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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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A few features of suckler hardy breeds

INRA Prod. Anim., 7 (4), 235-243.


INRA Laboratoire Adaptation des Herbivores aux Milieux, Theix 63122 Saint-Genès Champanelle

The cattle of hardy breeds have special physiological characteristics that enable them to adapt to difficult environments and to maintain their productivity to some extent. Some results obtained more particularly at the INRA experimental farms located in the highlands of Auvergne prove these abilities. In areas with restricted food resources, hardy breeds seem able to maintain during the rearing period better growth, espacially of their skeleton (height of the withers), than beef breeds with strong muscular potential. This could result from smaller adult size and/or earlier maturity. Like other types of cows, those of hardy breeds mobilize their body reserves during food shortage and then recover them during grazing. Their special feature seems to lie in their ability to maintain their milk yield and reproduction better than beef breeeds do, when they use their reserves in the first years of productive life. This could also be attributed to earlier maturity, going with a greater quantity of adipose tissue, which is easy to mobilize, and with reduced growth requirements. Most females of hardy breeds are sexually earlier maturing than beef breeds. They are also able to calve earlier in season, even in difficult food conditions. They maintain better a short interval between first and second calving, mainly because of a shorter post-calving anoestrus and also a shorter gestation period. It is also in these extreme conditions (Ranch ITEB-INRA, 1972-76) that Aubrac and Salers cows gave better overall reproductive performances than Charolais and Limousin ones, espacially during their two first years of production. The suckling ability of the Aubrac and above all of the Salers cows rank them among the best French suckling cows, mainly due to their dairy origin. It is fully expressed among young cows, and milk production of young Salers cows is less reduced in difficult food conditions than the one of French specialized beef cows. This production ensures their calves satisfactory live weight gain with limited complementary concentrate expenditure, in particular since it maintains well at the end of suckling period. The intake capacity of roughages is satisfactory among cattle of hardy breeds but remains lower than in specialized dairy breeds. Hardy breeds seem to have other assets, espacially in their behavioural adaptations to difficult pastures (travels, eating rate), which should be studied. The extreme limits of use of hardy breeds should also be studied, especially females’capacity to mobilize their body reserves, with regard to reproduction.

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