Dairy cattle breeds

Vache Abondance - Crédit : OS Races Alpines Réunies
Vache Abondance - Crédit : OS Races Alpines Réunies
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

Abondance hails from the valleys of Northern Alps in Haute-Savoie and the breed is particularly well-adapted to mountain areas. Abondance cattle can withstand huge temperature swings as observed in mountain range conditions (from -10°C early-morning to over 35°C in late-afternoon), and is well adapted to rough forage.

Herd management follows a seasonal pattern: the animals are in-door overwintered (for 6-7 months, generally in tie stall barns) due to the tough climatic conditions, and then return to pasture mountain at between 500 and 2,000 m altitude for the entire summer. Spring marks the transition between these two extremes, when the flock feed on pastures around intermediate upland villages.

Abondance cattle get very little feed supplementation because they are able to exploit grass and hay-based rations to produce a protein-rich milk, well suited to cheesemaking. About 80% of Abondance milk is used to produce cheeses with Protected Designation of Origin (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – AOC) such as Reblochon, Abondance, Tome des Bauges and Beaufort, along with Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) cheeses such as Tomme de Savoie and Emmental de Savoie.

The hardiness of the Abondance breed and the quality of its milk made it very popular abroad, where it is farmed from Canada to South America (Chile, Mexico) to Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen). The breed is used in crossbreeding programs specifically aiming at improving the milk yield performances of local-region breeds, as for example N’Dama breed in the Ivory Coast or Baladi breed in Egypt.


The criteria targeted as priority factors in the Abondance breeding program are production indices (essentially the ISU [global merit index] and the INEL [global dairy profitability index]), although special focus is given to improving crude protein content, which has a tangible effect on milk payments.

The program also breeds for longevity and adaptability to mountainous areas. Feet & legs, stoutness, respiratory capacities and udder quality are important criteria.

Farmers look for compact udders (less likely to hamper cattle as they move around in mountains areas), well balanced, solidly attached (udders that will age well, i.e. that over time, will stay tight and not progressively hang down), with well-positioned teats and right length for milking.

Using these criteria as baseline, 35 weaned calves are selected every year for further individual on-station testing. Then, the top 20 young bulls is assessed through progeny testing. Finally, 3 to 4 new bulls a year are selected to be used for artificial insemination.


Key figures

  • 49,183 cows
  • 2,214 farms
  • 23,183 cows under milk recording system
  • 11,207 cows recorded in the Herd Book
  • 46,160 artificial inseminations
  • Height at withers (adult cow): 140 to 150 cm
  • Adult cow weight:
    550 to 800 kg
  • Adult bull weight:
    850 to 1,100 kg
  • Young-bull carcass weight:
    300 to 350 kg
  • Milk yield: 6,269 kg
  • Milk yield 305 days : 5,544 kg
  • Fat content: 3.68%
  • Crude protein content: 3.49 %

Official milk recording results 2014 - Mature equivalent milk yield - Institut de l’Elevage & France Conseil Elevage