Visiting a Salers farm in the Centre

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If there’s one thing rural France has an abundant supply of, it is beautiful churches.

I was up on le Cher in the Centre to visit a Salers farm, one that has 200 mother cows on 320 hectares. This was a much bigger operation than the one we run. They get a lot of demand for direct sale of Salers beef but with the workload of 200 mother cows there’s no way to deal with direct sales too.

One of the things I was looking at was a bull for the farm. This farm keeps all their male calves intact (i.e. no castration, no steers). Bulls grow faster than steers and produce lean tender beef at a young age. This farm aims at 20-24 months but I have heard of other farms doing bull beef at 14-18 months. This is a quick way to get a return for raising your own calves.

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This guy was paying me close attention.

The downside of bulls is that you have to separate them from the herd if you want any control over your genetics or if you want your fences intact. So they have over a hundred bulls fattening in pens. This works well for the cooperative or auction market, but isn’t something we want to do for direct sale. We think good beef takes time and that steer beef, although slower to raise, will produce the best flavor. Still, this farm had a great setup for producing a lot of beef and making a profit.

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Some of the two hundred mother cows are inside. Here they are eating at a cornadis, which is lockable so I can have a look at them. This is different from the attached cows at a lot of farms.

We’re thinking of adding another dozen young mother cows to the herd.

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One of these things is not like the other ones! That’s a Charolaise in amongst the Salers. They are bigger and more muscular than a Salers but are slower to mature and have more birthing and fertility problems. And they don’t taste as good. They are probably the most numerous cow in France with the Limousine and Blonde following after.

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It is the start of the spring birthing season so there were plenty of new calves. These twins were outside, but they had a little straw shelter to keep the wind off.

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This little cross calf was born just before I arrived. Born curious, too.

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4 thoughts on “Visiting a Salers farm in the Centre

  1. Susan Lea says:

    Very interesting! So I gather you didn’t find a bull or cows for your farm?
    Those tiny calves make the ear tags look enormous! 🙂
    Question: At what age do you prefer to butcher steers? They do butcher bull calves around here sometimes, as you said, under 18 months. Also, as you said, I see the problem with trying to keep them separate from the cows. We don’t want ours in pens since they’re supposed to be grass-fed!

  2. ceciliag says:

    This was an interesting look, though a trifle too intensive for me.. don’t they have fantastic horns, they dehorn by rote here and i am considering not bothering, the less interference the better i think, especially for a steer.. good to find you i did not realise that you had a blog each! c

  3. wobbly says:

    Susan, there are potential cows and calves for us at two farms there but we’re figuring out prices and animals. It will take a bit of time.

    We’re planning on keeping the steers until 30 months. I’ve spoken to other grass-finishers of Salers and Devons (in the USA and NZ) and they tend to slaughter them a little younger at 20-24 months. But their genetics may lead to smaller animals that finish earlier. Right now there are no steers on the farm so I don’t know how well they’ll grow here.

    We’ll probably castrate most males at birth and maybe keep a few of the better looking ones intact. I’ve heard of castration ages for Salers in France from about 7 months to 12 months but if you don’t want them breeding you need to separate them around 8 months.

    I’ve spent ages digging in to the mob approach with cows, calves, heifers, bulls and steers all together. As the months tick by most of my questions get answered but there are still a couple of open ones.

  4. wobbly says:

    Some farmers here dehorn. In the USA they have been breeding Salers to be polled and black, the inverse of what they do here. I think the horns are gorgeous but there is a risk if you work closely with them in buildings, although I find Elfie with her smaller horns is more a risk since she is so friendly and will occasionally knock me with her horns whereas the Salers never get closer than sniffing my hand. Perhaps it isn’t the horn but the cow wearing them. 🙂

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