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18 Mar 2022

High-performing Montbeliarde herds in France

Earlier this month, John Kelso, Head of Distributor Sales at VikingGenetics, visited Coopex and Umotest in France. During the visit, John had an opportunity to visit three high performing Montbéliarde farms.

Coopex Montbeliarde is one of the three breeds that is used in ProCROSS, a 3-breed rotational crossbreeding system combining VikingHolstein, VikingRed and Montbeliarde.

“This trip has proven to me that the Coopex Montbeliarde breed suits extremely well to the ProCROSS breeding strategy and compliments our VikingRed and VikingHolstein cows perfectly in one of the most unique and profitable dairy breeding strategies in the world,” says John.

“High health, longevity, minimal vet issues, high production and milk quality while also providing great beef value in their calves, impresses me greatly. Whether you’re focusing on high-value products, or high forage and grazing system, or your herd is a high input system, I can see every benefit to using the Montbeliarde and ProCROSS in any dairy farming system,” he adds.

GAEC Forey in Pollat - Montbeliarde farm

GAEC du Pre Berjon, Bonne Vaux

The first farm located in the mountain area in Bonne Vaux is run by two cousins farming in partnership. Like all local farmers, they send their milk to the local fromagerie where they are joint owners together with all other farmers who supply it.

This herd is focused on the best quality milk, adhering to very stringent standards according to the Comte cheese that is produced in the cheese factory.

This small herd of 50 milking autumn calving cows still commands premium prices of in excess of €0.65/litre, allowing the two herd owners to earn a substantial living from such a small herd of cows.

Fed high-quality forage diet, mainly of hay and supplementing with minimal amounts of concentrate, ranging from 3-6 kgs per day (only to maintain condition during peak yields), these cows are able to produce in excess of 10,000 litres, but the main focus is the quality of milk solely from grass and grass hay.

It is demanded that the Comte Cheese is produced only from the milk of the Montbéliarde and within this specific region.

GAEC du Pre Berjon - Montbeliarde farm, Bonne Vaux

GAEC Forey in Pollat, Franche-Comté

The second herd with 100 milking cows, located in the lowlands in Franche-Comté, is owned by two brothers. This farm is mainly focusing on a more traditional grazing style with feeding high quality mixed rations but still mainly driven towards more milk from grass, grass silages and hay.

With minimal use of forages, this unique herd has one of the highest genetic merit Montbeliarde cows in France. These cows were bred with strength and stature and easily reached 45 to 60 litres per day.

Many of these cows far outlast the typical American Holsteins in numbers of lactations. The extraordinary single cow in the picture is 15 years old and has produced 115 tonnes of milk in her lifetime!

The two herd owners are passionate about the cows and breeding, and they will be aiming to turn the cows out to pasture before the end of March, focusing on high levels of milk from grazing.

Supplying milk for cheese production the farm benefits from good milk prices that are above the typical European prices.

GAEC Forey in Pollat - Montbeliarde farm, Franche-Comté

GAEC de Veillère, Bresse

The third farm in the visit is famous among food connoisseurs for meat, cheese and especially the Bresse Chicken. The farm with 150 cows is owned by three partners. In this herd, we got to see what a Montbéliarde cow can do when put into a more typical high input all indoor system.

The all-year-round calving cows are milked on two Lely robots and fed a 65:35 (forage: concentrate ration) with a small top-up fed in the parlour.

These cows produce above 12,000 litres. The high production is not affecting the calving intervals of 380 days, comparing that to other breeds of 400-420 days.

This farm is focused on production and with more typical prices of €0.45 per litre they are still in great profit, proving the effectiveness of this Montbeliarde cow to be a high-profit animal, due to the longevity, high health traits and pure strength of the animal while maintaining impressive yields and great fats and proteins.

GAEC de Veillère - Montbeliarde farm, Bresse

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