The Montbéliarde breed is native to the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of the East of France. They are primarily used in dairy, with their milk famed for its use in cheese production. They are descendants of Bernoise cattle and used to be called Alsatian cattle before their name was changed in the 1800’s.
But could there be any benefits in introducing Montbéliarde genetics in your herd? Continue reading!
They are a red and white breed, with usually a white face. They have tough feet, as is their skin on their udders, meaning there are fewer health problems and that they have a high resistance to mastitis! They are a naturally horned breed, which is one downfall, and they have also been described as having a slightly more difficult temperament than Holsteins and Friesians, though as always this depends on a number of factors and variables.
They do not produce as much milk Holstein Friesians, though the quality of any beef produced from Montbéliarde cattle is of a way higher quality than Holstein beef. This means a farmer could make more from any bull calves born on the farm. A large breed, cows weigh up to 700kgs, with bulls coming in at a whopping 1,200kgs.
Their beef is very much sought after, and is low in fat. Bulls are generally slaughtered at 570kgs, with a dressing out percentage of 57%. Therefore, cull cows and bull sell for much more than Friesian and Holstein alternatives.
The breed is suitable to changeable weather conditions in their native France, meaning they would have no problem with adapting to Ireland. A very fertile breed with great longevity, which reduces replacement costs and means they achieve more lactations per cow in a lifetime. Some can average 5 more lactations per animal or around 24% more than standard breeds. In France, they average over 7,400kgs per lactation!
Even when artificial Insemination is used, the breed has a high conception rate. They are also relatively easy calvers, especially when crossed with Charolais breeds. They have a higher birth weight than Friesian cattle.
Their milk, as mentioned above, is very popular in cheese production, and used to produce Gruyére and Emmental cheeses.
The protein content is high at 3.45%, making it perfect for cheese production. It also contains a high frequency of kappa casein BB variants, which enable high cheese yields to be obtained from the milk. Butterfat is generally at 3.9%.
The Montbéliarde breed may not be the perfect dairy breed on their own, but when crossed with Holstein and Friesian breeds, they could help make your farm more profitable. In 2018 when more and more dairy farmers are placing a stronger emphasis on the beef side of their farm, is it not worth a gamble?