Beef breeds

Vache Gasconne en estive - Crédit : Groupe Gascon
Vache Gasconne en estive - Crédit : Groupe Gascon
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

The Gasconne is native to the steep hillsides and mountainous slopes of the Pyrenees. It is now used for its widely-recognized hardiness and outstanding maternal traits. The quality of its hooves and the solidity of its feet & legs enable the Gasconne to graze all types of rangeland, even on the sharpest slopes. Furthermore, its short and densely-knit coat combined with black-rimmed eyelids make it extremely resistant to extreme variations in temperature.

Pair these qualities with unquestioned calving ease and an ability to accept changes in diet, and you have the best combination of breed traits possible for grazing high-altitude summer pastures, although the Gasconne is equally able to make optimal use of richer rations under plainland or lowland systems.

The Gasconne breed is essentially used to produce weaned calves that are sold for fattening after summering on the high-altitude pastures, in a farming system that carries only minimal production costs. Farming systems that do not turn out to pasture can still use grass or silage rations to produce different types of saleable animals: semi-finished 12-to-15 month-old steers, young bulls, heifers, cull cows or even 3½ to 5-year old beef bulls. The commercial crossbreeding (with Blonde or Charolaise sires) on inferior-quality female is also developed.

Gasconne-breed value is recognized through a series of collective product brands or officially-recognized quality labels. The oldest and most popular is the Label Rouge "Boeuf Gascon, Pure Race, Pur Goût", although other market segments are also adding value through collective brands like "Race Gasconne", "Cadet Gascon" or "Rosée des Pyrénées".

Organizing the Gasconne market into specific sales channels has been a major triggering factor in extending the breed’s geographic range over the last few years. In France, the Gascon is now found in 74 départements, including French Guiana and Martinique in tropical areas. Elsewhere, the Gasconne is found across the rest of Europe (especially Spain, which counts a 5000-cow breed nucleus), but also the Czech Republic and as far afield as Chile and Ecuador.


The core objectives of the breeding program are hardiness and reproductive efficiency, plus improving growth potential, morphological traits and beefing abilities.

In order to drive a Gasconne breeding program targeting both maternal qualities and beefing abilities, Groupe Gascon – which acts as both Breeding Organization and Breeding Company – has set up a cutting-edge breed development centre.

This centre provides a platform covering the needs of both natural mating and artificial insemination (70 bulls), top-quality heifers (a nursery of 100 dams), plus an experimental station that hosts a cattle fattening unit run to Label Rouge standards.

The breeding program has also integrated genomics technologies, such as mh gene (muscular hypertrophy) genotyping to regulate the breed’s double-muscling gene.


Key figures

  • 18,861 cows
  • 642 farms
  • 8,176 cows under on-farm official performance recording system
  • 6,860 cows recorded in the Herd Book
  • 3,043 artificial inseminations
  • Height at withers (adult cow): 135 cm
  • Adult cow weight:
    650 to 750 kg
  • Adult bull weight:
    900 to 1,150 kg
  • Easy calving: 99%
  • Birth weight of male calves: 40.0 kg
  • 120-day weight of male calves: 159kg
  • 210-day weight of male calves: 251kg
  • Weight of young-bull carcass:
    340 to 380 kg
  • Carcass yield: 56 to 58 %

Results of on-farm performance recording system 2014 - Institut de l’Elevage & France Bovins Croissance



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