Milk yield and quality characteristics of an endangered Italian cattle breed: the Pontremolese

  • Mina Martini University of Pisa
  • Iolanda Altomonte University of Pisa
  • Francesca Gabrielli Ambito Territoriale di Caccia
  • Achille Guastalli Associazione Regionale Allevatori Toscana
  • Federica Salari University of Pisa
Keywords: Pontremolese cow; milk quality; fatty acids; desaturase index


The Pontremolese cow is a relic breed at risk of extinction. It reached a minimum number of heads bred in 2008 (14 heads) and more recently a slight increase was recorded in the number of individuals bred to about 70 heads. To date according to the FAO, the situation of the breed remains critical.

Given its great rusticity, the Pontremolese is used for the cow-calf breeding system in marginal areas and for the production of a typical local single-breed cheese.

This study characterizes for the first time the quality and nutritional characteristics of the Pontremolese cow's milk in order to enhance its production

Milk samples were taken from Pontremolese cows and analyzed at 30, 60 and 90 days of lactation.

Milk was characterized by a protein content of 3.42% ± 0.344 and a fat content of. 3.5% ± 1.779. The average diameter of the fat globules was 4.63 µm ± 1.279, while the analysis of the fatty acid profile showed an average content of 69% saturated fatty acids, 31% unsaturated fatty acids, and an omega 6 / omega 3 ratio of 4.14. In addition, the milk had a higher fat desaturation index (29.25) than that reported in the literature for Bruna and Italian Friesian cattle. During the first 90 days of lactation, no statistically significant changes were observed in the quality of the milk, or in the fatty acid profile. Increases were found in the lipid content, the fat globule diameter and in the content of C15:0, C18:1 t9, C18:1 t11, of C18:3 n3 and total omega 3. Similarities in the fat and protein content were observed Reggiana cows, which are traditionally used for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. These similarities could be related to the hypothesis that traces the origin of the breed back to a variety of the Reggiana cow.

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