3/8/2014 7:00 AM
By Teresa McMinn Southeastern Pa. Correspondent
It’s tough to say why Braunvieh haven’t become popular among cattle farmers across the eastern United States.
But the biggest reason could be because of the breed’s coloring.
Braunvieh, a German word that means “brown cattle,” are raised mostly in Canada, Texas and Mexico on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The breed is known for its high-quality beef and milk production.
But because the animals range in color from light brown to a mousy gray hue, they don’t qualify for a Certified Angus Beef label, said Steve Whitmire.
“The babies come out snow white,” Whitmire said.
Whitmire is president of the Beef Improvement Federation. He also maintains a herd of registered Braunvieh, Black Angus and BraunAngus — a cross of the two breeds — on his family’s roughly 300-acre Ridgefield Farm LLC in Brasstown, N.C.
Ridgefield has a branded line, Brasstown Beef, distributed and sold by companies including Sysco-Atlanta, International Food Concepts and Atlanta Whole Foods Markets.
“Braunvieh is huge to us,” he said. “It’s wonderful meat.”
The cows, which originated in the Swiss Alps and were first imported to the U.S. in the 1800s as dairy cattle, “are their own breed,” Whitmire said, adding that Braunvieh can withstand high altitudes and extreme weather.
“They are very hardy (and) do well in all environments,” he said.
The docile animals also have large feet, are structurally sound, produce milk rich in butterfat, and are surprisingly bug and fly resistant, he said.
Half-Braunvieh, half-agnus females “make excellent mamas,” he said.
“We love them,” Whitmire said. “I’m not for sure there’s anything close that will hold a candle to them.”
The breed produces a fine-textured meat that’s tender.
“It’s got kind of a sweet taste to it,” he said.
Braunvieh are somewhat rare in most states, including Pennsylvania.
David R. Smith, executive director of the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, said he’d never heard of the breed.
George Greig, Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture, recently was at the state’s 98th Farm Show where a first-time exhibitor introduced a Braunvieh.
“It is the first to be shown at the Farm Show,” Ben Junkin, Greig’s executive assistant, said via email of the breed.
Peter Hoffheins, a York County, Pa., resident and his family own Newbie — a nearly year-old Braunvieh heifer who was the only one of her kind at the recent Farm Show.
He showed Newbie in an “all other breeds” category.
The Hoffheins raise more than 20 purebred Braunvieh and a few crossbred cows at their Red Valley Farms, where they also grow crops, including soybeans, corn and hay.
Peter Hoffheins’ mother, Deb Hoffheins — who was raised on a dairy farm that specialized in Jerseys and Holsteins in Adams County, Pa. — said she became aware of Braunvieh after reading an article in the 1980s.
Soon after, she and her family saw Braunvieh at an agricultural show in Virginia and later purchased some of the animals.
“We’re hoping to spread the word about the breed,” she said.
To learn more about them, visit www.braunvieh.org, www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/breeds/cattle/braunvieh/index.htm or www.ridgefieldfarm.net.