Swiss cattle breeder puts rare herd up for sale

TOP BEEF: Colin Lyon with one of his braunvieh cows he farms near Pleasant Point in South Canterbury.
Fairfax NZ
TOP BEEF: Colin Lyon with one of his braunvieh cows he farms near Pleasant Point in South Canterbury.

Colin Lyon hopes someone with the same passion as him will take on his rare Swiss breed of beef cattle to bigger things.

His small herd of stud braunvieh beef breeding cows, which has twice reached the semifinals of the Steak of Origin contest, was begun by Lyon obtaining embryos from an Australian stud in 2005.

Lyon feels that, having reached 71, beef breeding is a "young man's caper" and would like to pass on the genetic line to someone else and his herd is for sale.

The braunviehs at his farm near South Canterbury's Pleasant Point are believed to be the only cattle of their kind in New Zealand.

"I think they might have some genetic factors worth exploring or that would be good for beef in New Zealand. We were never into showing, but the bulls are magnificent animals."

Centuries ago the brown swiss cow was the milking cow and the braunvieh - meaning brown cow in German - was the beef line in Switzerland.

Lyon got into the breed after talking to a neighbour, who at one stage was considering buying a farm in the United States with braunviehs, popular there for their good growth rates, meat marbling and feedlot qualities.

Intrigued, he intended to bring in some embryos from the US, but found they could be obtained in Australia and implanted them in beef cows for the founding herd of four heifers and two bulls. The bloodlines were later bolstered by Swiss semen.

Lyon said most of the cattle had gone towards building a herd, but braunvieh crossed with angus had made tremendous eating and had twice reached the semifinal stage of the Steak of Origin, a competition to find the most tender and tasty sirloin steak in New Zealand.

"They naturally have more marbling than some of the traditional beef groups and they are quite nice to eat. I never had large volumes to pick up from because we wanted to get them on the ground but we sent a line of angus crossed with them to the feedlot in Rangitata, only four of them, and they were high yielding."

One of them dressed out to 70 per cent carcass weight. Another heifer recorded a liveweight of 500 kilograms as a yearling.

The herd consists of 16 mixed age cows pregnancy tested to be in calf with a braunvieh bull, eight rising two-year-old heifers and nine rising one-year-old heifers as well as several breeding bulls.

The cows have a colouring similar to jerseys and the bulls are a darker brown.

Lyon said he was not asking a great "premium" for the herd as he would prefer they were kept together and would carry on calving if there were no initial takers.

"I still think they are a good terminal cross for anyone who had beef cattle, particularly angus, and we have a few bulls on a couple of places. I went to Australia to see the guy when I got the embryos and he had some across friesians and jerseys and they were beefy looking calves."

He was unaware of any other cattle farmers with the medium-sized braunviehs. Once lightened of the cattle, the retired cropping and beef finishing farmer plans on spending more time restoring a vintage Hubmobile, bought initially for £40, and a French Delage.

The Press