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A Rare Breed of Italian Origin
Piedmontese cattle originated from the region of that name in northwest Italy. They are characteristically a medium-sized beef breed of grey-white colour though the calves are fawn when born. The first herd book was opened in 1877 after the appearance of ‘double muscling.’ They are raised for primarily for their meat, seen as a premium product in Italy. But some are also milked to make the region's traditional cheeses – Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Tomo Piedmontese.
An attractive feature of Piedmontese meat is the health benefits. It is the lowest of all breeds for cholesterol – and the highest for essential fatty acids – omega 3 and 6. The meat is also extremely tender, and because of the lower fat content there is a very high meat yield – up to 14% more than other breeds.
The mutated myostatin gene results in ‘double muscling.’ Calves are born easily and grow quickly. The ‘bulking up’ of the calf happens about 4-6 weeks after birth – much to the cow and farmer’s delight! The bulls make very useful terminal sires with other beef or dairy breeds.
The first imports of embryos from Canada arrived in New Zealand in the late 1980s. Subsequent breeding using semen from proven Italian sires has increased the numbers and quality of local stock. Whilst small in numbers in New Zealand, year after year Piedmontese cattle are always amongst the finalists in the very prestigious annual ‘Steak of Origin’ competition.
There are currently around 15 registered breeders in New Zealand, many with only a few registered animals.Thanks to Don Knight for the above information and photographs.
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