Stop 3 – The protection of agriculture biodiversity: the Mucca Pisana, a native cattle breed

Origins
The first documental evidence of the Mucca Pisana (or Mucco) dates back to the early 1800s, in the lower valley of the river Serchio.
The breed derives from the crossing of a local Podolica breed, which is genetically intermediate between the Maremmana and the Pontremolese breeds, with Swiss Alpine Brown (Schwyz) cattle, imported by the Lorena family in the second half of the 1700s. It is possible that the breed was cross-bred further with black-coated Luganese cattle. Since 1850 further breeding has been carried out with other cattle breeds, including Chianina

Main characteristics
The Mucca Pisana has a good aptitude to work, good production of milk which enables it to feed more than one calf and, above all, the good quality of the meat. It has a notable maternal behavior, and can adapt to difficult environments and diets low in energy and rich in fodder. The breed was thus widespread in the early 1900s

Number of heads
The peak was in 1928, with 20,000 heads.
In the following years, the increasing level of mechanization and competition with more productive cattle that were more well-known led to a rapid decrease in numbers breed and by 1978 there were only 60 left.
To prevent the risk of extinction, the Mucca Pisana was added to the Italian registry of indigenous populations and ethnic groups with limited diffusion. In the same year the first regional safeguard program was set up thanks to the work of the technicians from the Breeders association of Pisa and Tuscany.
In 1999 the “Carne bovina di Pisa” brand was established as a guarantee to consumers and also to protect Mucco breeders.
Today there are about 260 Mucca Pisana cattle, in 21 farms. The CiRAA hosts the largest group of the breed, consisting of about 100 animals.
Morphological characteristics
The cattle are medium-sized, have a red-brown coat with a red stripe on the back. The mucous membranes are black like the muzzle, which is surrounded by a white halo

Breeding and production
Originally bred with fixed housing, like many other cattle breeds, the Mucca Pisana adapts very well to extensive or semi-extensive systems, including that of the cow-calf line (the calf remains with the mother and is essentially fed with her milk). The Mucca Pisana has a strong maternal instinct, which led to it being named the “wet nurse par excellence”. In fact, the cow manages to breastfeed two calves in addition to its own.
When properly fed, the calves achieve a good production performance in terms of body growth. The best results are obtained when the fattening phase is carried out in the stable, integrating the diet with cereal flours.
The meat has a low fat and cholesterol content and excellent organoleptic characteristics.