Beef (and Dairy) farmers no longer accept that calving time inevitably requires routinely assisting cows to calve, or that late nights and losses are the way to profit. By careful choice of bull, they can make significant progress towards having all their heifers and cows yield a strong live calf every year with no assistance required (excepting malpresentations and sometimes twins).
Calving problems arise with a normally presented calf because the cow has grown a calf inside herself too large for the size of the pelvic opening it must pass through. As strong growth rates are normally associated with heavier birth weights, finding the right balance is not easy. Fortunately, sires can be chosen that reduce the size of their calves and increase the pelvic area of their daughters retained for breeding, without sacrificing important commercial traits like growth rate.
The three traits underpinning easy calving are:
• Calf conformation
• Calf size (birth weight)
• Dam pelvic area
Calf conformation is very important and often overlooked. Some breeds produce calves with a large head, shoulders or hips which where they get stuck. A Salers bull has a strong advantage as he produces calves with a streamline conformation (small heads, slender shoulders and hips).
Calf size is strongly related to birth weight, which is readily measured to enable comparison between breeds and between bulls within a breed. Salers sired calves are small compared to those from many other breeds,
with heifers typically 30-35kg and bulls 35-40kg. These low birth weights in combination with the Salers slender calf conformation are the secret of the Salers effortless easy calving. Salers breeders submit birth weights to Breedplan along with their calf registrations which generate useful birth weight EBVs to assist purchasers with picking low birth weight sires.
Gestation length contributes to birth weight, as the calf is growing at about 0.5kg/day inside the cow prior to calving. The Salers gestation length of 280-285 days is about 10 days shorter than other continental breeds, equivalent to taking about 5kg off the birth weight. A significant reduction.
The frustrations and costs of bad calvings are persuading farmers to switch to using a Salers bull in ever increasing numbers (the Salers is now the 8th largest beef breed in the UK), where the beneficial impact is far reaching on the performance of the herd. However, the real payoff comes if the Salers heifers are retained for replacement sucklers, as the Salers bull also confers a very large pelvic area on his progeny. Research in the USA identified that the Salers has the largest pelvic area of any of the major beef breeds. Salers sired cows put to the Charolais or Simmental bull are proving very successful as they calve unassisted to these breeds and have the milk and mothering ability to rear an outstanding calf that commands a premium at market.
If you are sick of bad calvings and looking for an easy calving bull, then choose a Salers bull for its unique combination of slim calf conformation, low birth weight and large pelvic area.