Dairy cattle breeds
French Brown

Taureau de race Brune - Crédit : Brune Génétique Services
Taureau de race Brune - Crédit : Brune Génétique Services
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

The Brown (or “Brune”) breed was first brought into France in the 17th century, followed by a second stronger wave of imports into the Côte d’Or and Tarn départements in the 19th century. Today, the Chatillonnais and South-West France are the regions where the Brown breed is most strongly rooted.

The breed originates from a dual-purpose population from eastern Switzerland but was later selected for dairy traits. It acquired a status of a specialized dairy breed but is selected to maintain its advantageous protein content.

The Brown breed gives excellent milk for cheese production, and is used on some farms to produce Epoisses, a high-quality cheese that has been rewarded with Protected Designation of Origin (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – AOC) since 1991.

Herd management systems vary strongly between regions: Brown breed can thrive under intensive farming system with essentially corn silage rations, and under mixed systems with cereal crops in favorable areas such as the Côte d’Or.

However, commonly in South-Western France, the Brown breed is equally valued on smaller-scales farm holdings where it optimizes available forage to produce high-protein and high-fat milk.

This diversity in Brown breed farming systems is also observed in other countries worldwide, from Tunisia and Madagascar to the Ivory Coast, Martinique and South-Africa, where the breed is popular due to its ability to withstand hot climates and drought conditions.

Other countries such as the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Italy all have intensive breeding programs targeting milk productivity.


The main objectives set by the French Brown breeding program, BGS CREATION, are to increase high-protein-content milk yield productivity while protecting the traits that give long productive life and good ability to optimize the on-farm fodder available.

These objectives concur with livestock farmers’ expectations: a cow offering a good performance balance, able to produce content-rich milk on low-quality forage over a higher-than-average number of lactations.

The efficiently of the breeding program is based on increasing selection pressure and decreasing generation interval. The program’s planned matings draw heavily on embryo transfer which offers extended possibilities for exploiting the genetic material of rigorously selected donor cows.

A partnership agreement between different breeding programs is set to orchestrate embryo and semen exchanges with the USA, Germany and Switzerland with the aim of diversifying the genetic stock on offer to French farmers.


Key figures

  • 26,340 cows
  • 1,065 farms
  • 17,191 cows under milk recording system
  • 10,384 cows recorded in the Herd Book
  • 48,981 artificial inseminations
  • Height at withers (adult cow): 145 to 155 cm
  • Adult cow weight:
    650 to 750 kg
  • Adult bull weight:
    1,000 to 1,100 kg
  • Young-bull carcass weight:
    300 to 340 kg
  • Milk yield: 8,712 kg
  • Milk yield 305 days: 7,045kg
  • Fat content: 4.11 %
  • Crude protein content: 3.55 %

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