The Breed

The Charolais Breed

At The Glen
We had been using a Charolais bull since 1974, but decided to set up our own stud when we couldn’t source the type of Charolais we wanted. With the purchase of a bull “Brookfield Umpire” and an in-calf cow with a heifer at foot The Glen Charolais Stud was registered.

Full French is our preferred choice of Charolais because of better coat, hardiness, purer blood lines, temperament and bone structure. They have a longer coat and cope well with our South Island conditions.Our aim is to breed cross breeding bulls that will increase the profit margins to our clients.

The Glen is the only exclusively Full French herd in New Zealand

Why Choose Charolais?

The Charolais cross achieves some of the best gains and is developing a reputation for being able to handle difficult conditions.

But rapid liveweight gain is not the only criterion when producing product for today’s markets and the Charolais cross animals excels when it comes to processing. Their high liveweight gain ensures good carcass weights in less time. Because of their high degree of muscling, they achieve high dressing out percentages. This muscle ratio also means very high eye muscle areas. This is an indicator of a high yield of red meat which some companies are already paying a premium for.

Meat colour and pH are associated with better quality aspects of red meat and the Charolais cross animals achieve the levels that are crucial for premium meat and of course fat levels. The ability to put on lean growth rather than fat is the reason the Charolais cross continues rapid liveweight gain through to heavy carcass weights if desired.

These claims can be easily made, but research from various countries backs up these statements for Charolais sired animals. From New Zealand, comes Manawatu Beef Packers data: This shows Charolais cross animals excel for carcass weight, meat colour and pH and are among the best for dressing out % fat depth and fat colour.

Table One: Carcass and meat quality characteristics of steers processed at Manawatu Beef Packers


Breed or cross Number (steers) Carcass weight Dressing out percentage Fat depth (mm) Fat colour Meat colour Marbling score Meat pH
Angus 13,853 314 56.3 7.8 4.9 5.3 1.6 5.8
Charolais 1,069 345 57.4 4.6 5.0 5.2 1.5 5.8
Friesian 2,077 312 54.0 3.6 5.4 4.5 1.7 5.9
Hereford 4,462 315 56.0 8.4 4.9 5.3 1.6 5.8
Simmental 3,045 331 56.6 5.6 5.0 5.3 1.5 5.8
Limousin 648 329.5 57.2 5.4 5.0 5.3 1.7 5.8

Note: Low fat and meat colour scores are preferable. pH scores of 5.8 or greater lead to poor keeping qualities of meat and less desirable meat texture and flavour.

Any beef breeder knows that there are certain criteria which must be met to ensure profitability:

  • The bull must be able to get the cows in calf
  • It is essential to maximise the number of live calves on the ground
  • These calves must grow fast even when environmental conditions vary All this liveweight gain must translate into high carcass weights
  • This carcass must yield a high percentage of saleable meat that satisfies the quality standards being demanded by today’s markets

Table Four: Growth and carcass attributes of some beef cattle breeds (P. Amer et al. Canadian Journal of Animal Science)


Trait Charolais Simmental Limousin Hereford Angus
Postweaning growth (kg / day) 1.326 1.192 1.115 1.213 1.142
Feed conversion efficiency 6.0 6.5 6.5 6.5 7.0
Dressing percentage 59.5 58.9 61.9 59.1 59.4
Fat depth (mm) 8.2 9.3 9.7 18.9 20.4

It has been shown the Charolais meets these requirements. From farmer, processor and research trials the results all favour Charolais for use as a terminal sire.

Read more about why you should choose a Charolais sire on the NZ Charolais Cattle society webpage

Charolais Breed History

Developed and established in the Charolles district in central France, the ancestors of today’s Charolais were not only used for draught but by the early seventeenth century were also producing highly rated meat for the markets in Lyon and Villefranche (Both renown for their cuisine, even in France). Improvement through selective breeding commenced early in the nineteenth century, and the French Charolais Herd Book was established in 1864.

New Zealand
The first Charolais semen was imported to New Zealand from Britain in 1965 for trials at Lincoln and Ruakura. The following year commercial semen was brought in by Mr J M Sutherland of “Centrewood”, Waimate. He had seen Charolais while on holiday in France and was so impressed at their size that he determined to introduce them to the New Zealand beef scene.

The New Zealand Charolais Cattle Society was inaugurated in 1968 with Mr Jack Sutherland as President. It’s stated aim: To encourage, promote and improve the breeding of Charolais cattle in New Zealand and to establish relationships with other breed societies.

From 1969 till 1981 sixty-one bulls and three hundred and two females were imported from Great Britain forming the basis of the Full French Charolais in the country. The majority of purebred cattle have been bred by “grading up” using a French Charolais sire over a base Angus, Friesian or Hereford cow through five generations. In this way a “New Zealand” Charolais has been developed, still with the Charolais growth rate and muscle, but better suited to the beef production systems used in New Zealand.

Charolais Beef News Article – Breeding Cows and beef.
By Barrie Ridler NZCCS technical advisor.

Recommendations for breeding cow management when integrating sheep and beef into profitable systems has been around for many years. Strange then that the only part of the message that seems to have got through involves the feed clean-up role to enhance sheep production. This has led to “integration” or combining beef cows in with sheep at times when feed is short and results in severe underfeeding of the cow.

It should be no surprise that sheep and beef not only graze in different ways, but that they also graze to different pasture base levels. Sheep can harvest maintenance levels of feed down to 500 kgDM/ha. The level for beef cows is more 700-800kgDM/ha.
This means that when the two species are combined and compete on a daily basis, the time taken to graze each paddock becomes critical. Sheep can happily continue grazing from 800 down to 500 over a period of some days (or weeks depending on mob and paddock size) while breeding cows reduce bodyweight.
This may be an acceptable result provided the process is monitored. Cow body condition must be very good to begin with and the cow must have access to better feed prior to and post-calving.

Too often however, stock are rotated on the basis of time between shifts rather than when pasture levels fall below maintenance levels. If farm stock numbers (feed demand) are too high, adjust them through sale or (for unusual short term deficits) increase feed supply through supplements.
Many systems now have optimistic stocking rates – or more correctly, feed demand compared to feed supply. This is probably a combination of less fertiliser application and pressure to “produce more” brought on by financial stress.
Breeding cows are seen as the safety valve for this overstocking and when they are combined with sheep over winter and lambing, bear the brunt of any underfeeding.
This in turn has led to a general lack in performance in terms of in-calf rates, longevity and weaning weights for the breeding cow with a consequent decrease in “profitability” and herd number over the past 15 years.
It is now quite difficult to find breeding herds that are managed in a knowledgeable way to enhance both sheep and beef profitability, simple as this management may be.
Cows can be combined with ewes but only when a feed surplus is looming and management decides to use this simple option rather than shuffling ewes.
Separate systems which maximize the attributes of the ewe and the cow are not difficult to manage and result in much greater returns from improved calving rates, weaning weights and lamb slaughter returns.

Calving rates of 95%+ with heifers mated at 14 months to calve at 2 years are manageable provided the recommended feeding levels are followed.
In turn, such management allows pastures to respond better and provides a better balance of species (especially clover content) that can be used to advantage for finishing stock.
It seems odd to see growing beef animals in with ewes (whose lambs have been weaned) when the best financial results are achieved from better live-weight gain (LWG).
But here too some reflection on what is really happening needs to be understood.
To increase the LWG obviously requires a higher intake. This higher intake means that fewer animals can be fed from the same feed supply.
If the system already has a higher feed demand than that grown, some extra feed must be introduced to meet the higher demand from faster LWG stock.
You do not get something for nothing despite the best intentions to achieve higher performance. Growing crops takes on the one hand (paddock out of production for crop growth and pasture renewal) and pays back on the other (a chunk of feed at a more appropriate time?). The economics in today’s world however suggest that unless some very cheap, well grown and utilized crops of high quality can be grown for a special premium product, it really is better to reduce stocking rate if you want to increase per animal feeding.
This means over a longer time period that the advantages of faster LWG need to be weighed against the reduced number of stock that will be finished. Some farms may find store stock a more profitable venture for example as more cows can be run to sell more progeny as lighter stores. This may fit the pasture growth pattern better.
Although there is a gain in efficiency with higher LWG (total maintenance is decreased for each kg LWG achieved plus reduced time for stock on the farm), this has to be weighed against the reduction in number. Not an easy calculation to make and one that has been largely ignored by most in the pastoral industry – sheep, beef and even increased milk production/cow in dairy. Hope rather than analysis seems to loom larger with many.

Beef cows are a huge asset to any system.
They improve overall pasture use, quality and feed flow and provide a winter buffer if managed to gain weight as the summer feed surplus is turned into profit rather than wasted. They will make a profit out of feed that ewes and lambs cannot. They provide a drought safety valve to reduce stock numbers if sold a year early as younger stores, effectively selling 2 years progeny in one – but be wary of tax and income gap implications next year. They are less work than ewes and lambs and work well with integrated worm prevention strategies.
Yet much of this potential is being squandered because of misunderstanding (or is it ignorance of) the basic rules of animal production and production economics. Both are required.

The key is to understand the fundamental requirement to equate feed demand and supply as closely as possible. The breeding cow is well suited for this role and will return high profits provided the herd is not used to cover feed shortages brought on by deficiencies in management.

What better protein than quality Charolais.

If you would like to learn more about The Glen Charolais
or arrange a tour of the farm please feel free to contact us