The Simbrah breed is one of several examples of the attempts of American breeders to marry the hardiness of Brahman cattle to a highly productive but somewhat less adaptable European breed. In this case, Europe is represented by the Simmental, Switzerland's oldest breed and a renowned dairy producer. The Brahman and Simmental breeds make up the first and second most populous breeds in the world respectively. The Simbrah cross of those two breeds, though of recent origin, has achieved great popularity in a very short time.
Brahman cattle evolved in India and are adapted to a tropical climate that offers limited foraging opportunity. While European cattle become less productive when temperatures exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit, Brahman have been found to tolerate temperatures in excess of 105 degrees. A University of Missouri study attributed this ability to a number of factors, including the Brahman's thick coat, black skin that reflects sunlight and sweat glands within the skin that help to cool the animal. Perhaps most important, Brahman cattle generate less internal heat than other breeds, an advantage because cattle sacrifice growth in order to produce that heat. Their ability to withstand extreme heat has made Brahmans prime breeding prospects for ranchers in the southern United States, especially along the Gulf Coast.
Simmental were first imported into the United States at the end of the 19th century. The breed had already established a reputation for superior fertility, early sexual maturity, rapid growth and excellent milk production. Despite their reputation as outstanding dairy animals, Simmental failed to make inroads into North American ranching until the bull "Parisien" arrived in Canada from France in 1967.
Shortly thereafter, Gulf Coast cattlemen initiated experimental breeding of Brahman and Simmental. Their goal was an animal with the heat tolerance, longevity, disease resistance and foraging ability of the Brahman allied with the rapid growth, fertility, early maturity and superior milk production of the Simmental. The resulting Simbrah breed demonstrates the success of the experiment.
Simbrah can thrive in conditions from the heat of Texas to the subzero conditions of the Northern plains. They have inherited the hardiness, easy calving and grazing ability of Brahmans along with the rapid growth, early maturity and superior milk production of the Simmental. They have the pigmented eyes of Brahmans that resist diseases of the eye, including cancers, along with the Simmental's placid and manageable disposition.
In addition, Simbrah lead long, productive lives, with bulls still breeding and cows still bearing past age 10. This quality is complemented by the breed's rapid and efficient growth, and calves are ready for market at 12 to 14 months of age.
It took almost two decades from the initial breeding of Simbrah for the breed to be officially recognized. In 1977, the American Simmental Association incorporated the Simbrah breed into its mission, initially registering 700 animals. The Association maintains detailed performance data that provide an invaluable resource for objective evaluation of the breed.
At the same time, the Association has demonstrated a pragmatic approach to standards. Purebred Simbrah are defined as five-eights Simmental and three-eights Brahman, but the Association has also acknowledged mixes of up to three-fourths Simmental and five-eights Brahman. Accepting these crosses into the Simbrah family lets breeders fine tune the breed to changing market conditions and to the needs of ranchers operating in widely varied environments. That pragmatic adaptability is reflected in the Association's designation of Simbrah cattle as "The All Purpose American Breed."