A Charolais bull is the preferred choice for many Irish suckler farmers.A top quality terminal Charolais sire can be relied upon to produce top quality weanlings and finished cattle. However, in order to take advantage of what the better terminal sires have to offer it is vital to have a seriously functional cow. Step forward the Salers.
The Salers cow offers unparalleled calving ability, an abundance of milk, exceptional calf vigour, excellent fertility and incredible longevity. Boasting the largest pelvis of all breeds,the Salers is the best placed cow to calve unassisted on a consistent basis even to terminal sires.
So what can you expect from a spring calving Salers based herd calving to a Charolais bull? Let’s examine a typical year beginning with calving. The Salers cow will generally calve unassisted. Even using Charolais bulls a caesarean section in a Salers based suckler herd is very rare and the calving jack is usually left gathering dust during the calving season. In fact, many farmers who have had Salers cows in their herd for a number of years remark that they would no longer feel confident using a calving jack due to a genuine lack of practice.As well as the Salers cow’s large pelvis which gives her a physical advantage over all other breeds at calving,the Salers cow is teak tough and very fit by nature which means that, even when a difficult calving does occur, she will generally withstand it and rarely “go down”.
Once calved both the cow and calf get to work.The Salers cow’s natural maternal instinct means that she will immediately begin to lick the calf with gusto and nudge him towards the udder. It is quite remarkable to see how hard working and devoted the newly calved Salers cow is. (It should be noted that the Salers’ strong maternal instinct, while very advantageous in terms of calf survival, can often lead to the cow being quite protective of the new born calf.) The calf will play his part too. Many suckler farmers will be familiar with seeing a big soft new born bull calf, well licked and dry, lying on a bed of straw with no intention of standing and sucking. Cue an hour or two of lifting, pushing, holding him on his feet, putting the teat in his mouth, nudging the cow to the locking gate if she is twitchy, etc. Hard work! After all that,most suckler farmers then have to get cleaned up and go to work, part time farming being the norm.You come home from work in the evening and are fairly certain that your fine bull calf still hasn’t sucked independently and so you go through the same routine again. However, if that big bull calf is out of a Salers cow a very different experience can be expected. The much lauded hybrid vigour coming through in any cross with a Salers is a real pleasure to see in action in a large yet lively golden bull calf standing and sucking unassisted within an hour of birth.
In the days and weeks after calving the Salers cow recovers quickly and can often be observed cycling exceptionally quickly. She will achieve a calving interval of 365 days without fuss. In fact, if you do not want earlier calves each year then keep the bull away.The Salers will calve every eleven months at her ease if let.
Now let’s fast forward to weaning. Expect the Salers cow to wean a Charolais bull calf in excess of 350kg without supplementation. This means that the farmer producing weanlings for the autumn sales will arrive at the mart with that much sought after golden Charolais cross calf,the cow having done the business on grass alone. His Salers cow is at home back in calf. Even though she has plenty of milk it is unlikely that she will pick up mastitis at weaning due to the tight sphincter muscle in most Salers.
The dry cow is easily maintained over the winter. Due to their rough grazing background in France the Salers cow is very happy to winter on stemmier silage or hay. She is also fit and robust enough to withstand a winter on concrete better than most breeds and be ready for calving again in the Spring. She can be expected to repeat this routine of calving unassisted,rearing a super calf and going back in calf easily for many, many years as longevity is another key trait of the Salers breed.
Suckling makes sense with Salers.