Lyre-shaped horns, tan coats, white around the nose and eyes, black extremities are the main features of Aubrac cattle, without forgetting their mascaraed eyes making them unique and highly photogenic !
The Aubrac is a rustic suckler breed born on the Aubrac plateau. It has managed to adapt perfectly to extreme climate conditions - differences in temperature, wind and cold. Aubrac cattle are today increasing and expanding both locally and nationally and even abroad. It is known for being tough and resistant.
In the old days, breeding efforts focused on dairy production and their aptitude as draught oxen. The end of animal power redirected the size and musculature towards producing beef cattle using a suckling system.
In 1947, the bronze bull by Georges Guyot was installed on the Place du Forail in Laguiole and become the proud representative of the Aubrac breed and the village.
Its maternal qualities, confirmed dairy capabilities, fitness for walking, excellent fertility, huge calving and suckling abilities, longevity (average culling age: ten years), calving regularity and the simplicity of its behaviour makes it a breed of efficient mothers in the meat production economy, both as a pure breed and when crossed with a bull from a specialist beef breed.
The Aubrac farmers prefer extensive livestock farming that promotes animals fed almost exclusively on grass and forage produced on the farm. The calves are reared on their mothers' milk.
A rustic suckling breed with unquestionable breeding qualities.
Around the 25 May the cows, their calves and the bull set off for the "Montanha" (mountain). This is known as transhumance*, the traditional moving of livestock into the mountains. They will enjoy the good air and exceptional flora during the summer.
In the autumn, as soon as the chill sets in, the cows return to the area around the farms: this is the "Davalada" (going down) around the 13 October. The calves are then separated from their mothers (to be sold later on or to be used for reproduction and breed renewal purposes). As for the cows, they will return to their sheds when the first snow falls and the freezing weather starts for the winter where they give birth to the calves.
The Aubrac, a white plateau in winter and green in summer. This brief description explains the existence of a pastoral life, rich in tradition. The limestone causses (plateaux) are green in the winter and yellow in summer. This natural contradiction had inevitably to link them one day.
The hyphen between these two regions - the Aubrac and the Causse - is the transhumance of herds. Kept in cowshed during the winter from November to April (the calving period), the animals set of to the heights of the Aubrac towards the end of May. The time spent by the herds on the plateau - from May to October - is called the mountain pasture period.
The dates for the transhumance are age-old: upwards on or about 25 May, Saint Urban's Day, downwards on or about 13 October, Saint Gerald's Day.
The herds reach the mountain pastures in long lines. The journey - 70 km in some cases - and the long, solitary stay on the mountain for the men quickly turned this "annual pilgrimage" into a festival for the regions and villages crossed. On this occasion, the cows are decorated, embellished with flowers and foliage, bells are fixed with wide leather collars, etc. They follow the "Queen" of the herd decorated with a splendid branch - the queen is the oldest cow in the herd and sets the pace for the walk. The calves born in the year follow their mothers in lorries.