12 January 1996

Weighty Charolais cut down to size

FRENCH Charolais cattle are now too heavy for the hypermarkets.

The breed society has, therefore, set an objective that no carcass should weigh more than 420kg within five to 10 years.

The decision has been made at the request of the hypermarkets. Any carcass exceeding the target will be almost worthless.

At present carcasses average 450kg and fall into a range of 360kg to 500kg, grade as U3 and sell for 243p/kg. But the heavier ones are too big for the supermarkets to handle and do not fit a standard cut size.

To achieve this target the breed society is recommending breeders select bulls proven for easy calving (have a low index for birth weight) and have a high index for weaning weight at 210 days. This is very much a long-term project, as only 10% of the 1.7m Charolais cows in France are served by AI.

The table shows the average growth potential for 70,000 Charolais bulls and the same number of heifers before weaning in 1994.

In five years breeders hope to have contained birth weight but still improve weaning weights. In the early 1970s calves weighed 3kg less at birth and cows averaged 800kg. Now it is commonplace for cows to weigh in at 1t.

Producers are also keen to contain birth weight as herd size begins to creep up to about 50 cows and leaves the farmer less time for individual calvings.


Charolais growth potential (calving to pre-weaning) 1994

MaleFemale

Ave weight andAve weight and

dlwg since birthdlwg since birth

Birth48kg45kg

120 days177kg (1075g a day)163kg (983g a day)

210 days288kg (1148g a day)253kg (991g a day)

dlwg=daily liveweight gain