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نظام معلومات التنوع الحيواني المحلي (DAD-IS)

Cika Cattle: A Comeback Story

16/11/2018

Cika are the only native Slovenian cattle breed. The current population originated from local red cattle improved with the Mölltaler, a now-extinct Austrian breed. Although popular during the first half of the 20th century, the breed eventually risked extinction through genetic dilution, due to continuous crossing with other breeds, particularly the Pinzgauer, Simmental and Brown Swiss. By the late 1990s, fewer than 140 Cika cattle were recognized in the local herdbook.  At that point, urgent action was needed to prevent the loss of this hardy breed and in the early 2000s, systematic breeding work was begun to save and develop the important genetic resource. Around the same time, it came to light that various breeders in mountain farms had conserved around 300 of the original Cika, strictly avoiding crossbreeding by mating cows with their own Cika males for multiple generations. These breeders appreciated the original Cika for its smaller size and other adaptive characteristics for the mountainous environment, including resistance to harsh weather conditions. The introduction of these animals into the herdbook provided an influx of “pure” Cika genetics.

Today the Cika population has increased to around 3000. Cika farms in Slovenia are mainly located in Alpine areas or other marginal environments that are not ideal for grain production. Cattle production systems in this area are mainly based on grazing in the summer and consumption of stored forage in the winter. Cika cattle are now very popular with farmers for a number of reasons, including the breed’s small body frame, coat pattern, early maturity, longevity, disease resistance, ease of calving, and adaptation to poorer feed conditions. Although the indigenous Cika cattle were traditionally kept for milk production and were actually quite efficient, thanks to their low body weight, most of the cows are now reared in the cow-calf system for beef production. Given the inputs, the Cika produce an excellent yield of high quality beef that local consumers demand. All products are sold directly at local markets and the demand for Cika meat is greater than the production, increasing prices and further encouraging the breed’s conservation. Finally, the ecosystem services provided by the Cika are gaining recognition, as its grazing is essential for maintenance of biodiversity in the meadows of the mountainous Slovenian landscape.

Breeders are included in the Association of Indigenous Cika Cattle Breeders in Slovenia. The cooperation among breeders and the government contributions to preserve this special breed has created opportunities for food and economic security through utilization of the unique Cika Cattle characteristics.

Dr. Mojca Simcic  - Edited by Briar Tenold

Photo: Dr. Mojca Simcic

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