There is only one breed of cattle that originated in the rugged Savoie region of the French Alps, and that is the Tarentaise. For thousands of years it grazed the mountainsides, expected by its owners to produce high-quality milk and cheese on forage alone.
Although the Tarentaise is an ancient breed, perhaps dating back to the time of the Romans, its remote location kept it obscure for centuries. Not until the late 1850s and early 1860s did the Tarentaise come to the attention of cattle raisers outside of the Alps. But once it did emerge, it spread rapidly over France.
The breed first came to the United States in the early 1970s. Dr. Ray Woodward of Montana was evaluating the “exotic” cattle craze of his time, and decided that there were a few things left to be desired. Although he appreciated the way breeds from Continental Europe could milk heavily, thereby weaning large calves, the corresponding difficulties with fertility and calving offset this advantage. A more moderate-sized, easy-keeping Continental breed would provide a good compromise solution, and Dr. Woodward found what he was looking for in the Tarentaise.
By 1972, the first Tarentaise bull calf was living at a quarantine station in Canada. His rapid growth impressed ranchers all across America, and through artificial insemination Tarentaise genetics were soon introduced to the northern Great Plains. Today, the breed can be found throughout most of the country.
In spite of its dairy heritage, the Tarentaise is used primarily for producing beef crossbreeds in America. And it has decidedly proven its worth in this role, too, whether in conventional grain finishing or in a grass-based system.
Throughout most of Europe, however, the Tarentaise is dual-purpose. In France, it is exclusively used to make Beaufort cheese.
The Tarentaise is known for great docility. Most people will not have any trouble getting along with it.
Among the advantages of the Tarentaise breed is its exceptional immune system. Not only is it resistant to such ailments as pinkeye and various udder breakdowns, but it can withstand many stress-related respiratory diseases, as well.
- Adaptability to tough environments.
- Adaptability to large temperature variations.
- Low maintenance requirements.
- Early maturity.
- Good fertility.
- Calving ease.
- Calf vigor.
- Long lactation.
- Good milk production without supplemental feed.
- Rich milk.
- Ability to finish well for beef on forage-based diets.
- High meat yield.
- Lean, tender carcass.
- Lack of marketing options found in more popular breeds such as the Angus.