The Waldviertler Blondvieh (Gelbvieh breed) is an indigenous cattle breed from Waldviertler, in lower Austria. Due to a low milk production and slower growth, it is very robust and resistant. Combined with a strong maternal instinct, the cattle is perfect for breeding. In addition, the Waldviertler Blondvieh is a very accessible and abiding working animal.
The monochromatic animal (bright red to blonde) has an incarnadine muzzle, yellow-grey horns and claws and a shorthaired, fine coat.The small framed, easy calving (eutocia) and late mature cattle is slender and muscular at an average.
High meat quality is the most prominent characteristic of the Blondvieh.
In organic farming, the animals are kept and bred according to the regulations of BIO AUSTRIA and AUSTRIA BIO GARANTIE. Due to their easy calving, calves are almost always born without assistance and immediately stay in the herd of mother cows.
The animals are raised on the pasture or in open or covered runs for animals. Some of the male calves are castrated when about five months old. At the age of about 10 months bulls and bullocks are separated from the herd.
The bull for breeding, which belongs to the farm and is allowed, based on the herdbook, to mate stays with the herd of mother cows. Due to the small population of Blondvieh, a second mother herd is kept on the farm which mates with a bull from another farm to avoid inbreeding.
Sturdier animals with high performance and distinctive breed characteristics are selected by the farmer for the breeding and are registered in the breeding program by the Austrian genetic cattle breeding association.
Animals not used for breeding are slaughtered when 20 to 24 months old and sold via direct marketing.
A special characteristic is the fat-protein ratio of this ancient breed. Due to the slow growth of the animals, the meat is more tender and marbled than common beef. Its fibres are more delicate, its taste meaty even when unseasoned. The slow maturing process and gain of weight also guarantees easily digestible milk. The fodder consists of either organic forage or hay, depending on the season. A small amount of mineral nutrients and a salt lick are added to round off the diet.
Based on handed down tradition over generations the cow from which the newborns got the milk were fed with special hay that was kept only fort his particular reason in order to guarantee that the produced milk is very high in quality. Blue-collar families kept Waldviertler Blondvieh up to the mid 20th century not only for milk but also as a draft animal for the conveyance.
The animals grazed on marges and pastures led by a herder and contributed to the landscape maintanance.
The Waldviertler Blondvieh originates from a crossing between the old illyric-celtic cattle with cattle from the Hungarian plains. After another crossing with the Frankenvieh, some regional breeds (Gföhler, Zwettler, Raabser) developed around the turn of the 19th century. They hardly differed from each other and soon they all were called Waldviertler Blondvieh. Especially the Austrian monarch Franz Joseph I and his royal household preferred its meat. For the king's "pot au feu" (boiled beef), only meat from the Blondvieh was allowed.
Traditionally, in the region it was and is still used for Pot au feu (boiled beef) with horseradish sauce (a traditional wedding dish), entrecote with caramelized onions (traditional Sunday meal for peasants), kesselgulasch (beef stew, eaten as a midnight snack at balls) and veal escalope (from a suckling calf from the mother herd, served with Kipfler potato salad).
After the breed started to spread out because of the high meat quality (delicate fibres, dark colour, marbled, intense taste), the Blondvieh Breed Association was founded in 1933.
In WWII, most of the cattle was lost. By crossbreeding Blondvieh with other breeds, farmers tried to breed heavier animals with higher milk yield. Soon they discovered that, due to the rough climate, an increase of performance could only be reached within the breed. In 1954, the peak of the population was reached: in lower Austria, 173,600 Waldviertler Blondvieh cattle were counted.
Due to a lack of quality awareness and the ongoing search for increased performance, most of the farmers changed to breeding Fleckvieh cattle in 1960. Inevitable fodder supplements and the needed infrastructure were massively subsidized with the outcome that Blondvieh cattle was replaced by Fleckvieh cattle.
A few idealistic farmers kept residuals of this breed. In 1982 it was remembered as part of a conservation breeding program - an initiative of the ÖNGENE (Association for the protection and preservation of the genetic material of endangered domestic farm livestock breeds (www.oengene.at)) - to start breeding with the last remaining 23 cows and 3 bulls again. In 1997 there was a controlled herd of 191 animals (in 54 herds), but the breed was still categorized as a highly endangered one.
In the year 2000 the number increased to 268 animals.
In 2006 already 514 control cows and 84 control herds were kept. In 2007, 578 control cows and 87 control herds with a counted population of 1055 animals in 100 farms were registered.
In 2008 according to the Lower Austrian Cattle breeders association the number was at 88 control herds and 586 control cows. This makes the Waldviertler Blondvieh the second most common breed in this region after Fleckvieh.