BREED ORIGIN AND HISTORY
Salers (pronounced Sa’lairs) originate in the Southern half of the Massif Central in the Auvergne region of France. It has a rough and variable climate, and though higher, 2000-6000 ft, is very similar to our Lake District and the Highlands of Scotland and Wales. The Salers is one of the oldest breeds in the world, with prehistoric cave paintings suggesting that a similar type of animal has been bred in the area for 7-10,000 years. They appear to be closely related to the old Celtic breeds and the African breeds, and were probably located in the Massif Central when red cattle migrated from Africa through the Iberian Peninsular and on into northern Europe and the British Isles.
What is certain is that Devons, Durhams, (Shorthorns) and West Highland cattle were imported into the Salers area in the mid 19th Century with the intention of improving the breed. At the same time a M. Tyssandier D’Escous challenged the introduction of outside blood and set about improving the Salers by selecting from within the breed. His method was considered most successful, and he became known as the Father of the Breed. A statue honouring his work stands in the middle of the small mediaeval town of Salers from which the breed takes its name.
From that time until well into the 20th century the breed was improved and developed as a triple purpose animal, Milk-Meat-Draught. Traditionally, this involved the simultaneous production of milk for cheese and a calf for beef production. In 1925 milk recording became compulsory and weight recording started in 1962. Resulting from all this improvement and recording has emerged the ideal suckler cow with bred-in foraging ability, able to utilise and thrive on native
grasses and forage both summer and winter.
BREED CHARACTERISTICS AND QUALITIES
The difficult environmental conditions where the Salers breed developed makes it ideal for the poorer areas of the British Isles and today’s beef industry. Salers are generally horned and dark red, though there are a very small number of black animals. Polled animals in the full blood herd are very rare. However, a growing number of polled and black Salers are becoming available in the pure bred herd. The skin and pigmented membranes are brown and consequently few eye or udder problems occur. A good hair coat which becomes thick and curly in winter gives hardiness and adaptability to
cold and heat. Having roamed the mountains for centuries, and been draught animals they have developed strong legs and good feet with black hooves. Consequently the cattle can travel long distance over rough ground without developing foot
problems. They are equally able to tolerate long periods inside on slats etc. Being one of the oldest and genetically most pure of the European breeds, the Salers produces a positive effect on the predictability in crossbreeding
programmes in a consistent increase in hybrid vigour.
The French National Institute of Agricultural Research has run trials that show that Salers cows and heifers are able to draw on their body reserves when food is scarce to produce sufficient milk for their calf, building them up again quickly when grazing is plentiful. The same trials show that Salers are only fully mature at 5 to 6 years of age.
Measured on farm
Average weight of mature cows 650-850kg
Average weight of mature bulls 1000-1200kg
Average height of withers of cows 144cm
Average height of wither of bulls 154cm
Measured at the Paris Show
Average weight of cows 5 years + 844kg
Average weight of bulls 4 years + 1209kg
Heaviest weight of cow 963kg
Heaviest weight of bull 1401kg
(Heavier weights have now been recorded in the U.K)
Fixed through its heritage the Salers female displays exceptional maternal qualities of fertility, milking ability, calving ease, hardiness and longevity. High percentage calf crops resulting from the inherent fertility of Salers are
realised through early puberty, quick rebreeding and high conception rates coupled with the breeds predictable calving ease and large pelvic structure. Further maternal advantage is realised through the Salers ability to wean a heavy calf and take care of herself. More kilograms at weaning result from the combination of good lactation and lean growth factors. Suckler cow herd costs are minimised though the breeds foraging ability, winter hardiness and minimal feet, eye and udder problems. Salers are known for their longevity and “wearability” no doubt due to many of the factors stated, stress free calving, good feet and legs etc.
In a survey carried out in France, of over 100,000 Salers cows, 25.1% were 10 years old or over and the calving interval was 374 days. Bulls are known for their ability to cover large numbers of females and in the ranching countries bull numbers have been halved and calving percentages have risen, another valuable saving on herd costs.
Salers are a unique breed that combine high carcass quality and fast growth rate yet calve easily.
More live calves per cow put to the bull means more £££’s and it all begins with a trouble free birth. Vigorous calves born with moderate birth weights and slender long foetal conformation have gained Salers a proven reputation for easy calving. Salers sired calves offer the cowman the unique combination of increased weaning weights with less management at calving. The dam and the sire both influence the weight and shape of the calf at birth.
Salers calves are relatively light at birth, about 36 Kg for heifers and 38 Kg for bulls, they are also long and rather flat in shape, it is this feature which makes the Salers bull very popular for crossing with commercial and dairy heifers.
The Salers influence contributes a large pelvic area to cross bred replacement females and will allow commercial suckler cowmen to utilise heavily muscled terminal sires in a cross breeding programme with less concern about calving difficulties.
FEEDING AND CARCASS
The final measurement of a breeds capabilities is the economic production of a lean, nutritious and palatable protein product. That is what beef production is all about, Salers consistently produce the product that the industry and
consumer demand. Salers and their crosses are being proven both by the
feeder and the butcher. Competitive live weight gains and efficient feed conversion have been documented by the feeder, whilst the butcher appreciates carcasses that are of industry acceptable weight from approximately 10-16 months and producing top grades. Salers cattle are extremely flexible in the finishing yard enabling feeders to make the best of the markets highs and lows. The Salers is a carcass breed that calves easily and consistently produces carcasses that are high in quality and lean in composition. Salers are producing an industry preferred product that is making the breeder, the
feeder, the butcher, and the retailer take notice.
THE BEGINNINGS OF SALERS IN THE U.K.
In the spring of 1984, a herd of Salers was founded in Cumbria - 60 females and 4 bulls with as wide a genetic base as possible. Consequently, heifers by 45 different sires and 4 bulls completely unrelated to each other were imported into the U.K. from France.
All the cattle were first choices. Growth rate, docility, femininity, straight top lines and correct legs were the main criteria for selection. All dams, and granddams where possible, were inspected and had to come up to the same standard. In that importation were two females carrying the poll factor. All lived up to expectations, bred and gave no calving problems whatsoever.
From the original importation Salers cattle quickly spread all over the British Isles from the Shetlands to Cornwall and Ireland. The Salers Cattle Society of the U.K. was formed by Bryan Walling, Robert Hudson, Fiona Walling, Thomas Dobson and Bruce Worsley of Crosthwaite, Kendal.
The first AGM was held in November 1986, at that point there were a mere 10 members. Bryan Walling was elected as first Chairman. Since then the breed has continued to expand throughout 1000 Salers are being registered annually by 175 members.
The Society is divided into Areas and is governed by a Council made up from the Area Representatives.