There’s hardly a more idyllic scene than a herd of Montbeliarde cattle grazing. These hardy red and white cows dot fields all over France and throughout the world. They are primarily used as dairy cows due to their high-yield, protein-rich milk, ideal for cheesemaking. However, don’t sell these cattle short—males are also great sources of meat.

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Quick Facts about Montbeliarde Cattle

Montbeliarde (Image Credit: groms78, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 3.0 Unported)
Breed Name:Montbeliarde
Place of Origin:France
Uses:Milk, veal, beef
Bull (Male) Size:2,000–2,600 lbs
Cow (Female) Size:1,300–1,500 lbs
Color:Red and white
Lifespan:20 years
Climate Tolerance:Hardy and adaptable
Care Level:Moderate
Production:7,486 L milk/lactation, 57% live weight beef

Montbeliarde Cattle Origins

The Montbeliarde breed has its ancestry in Bernoise cattle, which were raised by Franco-Swiss Mennonites in the 18th century. As the herds adapted to its environment in eastern France and interbred with local cattle, they soon diverged and, by 1872, they were being shown as their own breed, called the Montbeliarde after a nearby city.

Montbéliarde1 (Image Credit: Clément Eustache, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0 International)

Montbeliarde Cattle Characteristics

Montbeliarde cattle have many useful characteristics that help them stand out as a choice of breed. They are very hardy cattle that are tolerant of cold and heat, and they are generally adaptable to a wide variety of environments. Montbeliarde cattle are known to have few difficulties in calving and a lower rate of mastitis than other breeds and have a longer productive lifespan than many dairy cows, with many experiencing five or more lactations. These characteristics make the breed an overall useful breed.


Montbeliardes are primarily used as dairy cattle. They have slightly lower milk yields than other dairy breeds such as Holsteins; however, they are generally more efficient, producing more milk for their roughage consumption and producing milk for more years. The milk generally has a 3.9% fat and 3.45% protein content, as well as an abundance of Kappa Cesian B variants. These variants and the high protein content make their milk ideal for cheesemaking. Many Montbeliarde cows are fed a hay diet that makes their milk suitable for fine Gruyere cheese.

In addition to their milk production, Montbeliarde cattle are better sources of beef than many dairy cattle. Male cattle are used for both veal (slaughtered at three months) and standard beef (slaughtered at 14–15 months) so male calves are not wasted.

Appearance & Varieties

The Montbeliarde is a sturdy, hardy breed with strong red and white spots. They have short curved horns that are generally white, and white faces with light-colored skin. They have tough feet that are adapted for harsh winter weather, but they tolerate a wide variety of environments. Cows generally weigh around 1,300 to 1,500 pounds, while bulls weigh between 2,000 and 2,600 pounds when fully mature.


The Montbeliarde is one of the most popular breeds of cattle in France to this day, with over 400,000 cattle at any given time. In addition, it’s been extensively exported everywhere from Algeria to the UK to the United States. Many Montbeliarde cattle are used in crossbreeding programs with Holstein and other cattle breeds throughout the US and elsewhere.

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Are Montbeliarde Cattle Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Montbeliarde Cattle are ideal cattle for a small-scale farm. Their slightly lower milk yields are balanced out by the high-quality milk and efficiency. In addition, bulls can be raised for beef instead of culling, adding to their uses in a small farm.

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Featured Image Credit: Clara Bastian, Shutterstock