Purebred and Crossbred Tarentaise Cattle


We purchased our first Tarentaise bull in 1980 and have stayed with the breed in spite of market changes, fads, and pressures. Many years ago I interviewed the late Dr. Ray Woodward, one of the most noted cattle scientists of all time and the man behind the importation of the Tarentaise breed.

Ray told me Tarentaise were by far the best cross on our domestic Hereford and Angus cattle.

For a number of years we raised registered Tarentaise and I was director of the breed's public relations and advertising. But when I saw breeders going to an extreme with the cattle we left the registered business to concentrate on simple, hard-working, rugged cattle that fit the commercial cattlemen. Tarentaise offer moderate size, body length, milk production, udder construction, dark pigment, intelligence, hardiness, longevity, leanness, good legs and feet, and good dispositions.

Hereford and Angus contribute fleshing ability and carcass traits.

In the past few years we have cut down on our cattle numbers and take in more pasture yearlings. The cows we have retained are from one-half to purebred Tarentaise. For outcrosses we have utilized a few select Polled Hereford bulls but mostly we use Red Angus and Black Angus bulls. The Red Angus influence has come primarily from the Panhandle Ranch in Nebraska. The black influence is Ohlde genetics, notably the bulls Homer and Magua, through bulls we've purchased from Terry Todd of Cohagen, Montana.

The current trend of all-black cattle herds is because of the Certified Angus Beef program. The problem with this trend is the loss of heterosis. No matter what a breeder says, one does not get the same hybrid vigor from variation-within-the-breed as one does with crossbreeding.

I am partial to the Tarentaise/Hereford cross if the right type of Hereford cattle are used. The Hereford cattle I would look for would have a moderate frame, thickness and ample pigment. Unfortunately these cattle are difficult to find.

The Red Angus/Tarentaise cross is also excellent. I like red-hided cattle so I am not as partial to the Black Angus/ Tarentaise cross. The two black bulls we utilize in our program carry a recessive red gene allowing us to sell their black calves and keep the red heifers for replacements.

Because of the dark pigment around their eyes and nose and on the shoulders of the bulls, many have confused the Tarentaise breed with Jersey cattle. They are actually not similar at all and the two are not related. Tarentaise are native to the French Alps and are a dual purpose milk/beef breed. Jan Bonsma, the renowned cattle expert, stresses in his writings the importance of dark pigment on feet, udders, nose and eyes. Bonsma also claims darkness on the bull's shoulders, as seen with Tarentaise males, is a sign of vigor and vitality.

Others follow trends and may profit in the short-term, but we have stayed with what we believe works. A Tarentaise-cross mother cow works on the Northern Plains.