Dairy cow breeds in France
Did you know that, in France, there are over 20 different breeds of dairy cow? The Prim’Holstein, Montbéliarde and Normande form the majority of French stock. However, professionals in search of diversity and quality are also working on maintaining and reintroducing many other dairy cow breeds. Here are a few descriptions.
Famous for its role in cheesemaking, this authentic mountain cow produces a milk high in protein that is used to make several cheeses which bear a quality label: Abondance (AOP), naturally, but also Beaufort (AOP), Reblochon (AOP), Tomme and Emmental de Savoie (IGP).
High in protein, its milk is characterised by a type of casein that provides a higher cheese yield than that of other cows. In addition, it coagulates more quickly and produces a consistent thick, tough curd. Its milk accounts for almost two-thirds of the milk used to make Epoisses AOP.
The Montbéliarde cow produces over 7,600kg of milk annually that is high in protein and of great quality for cheesemaking. It is used to produce many AOP cheeses, including Morbier, Reblochon, Bleu de Gex, Mont d’Or, Cantal and Abondance. In particular, it is used in the production of one of the major mountain cheeses – Comté.
Normande cows produce excellent quality milk which is used to make Camembert and other AOC Normandy cheeses.
Making up around 80% of the French milk collections, it is the leading French dairy breed, and its milk is used to make many dairy products. While some cows produce up to 10,000 litres per year, the average is around 8,500 litres.
This cow, with its deep and even mahogany-brown coat, produces an abundance of milk that is high in protein, making it ideal for cheese production. Its milk is used in the production of many regional cheese specialties such as Bergues, Maroilles (AOP), Mimolette, and Mont des Cats.
Although its production is lower than that of specialist cow breeds, its milk contains high fat levels and is highly concentrated in protein, so it is particularly suited to cheese processing. The famous AOP d’Auvergne cheese, Salers, is made from Salers cow’s milk on farms between the 15th April and 15th November, a period when the cows feed on grass only. There is also a raw milk Cantal made from 100% Salers milk.
Thanks to its abilities and remarkable dairy performances, it was selected along with the Aubrac in the specifications of the Laguiole AOP cheese. Generally, the French Simmental is highly sought-after in areas of cheese production. It is also used to make AOP cheeses - Comté, Mont D'or, Morbier and Bleu de Gex in Franche-Comté.
What do cows eat?
Cows are herbivores. They feed on fresh grass or hay or corn (a plant fully cut up and stored as silage), beetroot (grown in the summer months and stored for wintertime), cereals (what, barley, oats), meal (what remains of the oilseed when the oil is extracted). In France, 98% of fodder is produced on the farm, 50% of which is grass for grazing.