The first Piemontese cattle arrived in Ireland in the 1980’s from the region of Piedmont in Northern Italy. In recent years there has been huge increase in popularity with a doubling in Society membership and over 320 Pure Bred Piemontese imported from Italy.
The Society is currently developing the domestic beef market where the low cholesterol and tender lean meat virtues of Piemontese beef are very much in demand. This is a market for Piemontese cattle that is going to expand enormously in the near future.
Piemontese are not only double muscled but are easily calved and quickly produce this super lean but tender beef. This beef is held in such high regard in Italy that it is called the “Queen of Beef” and there is always a shortfall in the demand for it over there. This is a niche market that the Piemontese Society is actively exploring whether by live export to Italian feed lots or on the hook.
Piemontese beef is exactly what the lucrative Italian market requires.
The Piemontese Breed
The Piemontese cattle breed is a beef breed of medium size that converts forage very well into beef and has a high kill out percentage. Recently slaughtered bulls in Ireland have had a K.O. % of 70%. The quality of commercial cuts is higher than that of bigger-sized breeds and the carcass wastage is minimal.
The Piemontese breed is light boned with a fine elastic skin and a low quantity of fat. It has lean and tasty meat that is also very tender thanks to a double quantity of the myostatin gene.
The breeding objective is to produce an early maturing high quality Piemontese animal that is suitable for the European market. This is achieved through the genetic improvement of traits such as slaughtering age, live weight gain, feed conversion efficiency, dressing-out percentage, carcass characteristics, meat quality, calving ease and fertility. In addition, milk production is considered in the selection. Furthermore, breeding objectives are concerned with eliminating any genetic flaws.
A distinct characteristic of the Piemontese cattle breed is muscular hypertrophy, better known as the ‘double muscle factor’ caused by a natural mutation which causes a considerable increase in muscular mass and consequently in dressing out percentage, due to an increase of the muscular fibres. Furthermore, it causes a decrease of the quantity of inter-muscular fat and of connective tissue, giving major tenderness to the meat.
The double muscle factor appeared at the beginning of last century and has spread progressively over the breed. Currently, nearly all animals in the herdbook possess this characteristic and a very high percentage of the breed as a whole possesses this characteristic.
The bulls have a grey or pale fawn coat, with black hairs on the head (especially around the eye sockets), on the neck, the shoulders, the distal regions of the limbs and sometimes on the lateral faces of the body and the hind limbs.
The cows have a white or pale fawn coat with shades of grey or pale fawn. At birth the coat of the calves is of a deep pale fawn colour. The tongue, the palate and the external mucosae are black.
The cows are of a medium size (550 – 600 kg). At birth the calves weigh on average from 40 to 45 kg. The male fattening calves are ready for slaughtering at a weight of 550-650 kg when they are about 15 -18 month old. The female calves are ready for slaughtering at a weight of approximately 350-450 kg when they are about 14-16 months old.
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