It started some 25 thousand years ago....
25,000 years ago a migration of Zebu or Brahman cattle from Pakistan made its way into north western Italy. Blocked by the Alps Mountains from moving further, these cattle stayed and intermingled with the local "native" cattle - the Auroch. Click HERE for an article on the Aurochs in PDF file.
This blend of Bos Taurus (Auroch) and Bos Indicus (Brahman) evolved in that harsh terrain over thousands of years of natural selection to become the Piedmontese breed of today. There are several breeds from Italy which also show the influence of this Brahman migration - these are the so-called Italian "white breeds"...but the similarity to the Piedmontese does not go further than the color. All Italian white breeds, Piedmontese included, are born 'fawn' or tan and change to the grey-white color, with black skin pigmentation. The Piedmontese, however, also carry genetic traits absolutely unique to them.
The Italian Herdbook was opened in 1887, after the appearance of 'double muscling' was noted in the cattle in 1886. Over one hundred years later, the genetic component which gives rise to the greatly increased 'muscle' (beef) production of this breed was discovered. MYOSTATIN.
Myostatin occurs naturally in all mammals. Its effect is to restrict muscle growth. However, when the gene has naturally mutated, as is the case with the Piedmontese cattle, it can become in-active and no longer prevents muscle development. This allows for what has been called "double muscling" - a very mis-leading term. In reality, the disfunctional Myostatin removes the "growth governor" and allows these cattle to develop on average 14 percent more muscle mass than cattle with functional myostatin.
In Italy, the Piedmontese have been (and many still are today) utilized as a dual-purpose animal...having very rich milk used for specialty cheese production and beef marketed as a premium product.
As of January 2003, all A.I. fullblood Piedmontese sires in Italy for the past 30 years have been tested for the myostatin gene - and ALL have carried 2 copies.
NAPA recommends the Piedmontese as a Terminal Beef Breed.
In 1994, the most recent Italian study on the milk production traits of the breed in that country are explained in this report from ANABORAPI: The Piemontese used to be a double purpose, beef and milk, breed in the past. In more recent times the number of Piemontese cows milked declined, due to specialization for beef production and to the higher work requirements for milking.
The number of Piemontese cows still milked is around 20-25 %.
Since 1976 Piemontese cattle have been considered as beef specialized animals, therefore cows are not systematically controlled for milk production anymore.
Last information available about milk production are from a research conducted by the University of Torino in 1994 involving a sample of 15 herds milking 252 cows.
Average milk production, referred to a 250 days lactation, was 1364 kg in the first lactation, around 1600 kg in second and later lactations.
Average butterfat and protein contents were respectively 3.64 % and 3.45 %.
The variants of protein more favourable for cheese making as type B of b-lactoglobulin and type B of k-casein were present in the milk with higher frequency compared to less favourable variants, indicating the good quality of milk from Piemontese cows for cheese.
As we do not have individual information for milk production of cows, we cannot provide any advise about sire bloodlines more suitable for milking purposes.