Piedmontese cattle come from Italy, and they have spread into both North and South America. Although they often require a carefully controlled diet and special care, Piedmontese cattle produce premium quality beef. They also produce the milk that goes into several traditional Italian cheeses.
History of Piedmontese Cattle
Piedmontese cattle have existed in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy for centuries. Traditionally, these strong animals were used to work the farms of the region, and they were also bred for their meat and milk. Several varieties of Piedmontese cattle existed, including the Della Langa, Demonte, Canavese, Scelta di Pianura and Ordinario di Pianura.
Beginning in the late 19th century, breeders began to develop the cattle to make the most of its milk and meat production abilities. The amount of variation within Piedmontese cattle reduced as a result of this selective breeding program.
Since 1886, a characteristic known as hypertrophic muscle growth has existed in the Piedmontese breed. This characteristic causes a very high lean-to-fat ratio of Piedmontese beef, but it wasn’t until much later that breeders began to popularize the affected strain of cattle.
Piedmontese Cattle in North America
Piedmontese cattle first appeared in America in the late 1970s, when they were imported into Canada. They arrived in the United States in the early 1980s. This first batch of imported cattle was developed into North American Piedmontese cattle, which is used for beef production.
Piedmontese Cattle in Italy
Piedmontese cattle are still raised in Italy today, primarily for their milk. Traditional cheeses, such as Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese, are produced from the milk of these cows. Piedmontese cattle in Italy are also raised for their meat.
Physical Characteristics of Piedmontese Cattle
Mature Piedmontese cattle are light gray or white, although their calves have a fawn color. They have black muzzles, mouths, eyelashes and tail tassels. Piedmontese have a muscular figure, with a broad neck and deep abdomen. They have small horns that are black for young cattle but gradually yellow as they age.
Hypertrophic Muscle Growth
Purebred Piedmontese cattle have two copies of a gene known as the inactive myostatin gene. The active version of this gene restricts muscle growth. When it is inactive, as it is in Piedmontese cattle, animals grow very large muscles. As a result of this condition, Piedmontese cattle produce beef that has a very high ratio of lean meat to fat. Meat from this breed is less marbled and has less connective tissue than meat from cattle with no copies of the inactive myostatin gene.
There is a specialist market for Piedmontese beef. However, animals that have two copies of the inactive myostatin gene often have difficulties with calving, as the offspring are unusually big and bulky. These cattle also require a special diet and regular veterinary supervision to keep them healthy. Although these factors make Piedmontese beef cattle expensive to raise, their meat can sell at a premium.
More Information About Piedmontese Cattle
The Piedmontese is a very interesting breed, due to its history and the interesting genetic quirk of the hypertrophic muscle growth condition that affects this breed. Raising Piedmontese cattle can be very rewarding, but requires some specialist knowledge. To find out more about Piedmontese cattle, fill out our form to request the information you need.