you'll get three, four or five daughters or lots of boy calves, or maybe even no live animals.

He also brings embryos in from Canada to improve his Brown Swiss stud Thurvalley.