With a long history of producing gourmet food, no wonder that France was the country of origin of cattle like the Normande (NOR-man-dee). Introduced to the northwestern part of France by Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries, for many years the breed provided high-quality meat and milk on rough forage. No one in those practical times thought of selecting cattle for appearance or single traits such as bulging muscles or massive yields of milk.
In fact, the Normande was not even a standardized breed until the late 1800s. It was just the local dual-purpose bovine. But even when breeders began to select their stock a little more carefully to standardize appearance and production, they never lost sight of the breed’s versatility and gourmet quality.
The Normande flourished in France until World War II, when it was nearly driven to extinction in the turmoil. The French evidently thought it was a breed worth preserving, however, for the population of Normandes in France has risen steadily since then. Recent estimates place the number around 4 million head.
The breed first arrived in America in 1974 along with a wave of other “exotics” from Continental Europe. The original idea was to crossbreed the Normande with more common British breeds to achieve high yields of beef. The Normande could not compete with the other faster-growing Continental breeds, however, and soon fell out of favor.
In recent years, Normande breeders have shifted their focus to emphasize the breed’s traditional dual-purpose characteristics. These qualities have earned it a place on grassfed and organic dairy farms across the country.
The Normande is the ultimate dual-purpose breed. It excels at producing high-quality beef and milk, either as a purebred or in crossbreeding programs. Americans are currently experimenting with crossbreeding it to a wide variety of breeds to enhance the quality and vigor of the offspring, so far with excellent results. The Normande has proven to be a great choice for pasture-based systems, whatever they are required to produce; however, this breed’s health tends to suffer in confinement.
A less common use of the Normande is as a draft ox. Some people also keep it simply as an attractive novelty breed.
Both cows and bulls of the Normande breed have a reputation for being unflappably calm and quiet. Gentle and slow-moving, they are an excellent choice for owners who prefer to work at a laid-back pace.
A few can be shy if unused to humans.
Overall the Normande is known for excellent health and vigor. It has a sound build and few hereditary problems.
Most health issues with this breed arise when it is raised in unnatural conditions. Energy-rich rations that are necessary to keep single-purpose dairy breeds alive will lead to obesity in the Normande. This in turn can lead to lameness, calving difficulties, and metabolic disorders. Exercise and a forage-based diet are absolutely essential to keep Normande cattle in good health.
- Adaptability to most climates.
- Good grazing instincts.
- Excellent performance in low-input systems.
- Exceptional fertility.
- Good calf vigor.
- Good mothering instincts.
- Good milk production.
- High content of protein, butterfat, and other nutrients in its milk.
- High yield of top-dollar cuts of beef.
- Lean meat.
- Exceptional flavor.
- Poor performance outside of a natural environment.