Little is known about cheese-making efficiency at the individual cow level, so our objective was to study the effects of herd productivity, individual herd within productivity class and breed of cow within herd by producing, then analyzing, 508 model cheeses from the milk of 508 cows of six different breeds reared in 41 multi-breed herds classified into two productivity classes (high v. low). For each cow we obtained six milk composition traits; four milk nutrient (fat, protein, solids and energy) recovery traits (REC) in curd; three actual % cheese yield traits (%CY); two theoretical %CYs (fresh cheese and cheese solids) calculated from milk composition; two overall cheese-making efficiencies (% ratio of actual to theoretical %CYs); daily milk yield (dMY); and three actual daily cheese yield traits (dCY). The aforementioned phenotypes were analyzed using a mixed model which included the fixed effects of herd productivity, parity, days in milk (DIM) and breed; the random effects were the water bath, vat, herd and residual. Cows reared in high-productivity herds yielded more milk with higher nutrient contents and more cheese per day, had greater theoretical %CY, and lower cheese-making efficiency than low-productivity herds, but there were no differences between them in terms of REC traits. Individual herd within productivity class was an intermediate source of total variation in REC, %CY and efficiency traits (10.0% to 17.2%), and a major source of variation in milk yield and dCY traits (43.1% to 46.3%). Parity of cows was an important source of variation for productivity traits, whereas DIM affected almost all traits. Breed within herd greatly affected all traits. Holsteins produced more milk, but Brown Swiss cows produced milk with higher actual and theoretical %CYs and cheese-making efficiency, so that the two large-framed breeds had the same dCY. Compared with the two large-framed breeds, the small Jersey cows produced much less milk, but with greater actual and theoretical %CYs, similar efficiencies and a slightly lower dCY. Compared with the average of the specialized dairy breeds, the three dual-purpose breeds (Simmental and the local Rendena and Alpine Grey) had, on average, similar dMY, lower actual and theoretical %CY, similar fat and protein REC, and slightly greater cheese-making efficiency.