The British Charollais sheep is a medium to large sized terminal sire breed. It is long, well muscled and wedge shaped. The head is pinkish without wool but may be covered with fine, pale coloured hair. The bone is not excessive, fineness of bone contributing to a higher killing out %. Legs are clean, quite short and coloured. The fleece is very fine and dense with a short staple length. Rams are fertile and hard workers maturing at 100-150 kgs. The Charollais was originally imported from France in the late 1970's and has since undergone intense selection resulting in a much larger, more correct sheep whilst retaining the exceptional fleshing qualities for which they were introduced.
The purpose of the Charollais is to be crossed on to females of various breeds to produce exceptionally high quality lambs for the butcher's trade. Charollais lambs are typically long, lean and tight skinned with good muscle development especially in the loin and gigot areas. The wedge shape of the breed makes for a lamb born easily with minimal stress to ewe or lamb. The lambs are typically full of vigour, being quick to their feet and eager to suck.
Our own commercial experience and that of other farmers, has shown the rams to be extremely hard workers giving us an increased lambing percentage and a reduced lamb mortality rate. Lambing and subsequent management is very much easier, the lambs showing good growth rates off relatively low input and being less susceptible to internal parasites than other breeds used previously.
Our own cross bred early lambs are creep fed from weaning at 6 weeks and will put on in excess of 500gs per day in the final weeks to finishing at 40-42 kgs. Our March born lambs are reared extensively off grass and finished according to market conditions. The Charollais affords us great flexibility allowing us to sell finished at any weight from 32kg to 60kg and at any time of year.
Due to the shortage of mule replacements caused by the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001, many lowland farmers retained homebred Suffolk X Mule ewe lambs. The ideal, and some would say only, terminal sire to use on that ewe cross is the CHAROLLAIS, giving ease of lambing and a fast growing, lean carcass of tremendous conformation.
Very few farmers try a Charollais and go back to their old terminal sire breed.
In the last few years many Charollais flocks have been started by established breeders of the other main terminal sire breeds - have they realised that the writing is on the wall?