Beef breeds

Bohême, Grande Championne et Super Prix d'Honneur 2010 - Crédit : Herd-Book Charolais
Bohême, Grande Championne et Super Prix d’Honneur 2010 - Crédit : Herd-Book Charolais
Summary of the article

 Traits and performances

Charolaise is the leading French beef breed. It originated in what is today the Saône-et-Loire département in Bourgogne, from where it spread out across the rest of France.

Bred in the 19th century in the lush pastures of the Charolaise region and the Nivernais plains, the Charolaise developed tremendous growth ability and excellent conformation, producing heavy carcasses. The Charolaise Herd Book was established back in 1864, and breeders have progressively selected for and improved these traits ever since.

Today, the Charolaise is reputed for its absolutely outstanding feed efficiency and its strong maternal qualities: it produces more milk than any other specialized beef breed, meaning that Charolaise dams can meet all their calves’ suckling needs and enable male calves to gain at least 1,200 g a day in liveweight.

The Charolaise makes good use of all types of forage, and this, combined with a docile disposition, make it readily adaptable to fit into most livestock systems – whatever the geography.

It is therefore highly prized for all-purpose crossbreeding, not just in France but also abroad: Charolaise breed is present in 70 countries worldwide, and has even fathered brand-new breeds such as the Charbray (a Charolais x Brahman cross) or Canchim (a Charolais x Zebu cross).


The production objectives for the Charolaise breed are to target one calve per cow per year by unassisted calvings and to produce top-quality saleable carcasses with little excess fat, while conserving the breed’s intrinsic natural growth ability and beefing conformation, which are its flagship assets.

The Charolais France breeding organization revises these objectives every 10 years to make sure they stay aligned to the economic market setting. A cutting-edge qualification program identifies and propagates the animals that best fit the target objectives. This program is built on a baseline breeding population of 136,880 cows held by Charolais Herd Book (HBC)-affiliated breeders, with full-scale performance records: only 35% of active cows manage to qualify under this stringent framework.

On-farm performance recording on the offspring of these dams are used to select the highest-quality weaned calves for subsequent on-station performance testing. Around 450 young bulls come through with the status "qualified bulls", and will be propagated at the farms for natural mating.

The breeding program also relies on progeny testing: around 40-odd bulls shortlisted are tested for their Beefing Abilities (’AB’) or Maternal Qualities (’QM’) by tracking their offspring through on-station or on-farm performance records. Other bulls may be tested for calving ease and early muscling.


Key figures

  • 1,523,416 cows
  • 36,040 farms
  • 377,786 cows under on-farm official performance recording system
  • 127,726 cows recorded in the Herd Book
  • 691,137 artificial inseminations
  • Height at withers (adult cow): 135 to 150 cm
  • Adult cow weight:
    700 to 1 200 kg
  • Adult bull weight:
    1,000 to 1,650 kg
  • Easy calving: 92 %
  • Birth weight of male calves: 47.8 kg
  • 120-day weight of male calves: 180 kg
  • 210-day weight of male calves: 3003kg
  • Weight of young-bull carcass:
    390 to 440 kg
  • Carcass yield: 59 to 61 %

Results of on-farm performance recording system 2014 - Institut de l’Elevage & France Bovins Croissance



Cart documents to download directly or to add to your cart for download at the end of visit