Farmers are increasingly turning to the Salers breed for herd replacements.
Famous for their ease of calving, placid nature and good overall conformation, demand for good Salers X females is strong. While pedigree Salers have long been highly sought after, more and more farmers are realising the value of Salers as part of a commercial suckler herd.
The Salers breed originates in the Auvergne region of France. First introduced to the UK in 1984, there are now thriving Salers herds across the UK and Ireland, with an active and dedicated breed society to promote and improve the breed.
Originally developed as a triple purpose animal (milk, meat and draught), the modern day Salers has a lot to offer.
Their thick curly coats make them winter hardy, while strong legs and feet help them thrive indoors or out.
They are long lived, highly fertile and adapt well to any management regime.
On farm trials suggest that part of the secret of the Salers’ exceptionally easy calving is a shorter gestation period. On average, a Salers dam calves around 2 weeks earlier than most breeds.
Birthweights are moderate (around 36kg for heifers and 38kg for bull calves). At birth, calves have a fairly long, slim conformation, while Salers and Salers X dams have a wide pelvic area.
Calves are frequently observed on their feet and suckling within around 15 minutes. This stress free calving gets both dam and calf off to a flying start.
The Salers female has an unrivalled ability to produce good quality milk for her calf while maintaining her own condition. Calves are vigorous, have excellent growth rates and make rapid weight gains after birth.
For producers and finishers, feed conversion rates are high, and quality finished beef can be achieved at 16 months.
Conversely, as part of a suckler herd Salers cows are renowned for their longevity. Studies have shown that over a quarter of the breeding females in France are 10 years old and over. Fertility is high, with an average calving interval of just 374 days
With all these advantages bred in, it’s easy to see why so many farmers are adding Salers to their suckler herds.
Aled and Endaf Jones, owners of the Wernol Salers herd, have been using Salers bulls with their mixed herd of Limousin and British Blue crosses since 2007.
‘We chose the Salers bull for easier calving, and we’ve been delighted’ said Aled. ’It has made such a difference that we decided to keep the best females as herd replacements. 50% of our herd is now Salers X and we’re planning to up that to 75% by next season’.
Vet Dafydd Jones, MRCVS agrees. ‘It’s very rare to assist a Salers female at calving’ he says. ‘Generally, I find that Salers cattle are a tidy breed. They have good udders, excellent feet and are ideal for breeding herd replacements. It offers farmers a good route to keeping a closed herd’.
Alun Jones of Glan Mor Salers keeps 250 cross females. Finished stock is sold at deadweight. Alun typically finishes his Salers X cattle at 21 months. Steers average 410kg, while heifers average 370kg. 50% grade at –U and the remaining 50% at R. ‘In a large commercial operation, ease of calving is absolutely essential’ says Alun. ‘The Salers breed offers me easily managed, fast growing cattle that convert feed efficiently’
Retailer Conrad Davies owns a network of Spar supermarkets, and stocks Salers beef in his award winning Pwllheli store as well as his EuroSpar branch in Dolgellau. He places great importance on local sourcing of quality products.
‘Salers beef is naturally marbled, hangs and matures well, with just the right amount of fat cover’, he says. ‘It’s of premium quality and we can source it locally, so it really deserves its place in our range.