Brown Swiss are known for
dairy strength

Originating in the Swiss Alps, Brown Swiss adapt well to high altitudes and hot or cold climates, while producing large volumes of milk, ideal for cheese-making. Their unique ability to yield high components with an ideal fat-to-protein ratio sets them apart from other dairy breeds. 

Correct feet and legs, well-attached udders and dairy strength contribute to their exceptional productive life, allowing them to thrive in any modern dairy set-up. Style, balance and fancy frames also make Brown Swiss easy winners at county, state, national and international shows.


800 Pleasant Street, Beloit, Wisconsin 53511-5456
Ph: 608-365-4474    •    Fax: 608-365-5577    •    E-mail:

The Brown Swiss Association was established in 1880, registers about 10,000 animals per year and serves about 1800 combined adult and junior members. It is governed by a 10-person board of directors elected by and from the membership.

BSCBA Mission Statement... To promote and expand the Brown Swiss breed with programs that assist the membership and industry to compete favorably in the market place now and in the future.

Today’s U.S. breeders have built upon the breed’s rich heritage to develop a worldwide demand for their cattle in both the show ring and commercial dairy herd. 

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Port-Haven’s Keys to Success 

The Portner family of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, is a third-generation dairy farm family Portner Family (BackRow L-R): Lisa & Mark, Tom & Mary, Boston committed to the goal of producing a competitive commercial herd of Brown Swiss. Recipients of the PTPR National award for the past three years in the 100-plus cows herd size, their herd of 270 Brown Swiss have firmly established the Port-Haven Dairy as a profitable and viable commercial herd. Regular members of the How They’re Doin’ and Protein Plus lists in the Bulletin with their cattle, the  Portners  have  an  impressive  rolling herd average of 25,107M 1,053F and 882P.

Pictured at right:  Portner Family (back row L-R) Lisa & Mark, Tom & Mary, Boston. (On Swing) Crystal, Isabella, Sophia, & Sabrina.  (On Laps) Dustin, Jared, & Rachel.

The production keys to success, in the Portners’ opinion, are rooted in happy cows, nutrition, consistency and family.  “One of our primary keys to success is ‘Happy Cows!’” said Tom and Mary Portner. “Our unique style of housing has taken the stress factor out of cow comfort.   The compost bed pack, as it has been named, has given our herd an advantage in improving rest time, thus promoting feed consumption and in turn boosting milk production.   Since 2001, when we had our first compost bed pack barn, we have had the cows on sawdust bed pack.  We have had thousands of visitors and researchers viewing our barns and cows.  We had been very frustrated with cows hanging half in and half out of stalls. Brown Swiss have a large frame and need plenty of space.  We were also frustrated with fresh cows not getting comfortable in their new surroundings and taking longer to ramp up in production. The bed pack barns are also self-contained manure facilities, and the manure that is generated from these barns is an awesome addition to crop ground as fertilizer. Our farm tries to be environmentally friendly in many ways; besides composted manure we recycle our cold-plate water to clean the parlor and the same water is irrigated, year round, on our pasture.”

“Feed quality and consistency would be keys that make us successful. We harvest all of our corn silage in a two-day window. We have a custom harvester who has worked with us for 15 years. Our alfalfa hay comes from the same grower who has worked with us for nearly 20 years. He knows what Tom’s feed parameters are for the milking herd and Tom and his nutritionist personally go out to South Dakota and view the hay,” said Mary.

“I have a nutritionist that we have worked with for 20 years. I balance the cows’ ration and then send it on to him to fine tune it,” said Tom. “We try to buy all the same large batch of hay from a cutting so that we don’t have to adjust the feed quality other than over the years due to economics and supply. This also helps reduce the stress of the cows if they aren’t having their diets changed for their digestive tracts to have to adjust.” “They have enough stress with the Minnesota weather,” laughed Mary.

Consistency is key in managing stress for the Portners who try to maintain as little stress as possible from baby calves to the cows. “When we switch the calves over to water and wean them, we don’t move them from the hutches to groups for a few days to allow the adjustment and alleviate additional stress,” said Tom.

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