Home The Piemontese breed Traits of the breed

Traits of the breed

The Piemontese cattle breed is a beef breed of medium size that converts forage very well into beef and has a high dressing out percentage. The quantity of commercial cuts is higher than that of bigger-sized breeds. It has very fine bones, a fine and elastic skin, a low quantity of external fat and lean and tender, but tasty meat.

The bulls have a grey or pale fawn coat, with black hairs on the head (especially around the eye sockets), on the neck, the shoulders, the distal regions of the limbs and sometimes on the lateral faces of the body and the hind limbs. The cows have a white or pale fawn coat with shades of grey or pale fawn. At birth the coat of the calves is of a deep pale fawn colour. The tongue, the palate and the external mucosae are black.

The cows are of a medium size (550 - 600 kg), at birth the calves weigh on average from 40 to 45 kg. The male fattening calves are ready for slaughtering at a weight of 550-650 kg when they are about 15 -18 month old, the females at about 350-450 kg when they are about 14-16 months old.

 

Despite their size, the weight gain of Piemontese cattle is high, reaching 1.4 kg a day in the calves between weaning and slaughtering, when feeding and environmental conditions are optimal. The indices of the food conversion are extremely high and confer to the Piemontese a feeding efficiency which is definitely superior to all the other beef breeds.

The dressing out percentage is very high, on average 67-68% in the fattening calves, with peaks of 72%, thanks to the extremely fine bones and the low quantity of external fat. The conformation of the carcasses is excellent: they are always classified S and E of the S-EUROP classification.

The milk production of the Piemontese is sufficient to suckle the calf; this as a consequence of the double-purpose selection applied on the breed in the past. Some of the Piemontese breeders use the milk for cheese production. The cheeses "Castelmagno", "Bra", "Raschera" and many of the "Tome" coming from the valleys of the region Piemonte are produced with Piemontese milk.

Double muscle factor

The particular characteristic of the Piemontese cattle breed is the muscular hypertrophy, better known as the 'double muscle factor'. The double muscle factor appeared at the beginning of last century and spread progressively over the breed up to a point in which nearly all the Herd-book animals possess this characteristic and a very high percentage of the breed as a whole.

From a genetic point of view, the double muscle factor has always been considered a natural mutation which can occur in living organs, even if the probability is very low. The spreading of the 'double muscle' over the breed was originally possible thanks to the selection carried out by the breeders and later this has been carried on by ANABORAPI.

In recent times the techniques of the molecular genetics have made it possible to verify which is the gene in question and which type of mutation has taken place. It was discovered that the mutation interests the gene of the myostatin located on chromosome 2 and that the mutation which has taken place in the Piemontese breed is different from the ones of other breeds.

The mutation causes a considerable increase of the muscular masses and consequently of the dressing out percentage, thanks to an increase of the muscular fibres. Furthermore it causes a decrease of the quantity of inter-muscular fat and of connective tissue, giving major tenderness to the meat.

Breeding

The Piemontese is a long-living breed that adapts very well to many different climates and that can be bred as easily in a confined rearing system as in an open herding or a semi-open herding system.

The calves are usually weaned at an age of 4-6 months when they weigh between 160 and 200 kg. The breeding of the Piemontese cows is traditionally done in stall housing and less frequently in an open housing system. The feeding is very simple and consists mainly in forage, grass or dry feed (or silage), supplemented with feed-stuff that consists mainly of cereals and pulses.

The Piemontese cow can be bred favourably not only on plane and hill pastures but also on mountain pastures. The breed has an excellent food conversion and adapts to the most diverse environmental conditions. On the planes stall housing is normal but a certain amount of breeders transfer their herds to the mountains during the summer months for alpine pasturing, where they remain until the autumn on heights of over 2000 meters.

 

 

 

The traditional stall housing systems for fattening calves are gradually being replaced by open housing in boxes on deep litter. Their feeding is based on feed-stuff made of cereals and hay or straw as a fibre source, often produced on the farm itself.

 

 

 

The origin

The Piemontese cattle breed is the biggest Italian beef breed with high quality characteristics, both at the level of meat flavour and dressing out percentage, though it is not common knowledge that the Piemontese seems to have a very antique origin. From archaeological findings, rock inscriptions and fossil remnants the antique history of the breed has been traced back. These findings indicate as its ancestor a cattle breed of the Aurochs type, which already in the Pleistocene - and therefore before in other regions of the Euro-Asiatic continent domestication started - populated the whole Piedmontese area, where on one side the mountains and on the other vast lake and marshy zones represented a kind of natural barrier.

In the period between the medium and superior Palaeolithic, about 25 000-30 000 years ago, another ethnic group penetrated massively into the Piemontese territory and mixed with the pre-existent one, forming a new breed that showed the clear characteristics of the present Piemontese.

This breed was the Zebu, which originated in West-Pakistan. The reason for this rapid migration into various sectors of the European continent is still unknown. The migratory wave finished its journey in the Piedmontese 'trap': the Alps blocked the way and staying became inevitable.

Gradually the Aurochs and the Zebu population mixed and formed over time the Piemontese cattle breed.