When the Furness and Taylor family partnership came to a crossroads with their pedigree herd of Holstein Friesians, they decided to buy a small group of Montbeliardes to see if they would thrive in an upland situation.
Rather than opting for a higher proportion of Holstein genetics to give a more productive animal, David Taylor and his son-in-law, Martin Furness chose a breed they felt might be better suited to their hill farm.
Old Hall Farm is all grass, with land rising from about 300-365 metres (1,000-1,200 feet) so a hardy cow which can make the most of forage was a key consideration for the family.
Mr Furness says: “We can grow grass well on this farm but only over a short season. The Montbeliarde has a wide muzzle, allowing it to graze effectively and it is extremely good at converting forage. We are now achieving more than 4,000kg of milk from forage.
“The Montbeliarde ticked all the boxes for us because it is a strong, robust cow with excellent feet. The breed is exceptionally fertile, so it holds well to sexed semen, conceiving to an average of 1.5 straws and the calves always make a good price.”
Although Mr Furness acknowledges there has been a small reduction in milk yield, there are Montbeliarde cows in the herd achieving 13,000kg.
He says: “I liken the Montbeliarde to a diesel engine. When she comes into milk, she will have a slow start but then she will get going and reach the higher yields eventually. We can also expect more lactations from a Montbeliarde and a valuable cull cow at the end of her productive life.”