Telemark Cattle

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Telemark Cattle

Telemark cattle (or Telemarkfe) are Norway’s oldest cattle and were standardized as a breed as early as 1856. The cattle are red-sided or brindled with a white stripe along the back from head to tail. The chest, abdomen, udder, legs and tail should also be white. The head is dappled red, and cattle have sculpted, fine horns. Black-sided, gray-sided and hornless individuals also exist. Mature cows average 500 kg in weight. Like other older breeds, Telemarkfe are well adapted to grazing, and their agility and smaller size helps them to utilize a large part of grazing land along rough terrain and in dense scrub areas. Telemark cattle’s meat is tender and marbled, and their high quality milk is well suited for cheesemaking. The breed was first officially exhibited in Kviteseid, Norway, and was long used in crossings with local mountain breeds. The cattle became well established throughout southern and eastern Norway. Telemarkfe became regarded as a national symbol, and many farmers kept at least one cow in their herd. By the late 1980s, however, only 200-300 animals were left. A preservation project was initiated, and the National Association of Telemarkfe is actively promoting the breed. Today, just over 275 head of this critically at risk cattle remain in 81 herds, and most breeders are found in the historic production area. Some Telemarkfe meat is available on the market, and one producer makes ice cream. The majority of milk from the breed is sold to distributors where it is mixed with milk from other dairy breeds. Lack of differentiation on the market or alternative distribution models mean that products from Telemarkfe are not especially well known, and the smaller herds face competition from larger scale farmers with larger herds of imported cattle breeds.

Image: Anna Rehnberg  

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