All our cattle are beef cattle. They are Salers, a breed originating from Massif Central in France. It is one of the oldest breeds in the world and some prehistoric cave paintings suggest a similar type of animal has been bred in the area for between 7,000 and 10,000 years. Salers were chosen for ease of calving, good mothering ability and longevity – all important economic and good welfare traits for a modern suckler cow. They are able to thrive on native grasses and forage in both summer and winter.
The herd produces pedigree bulls and heifers to sell to other producers as breeding stock, as well as ‘finishing’ animals for beef production. Salers are generally dark red, although there are a small number of black animals. The coat becomes thick and curly in winter and gives hardiness and adaptability to cold and heat. Salers usually have horns; at FAI ‘polled’ animals (born without horns) are selected. A mature cow weighs 650 – 850 kg; mature bull 1000 – 1200 kg. The natural life-span of these cattle is 20-30 years. Beef cattle are generally slaughtered at 16 months. They like to live socially in herds and spend most of their time grazing.
At FAI the cattle are kept inside in sheds during the winter. They are fed a mixture of silage (pickled grass) and barley with some extra vitamins. The calves are weaned from their mothers at 8-10 months and finished indoors. In other systems the calves are taken away from their mothers very soon after birth.
The products from cattle include:
- Gelatine (from bones and horns) used in making confectionery, ice cream and photographic film
- Glue, fertilizers (from bones)
- Tallow (beef fat) ingredient in soaps, candles, shortenings, chewing gum
Impact on the environment
The consumption of cattle has a much greater adverse effect on the environment than the consumption of grain or vegetables. Cattle farming is “responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases” (Food and Agriculture report). The production of cattle to feed and clothe humans stresses ecosystems around the world, and is assessed to be one of the top three environmental problems in the world on a local to global scale. The ratio of energy required to produce 1kg of food looks like this:
|Beef||Pork & Lamb||Chicken||Fish|