If the Montbeliarde has very interesting cheese making qualities, it is no coincidence. In Franche-Comté, the origin of the breed, cheese making is an ancient tradition. The traces of the first Comté cheese dairies date back to the XIIIth century. Today still, there are more than 185 dairy processing facilities in this region, that is to say the third of the national number. Six PDOs are produced there: Comté (60% of the collection), Morbier, Mont d’Or, Bleu de Gex, Gruyere and Munster. The two dairy industry schools (Mamirolle and Poligny) have trained cheese makers since 1878.
The breed’s genesis started during the XVIIth century, from ancestors themselves known for their dairy qualities, in particular the Taurache and the Bern breed. The XIXth century corresponds with a period of strong development for dairy cooperatives. Since then, the Montbeliarde has been selected for her dairy qualities and to face the constraint of the dairy industry. In 1891, some cheese dairies already called on milk inspectors to supervise the facilities and to advise.
The dairy schools were an important part of the spreading of hygiene measures and quality. Through a system of lending milk to each other to make a back-up cheese, the Franche-Comté breeders elaborated a robust cooperation system. It provided an improvement to the milk quality; delivering milk twice a day led the producers to meet the cheese makers and to compare their results, with full transparency, during the members’ meetings.
As J-M Ducret says, « pride and necessity override payment when you are good cooperators ». The dairy world’s sensibility and the cooperation induced an improvement in the cheese making abilities of the milk. Since the 1930s, technicians called « chemists » performed tests « with lye » to find out the cows « with cells ». For a long time in Franche-Comté, the milk price is penalized for a cell count above 250.000 cells/mL. It is then no coincidence if the Montbeliarde displays a resistance to mastitis ability above average and if its milk gives a good yield. This historical base has gradually impacted the Montbeliarde’s genetics. The breed has integrated several requirement specifications of PDO cheeses and has been accepted in the strong cheese making regions (Massif-Central, Alps...).