Dairy cattle breeds

Une race dynamique aux mains des jeunes éleveurs - Crédit : OS Montebliarde – Giorgio Soldi
Une race dynamique aux mains des jeunes éleveurs - Crédit : OS Montebliarde – Giorgio Soldi
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

The Montbéliarde breed has been selected for its dairying aptitudes since the nineteenth century, in close relation with traditional village-scale cooperatives producing cheeses. The breed developed in its native Franche-Comté region before spreading out into all the French upland areas. It currently ranks 2nd French dairy breed in terms of national cattle stock numbers.

The outstanding quality of Montbéliarde breed is the balance of its production output. It gives the best fat-to-protein ratio of all the leading French dairy breeds, yielding milk that is ideally suited to cheesemaking.

This quality has enabled the Montbéliarde to earn its place in a large array of Protected Designation of Origin (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – AOC) cheesemaking specifications, with Comté being the most famous and the closest to its native region.

Originally bred in mountain valleys or foothills, the Montbéliarde has developed an outstanding ability to produce milk from dry on-farm forage.

The Montbéliarde’s all-round balance also includes dual purpose factors. The animals have held onto good beefing abilities (with no excess fat). Young bulls and cull cows present a good percentage yield at slaughter, especially in plain land or cropland zones where the better feed quality enables the breed to reveal its full potential.

Its dairying qualities and functional traits (fertility, longevity, ability to thrive in a large range of temperatures) mean it has been in great demand on many export markets.

When it is crossed with local breeds, the Montbéliarde enhances their dairying and beefing potential. By crossing with specialized dairy breeds, it strengthens their functional hardiness aptitudes and increases fertility.


The breeding objectives are defined by the Montbéliarde Selection Organization (OS), which gathers representatives from breeders, commercial farmers, breeding units, official milk recording organization, producer cooperatives and industry sectors.

The lead priority of the breeding program remains dairy production: the aim is to yield high quantities of convertible milk solids (fat but especially proteins) from forage produced on-farm, while preserving good mastitis resistance and maintaining a fairly low fat-to-protein ratio.

Next down the list are resilience-related selection criteria: as fertility is the key to cattle cost-efficiency, today’s mean rate of 55% successful pregnancies with first insemination has to be consolidated or preferably improved.

Longevity is another factor addressed in the breeding program. Feet & leg and udder quality have to enable the Montbéliarde cows to go through several successive lactations complication-free.


Key figures

  • 626,772 cows
  • 19,671 farms
  • 435,538 cows under milk recording system
  • 268,604 cows recorded in the Herd Book
  • 828,105 artificial inseminations
  • Height at withers (adult cow): 145 to 150 cm
  • Adult cow weight:
    650 to 800 kg
  • Adult bull weight:
    1,000 to 1,200 kg
  • Young-bull carcass weight:
    350 to 380 kg
  • Milk yield: 8,278 kg
  • Milk yield 305 days: 7,106 kg
  • Fat content: 3.84 %
  • Crude protein content: 3.44 %

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