Author: Dr. Igor Prka spec. dr. vet. Center for artificial insemination “Toplek”
Not so long ago, Serbia was very famous in Europe for the production and export of beef. In our country, there are very good conditions for keeping cattle (tradition, fodder production, required area, etc.). Based on these facts alone, it is not difficult to conclude that cattle breeding in Serbia has all the conditions to once again become the leading branch of not only animal husbandry but also agriculture as a whole.
Milk production is much more complex, starting with insemination and pregnancy of cows, calving and rearing of calves, milking and handling of milk, all the way to competitiveness in marketing. On the other hand, cattle fattening is significantly simpler, including the placement of fattened cattle or beef.
The “cow-calf” system of keeping cattle, which is used in the breeding of fattening breeds, implies free keeping and movement of all categories (cows, calves and fat heads) with free grazing for at least six months a year.
In the rest of the year, the goats are kept in stables, where they also move freely, and are fed with the food obtained from the meadows in the immediate vicinity. This ensures a less intensive and more natural diet in the stables. The result is meat that is of safer origin and of higher quality.
On higher grounds, for example above 800 meters above sea level, provision of food for the winter period exclusively in the form of hay is increasingly being introduced. In this way, the conditions for not only healthy but also organic production of beef are being met more and more. Such a product is already increasingly in demand and has a safe and good placement. It is an additional chance for Serbia, which has not been used, and it has all the conditions for it.
The advantage of fattening breeds compared to others is primarily early maturing, a good ability to adapt to different conditions on farms, and one of the features is that the cows are more modest in their diet and are more suitable for the use of poorer green mass. In addition, they do not require larger financial investments in construction facilities and equipment than dairy breeds of cattle. Finally, the cost of human labor in keeping these cattle is lower, which also has an impact on their selection for breeding.
Charolais is a very old breed. Figures found in excavations from the era of the Roman Empire, which depict Charolais-type cattle, as well as religious sources referring to sacrificial white-colored cattle, indicate the beginnings of its cultivation. There is written information from the year 878 in which the name Bogenis is mentioned, which in Celtic means “the settlement of the white ox”, and may be associated with Charolais cattle.
The Charolais breed of cattle was named after the French province of Charolais, and is believed to have originated from cattle that came to France from Italy with the Roman legions.
At the end of the 18 In the 19th century, in an effort to improve certain characteristics of the cows of that time, the then primitive Charolais cows were crossed with Shorthorn (shorthorn) bulls imported from England, from the county of Durham.
Through the intensive application of selection with the aim of faster growth and earlier fattening, breeding in close blood relatives, a new type of Charolais cattle was created, which is characterized by excellent fattening ability.
In this way, special animals were created for meat production, so their population increased, especially after the Second World War, when it began to spread throughout the world and influence the creation of new breeds (chebrei cattle in the USA, canchim cattle in Brazil). .
Today, the Charolais is considered the leading breed in the world in terms of the amount of pure meat produced per head.
They are large and heavy cattle with a large frame, with pronounced width and depth. They have a short and broad head, a relatively short and muscular neck and a long and deep body. Their back line is straight with many muscles.
The extremities are short, and the skin is of medium thickness, covered with soft wheat-colored hair. The height of the withers of adult cows is on average 138 cm, and that of bulls is 145 cm. The average body weight of cows is around 800 kg, and that of bulls is 1,250 kg.
The coat is solid white to cream color, the mucous membrane is solid light without pigmentation, the horns are yellow as wax and the hooves are light. The head is relatively small and short, with a wide forehead and a large loss. The body is characterized by a deep chest, rounded ribs, a well-connected shoulder, a very muscular back, long and full loins and a very wide pelvis. The thighs are rounded and deep, and the legs are relatively short.
Cows are kept in breeding for an average of 7 years and during that time they give 4-5 calves, and during one lactation they give an average of about 2,500 liters of milk. Milk is used to feed calves up to 4 months of age, and then it is used for consumption. Charolais beef achieves excellent results in fattening with green mass and concentrate up to the age of 15-18 months and achieves a final weight of 550-600 kg without a particularly fatty carcass.
However, when breeding in pure blood, it can be difficult during calving because the pelvis does not open enough in relation to the weight of the fetus (large calves), so thirty years ago, almost every other calving required the help of a human. However, the influence of selection on reducing calf weight has reduced the number of heavy calvings, although this number is still above average compared to other breeds of cattle.
Charolais today in the world, due to the aforementioned characteristics, is used for crossing with other meat breeds of smaller frame, but also with dairy breeds for improved growth.
When it comes to combined breeds, crossbreeds with the Simmental breed stand out, which are better than purebred Simmental cattle in fattening and slaughtering characteristics.
In areas with a high number of sunny days, Charolais cattle can have skin problems, eye cancer or conjunctivitis due to their light coat. Animals can have horns or be genetically hornless.
The quality of this breed is good fertility and maternal ability of cows. They are long-lived and give birth to 10-12 calves in their lifetime. Of the 100 admitted females, about 91% remain pregnant and about 80 pregnant calves are obtained.
In Serbia, this breed appeared more significantly in the late 80s and early 90s of the 20th century. There are few places where purebred Charolais cows are kept. One of the places where these characteristic white cows can be found is Susek near Bačka Palanka.
In our country, the Livestock Veterinary Center Krnjača is the only one that has a breeding bull of the Charolais breed. The bull in question is Fratello, who was born in 2010 and came to Serbia two years later. It is also a kind of attraction due to its appearance, primarily for pupils and students who visit this oldest Center of ours. Fratello was born in Austria, and is a combination of the French bull Valseur and the Swiss mother Barbie.