Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science
Breeds of Livestock - Asturian Mountain Cattle
Also known by: Asturiana de la Montaña, Casina, Asturiana Oriental
Asturian Mountain is a local Spanish beef breed of enormous foraging capacity and good maternal ability. It is reared in extensive conditions in the East of the "Principado de Asturias", in the north of Spain, mainly in the mountain range of the "Picos de Europa" within the National Park of Covadonga.
The "Asturiana de la Montaña" breed (RAM) has been part of the landscape and ecosystem of the east of Asturias for a very long time, carrying out an important role in the conservation of the natural environment and landscape and as a consequence, in the fixation of the population in poor areas.
The breed belongs to the Cantabric branch of very ancient origins, and perhaps related to the Asturian Valley breed. The RAM is the descendant of the eastern "Roxa" beef group, historically located in the "Principado de Asturias". This groups is distinct from the western "Roxa", despite of evidence of further variability among animals and among areas within the population. For centuries, breeders of the eastern "Roxa" group in the council of Caso and bordering valleys such as Ponga, selected for higher milk yields aimed at cheese production. This selection made a reputation for the bulls from the council of Caso because of their daughters’ higher milk yield, and changed their farms into sire exporters for the whole of the east of Asturias, playing an important part in the fixation of what nowadays we know as the Asturian Mountain breed.
The official census of the RAM proceeds from the herdbook which is managed by the Breeders Association of Selected Asturiana de la Montaña Cattle (ASEAMO) since its creation in 1978. Despite of the slow growth of the population, industrial crossing, mainly with sires of the Asturian Valley breed, has caused a decrease in the number of purebred Asturian Mountain dams. On the other hand, there is a growing demand for RAM dams from breeders from outside Asturias for rearing in extensive systems and for industrial crossing with sires from other industrial beef breeds, which is affecting the availability for reposition stock in the home of the breed.
The following points can be considered as the standard breed characteristics: Medium head with straight profile and big occipital protuberance. Small ears with much hair and slightly prominent eyes with a calm look. Horns born in the elongation of the nape of the neck, shorter and wider in the bulls, horizontal in the base and directed ahead and up with their ends directed to the back and outside. Medium neck, thin except in the male, muscled and with a big and discontinuous dewlap, which continues in little and lean withers, well-joined to the slightly muscular back but well-directed, with a slightly saddled back which ends in the hindquarters, narrow in its back diameters and slightly bent, with the birth of the tail often lifted up.
Descending chest, deep and spacious breast, and well-proportioned abdomen. Short or medium extremities, beefy on the top with very thin skeletal ratios and small, round and hard hoof. Mammary glands with good development and great quality, well-implanted teats and thin and soft skin.
Brown coat, more or less discolored to cream tones, with a white band round the snout and eyes and degraded to creamy colors on the inner part of the extremities, mammary gland, inner part of the thigh and perineal areas. Intensification of the color with black hairs in the edge of the ears and less intense on the edge of the dewlap. The ends, snout, budding horns, eye circles, tail end, and scrotum circle in males, are black as well as the eyelids and eyelashes. The mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, tongue, anus, and vulva are black or slate black.
Farms raising the Asturian Mountain are typically small. with eight RAM cows on average and a variable number of animals from other dairy or dual-purpose breeds, which make use of the little grazing near the farms. The use of the communal pastures in the mountains near the farms is used by the RAM cows. Communal pastures are used in variable dates, usually from the beginning of April to the end of December. For the rest of the year, when the heaviest snowfalls, the animals are fed only with grass hay without any kind of supplement.
- The basic output is the 7-8 month-old weaned calf for the autumn market.
- 15 month-old fed calves.
- 16-18 month-old heifers for production on great demand from extensive farmers of Spanish continental plains, because of their good behavior, rusticity and calving facility (97% of the calvings do not need any help).
- 2.5-3 year-old bulls, used only for replacement, bred extensively, and kept under specific herd management certified by ASEAMO.
- The meat of the animals of the breed "Asturiana de la Montaña" is protected by the label "Casin Meat".
Reference:Alfonso Villa, SpainPhotographs:Alfonso Villa, Spain