Polska czerwona krowa
La Polska czerwona krowa (or Polish red cattle) is a local mountain breed.
This is the oldest dairy cow breed in Poland.
It is thought that this breed’s origins goes back to a wild, central European cow, widespread in Poland from the 16th century, coinciding with migrations.
In the early 1900s, this breed stood was very popular, well known and prized: there were 4 varieties then that today have disappeared. At the end of the 60s, this breed amounted to 18% of the entire Polish cattle population.
In the past few decades, however, it suffered a significant reduction in total number of head, when cross-breeding started and traditional pastures were designated for other activities. For years, Polish red cattle were abandoned and today they are in danger of extinction.
The Polish red cattle produces high quality milk, with a strong protein content and abundant fat for cheese-making. The milk is exceptionally high quality but produced in small quantities: each cow produces on average no more than 10-12 litres of milk a day.
The breed is resistant to disease and can easily adapt to difficult environmental conditions; it is also very fertile and long-living.
Its coat is uniform but variable from red to dark red. Each cow weighs 500kg on average.
Lately, a few programmes have been initiated (financed on a national and European level) aimed at encouraging and promoting this breed’s re-population. Today several farms (usually small to average in size) that raise these cattle depend strongly on the subsidies they receive: the head are considered not very productive compared to other breeds and, according to some, they would not be raised without economic subventions.
Over the past few years, a national association of Polish red cattle has been formed because of the renewed interest in this breed and its potentials.
Today, many examples of this cow can be found in the Malopolska region in southern Poland. Here, the Cistercian priests from the Szczyrzyc Monastery must be mentioned: several head of this breed have been raised after a selective breeding process carried out by the Cracow Agricultural Academy, which identified a small herd of genetically pure cows. In this monastery, the animals live freely in pastures from early May to the end of October, and for the rest of the year, they are kept in a modern, efficient stall, which was built thanks to the Cracow Academy’s help.
A few Polish red cattle can also be found in other areas in Poland (Podkarpacie, Mazovia, Varmia-Masuria, Podlaskie).
This breed’s milk quality is ideal for cheese-making, even though there are few cheese factories who collect it and produce specific cheese varieties.
However, there are a few cheese products using this milk in part: Bryndza (a fresh, spreadable cheese) and redykolka (a cheese already on the Ark of Taste’s list) can be produced using the Polish red cow’s milk in part.