Varzese Cattle

Italy

Lombardy

Breeds and animal husbandry

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Varzese Cattle

Varzese, Tortonese, Ottonese, Cabellotta and Montana are all names for the same breed of cattle, also known in dialect as Biunda for its golden-blond coat, which was once common in the plains of Lombardy, around Alessandria and Pavia and in the Apennines behind La Spezia. Though there are slight differences of coloration in the coat—the Varzese, which shows the Lombard influence, is the palest, while the Ottonese is the darkest, almost brown—the genetics are identical. Different names have simply become established in different areas.
Like most native cattle breeds, it was traditionally used for labor, meat and milk. The animals are small but very hardy and can tolerate unfavorable weather and scarce fodder. This was the breed most used in the rice paddies, because even when it stayed with its legs in the water for a long time, it did not develop inflammation around the ankles as other cattle did. The cattle are strong and well-suited to pulling, both machinery and carts. The name Montanara or Montana comes from their hardiness and suitability to mountain pasturing and they were even able to pull heavy carts laden with logs for woodcutters.
In the past, Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese cattle were often seen at fairs, and in fact it was these fairs that saved the breed, as it was here that enthusiasts could meet, buy animals and keep the cattle-rearing traditions alive. Nonetheless, from a population of 40,000 recorded in the 1950s, by the end of the ‘90s numbers had reached a historic low of around 60. As with other endangered breeds, the reasons behind this steep decline lay in agricultural mechanization, the depopulation of mountain areas and the breed’s lack of specialization in beef or dairy production. Attempts began to be made to save the breed at the start of the 2000s, bolstered by the keenness of the few remaining farmers and a revived attention from institutions. The European Union had in the meantime included the Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese on its list of breeds at risk of extinction, allowing subsidies to be paid to these custodian breeders.

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Season

Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese beef, cured meats and cheeses are available year-round.

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Only a few Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese cattle are recorded in the breed register, spread among small farms that are struggling to keep the breed going. The hardest challenges are linked to a lack of genetic diversity, and the semen for reproduction is collected from a tiny number of bulls with different genetic lines.
The Presidium wants to revive the farming of the Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese breed, primarily through the promotion of the beef but also by encouraging the production of preservative-free cured meats and raw-milk cheeses made without the use of industrial starter cultures. The objective is to bring as many farmers as possible together around a production protocol that specifies a fodder-based diet, supplemented by grains but no soy, GMOs or corn silage. This would ensure the best possible quality of beef and milk.

Production area
Pavia, Milan, Alessandria and Piacenza provinces, Piedmont region

Aietta
Santa Margherita di Staffora (Pv)
Frazione Casale Staffora, 29
tel. 339 5817228
agricola.aietta@alice.it

Cascina Carcassola
Tortona (Al)
Località Rivalta Scrivia
Strada Molino Bruciato, 9
tel. 0131 817254 - 338 6471958
patrizia@carcassola.it
www.carcassola.it

Cascina Selva
Ozzero (Mi)
Via Cascina Selva, 1
tel. 02 9407039 - 347 9775050
info@cascinaselva.it
www.cascinaselva.it

Cascina Santa Brera Grande
San Giuliano Milanese (Mi)
Via Cascina Santa Brera
tel. 02 9838752 - 348 2627530
info@cascinasantabrera.it
www.cascinasantabrera.it

Cirenaica 
Robecchetto con Induno (Mi)
Cascina Cirenaica, 1
tel. 0331 875855 - 347 5471365
info@cirenaica.it
www.cirenaica.it

Elilu
Castelnuovo Scrivia (Al)
Cascina Impero - Strada Piccagallo, 19
tel. 331 2350540
info@elilu.it
www.elilu.it 

I pep lung
Robecco sul Naviglio (Mi)
Via dell'agricoltura
tel. 339 2791291
info@ipeplung.it
www.ipeplung.it

Luciana Kopeschi
Valverde (Pv)
Via Moglio, 2
tel. 0383 589511 - 335 7572267
az.agr.kopeschi@gmail.com

La Forestina
Cisiliano (Mi)
Cascina Forestina
tel. 348 5243970 - 380 1994068
prenota@laforestina.it
www.laforestina.it

La Fuga
Varzi (Pv)
Cascina Cagnano, 1
tel. 0383 5453822 - 338 647255
agritus.lafuga@gmail.com
www.lafuga.it

Roberto Pietro Robustelli Della Cuna
Gorgonzola (Mi)
Cascina Vergani, 1
tel. 366 3721211
roberto.robustelli@gmail.com
Slow Food Presidium Coordinator
Alessandro Cecchini
Tel. +39 02 7381308 – 349 3142947
a.cecchini@slowfood.it

Slow Food Presidium Producers’ Coordinator
Luca Garavaglia
tel. 339 2791291
garavaglia_rds@libero.it
Only a few Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese cattle are recorded in the breed register, spread among small farms that are struggling to keep the breed going. The hardest challenges are linked to a lack of genetic diversity, and the semen for reproduction is collected from a tiny number of bulls with different genetic lines.
The Presidium wants to revive the farming of the Varzese-Ottonese-Tortonese breed, primarily through the promotion of the beef but also by encouraging the production of preservative-free cured meats and raw-milk cheeses made without the use of industrial starter cultures. The objective is to bring as many farmers as possible together around a production protocol that specifies a fodder-based diet, supplemented by grains but no soy, GMOs or corn silage. This would ensure the best possible quality of beef and milk.

Production area
Pavia, Milan, Alessandria and Piacenza provinces, Piedmont region

Aietta
Santa Margherita di Staffora (Pv)
Frazione Casale Staffora, 29
tel. 339 5817228
agricola.aietta@alice.it

Cascina Carcassola
Tortona (Al)
Località Rivalta Scrivia
Strada Molino Bruciato, 9
tel. 0131 817254 - 338 6471958
patrizia@carcassola.it
www.carcassola.it

Cascina Selva
Ozzero (Mi)
Via Cascina Selva, 1
tel. 02 9407039 - 347 9775050
info@cascinaselva.it
www.cascinaselva.it

Cascina Santa Brera Grande
San Giuliano Milanese (Mi)
Via Cascina Santa Brera
tel. 02 9838752 - 348 2627530
info@cascinasantabrera.it
www.cascinasantabrera.it

Cirenaica 
Robecchetto con Induno (Mi)
Cascina Cirenaica, 1
tel. 0331 875855 - 347 5471365
info@cirenaica.it
www.cirenaica.it

Elilu
Castelnuovo Scrivia (Al)
Cascina Impero - Strada Piccagallo, 19
tel. 331 2350540
info@elilu.it
www.elilu.it 

I pep lung
Robecco sul Naviglio (Mi)
Via dell'agricoltura
tel. 339 2791291
info@ipeplung.it
www.ipeplung.it

Luciana Kopeschi
Valverde (Pv)
Via Moglio, 2
tel. 0383 589511 - 335 7572267
az.agr.kopeschi@gmail.com

La Forestina
Cisiliano (Mi)
Cascina Forestina
tel. 348 5243970 - 380 1994068
prenota@laforestina.it
www.laforestina.it

La Fuga
Varzi (Pv)
Cascina Cagnano, 1
tel. 0383 5453822 - 338 647255
agritus.lafuga@gmail.com
www.lafuga.it

Roberto Pietro Robustelli Della Cuna
Gorgonzola (Mi)
Cascina Vergani, 1
tel. 366 3721211
roberto.robustelli@gmail.com
Slow Food Presidium Coordinator
Alessandro Cecchini
Tel. +39 02 7381308 – 349 3142947
a.cecchini@slowfood.it

Slow Food Presidium Producers’ Coordinator
Luca Garavaglia
tel. 339 2791291
garavaglia_rds@libero.it

Territory

StateItaly
RegionLombardy

Other info

CategoriesBreeds and animal husbandry