British Polled Salers Bulls Exported to France

UK - These are still difficult times for British livestock farmers, but all is not doom and gloom, particularly where it comes to interest in British genetics from abroad.
calendar icon 18 April 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

Following on from their ground-breaking export of British Salers cattle to Germany in early 2007, North Yorkshire pedigree cattle breeders, Rigel Pedigree, have succeeded in exporting two home-bred Salers bulls back to the original home of the Salers breed, in the Auvergne region of France.

This is a triple landmark, for not only are these the first Salers cattle from Britain to go back to France for breeding, but these were also the first polled Salers to go to France, and the shipment included the first black Salers to go to France.

The Salers is traditionally much admired in France for the magnificence of its lyre-shaped horns, but these present practical problems in modern commercial farming systems, and most cattle have to be dehorned as a calf. To avoid this task, cattle that are naturally polled are becoming increasingly sought after, so saving labour and good for animal welfare too. These benefits are appreciated by the French breeders, but also they had been watching over a number of years the development of the Salers breed in the UK, where the focus is primarily on meeting the needs of commercial suckler farmers.

Their choice of bulls reflected not only the poll factor, but also commercial qualities of length, top line, growth rate and conformation, as well as the milkiness and easy calving for which the Salers is most well known.

The two Rigel bulls have gone to join the 80 cow pedigree Salers herd of Mr Guy Gensonnie, at Chalvignac, on the banks of the Dordogne River, in the Auvergne region of France. His partner in this venture is Mr Laurent Antignac, a key figure in the French Salers Society, and widely respected for his knowledge of the breed. Mr Antignac was the judge for the Salers classes at the Royal Highland Show in 2007.

Rigel Othello Poll
The April 2006 born black polled bull, Rigel Thomas Poll, was sired by Rigel Pedigree's champion stock bull, Rigel Othello Poll, now approaching eleven years old, and still breeding with 30+ cows.

Othello had an illustrious show career, including winning the Male Championship at the Great Yorkshire Show on two occasions, and is recognised for producing calves with daily live weight gains comparable to the best Charolais bulls. 2007 was a very good year for Othello, with a black polled son, Rigel Heston Poll, winning the Supreme Championship at the Salers Society Premier Sale in November, a red polled son, Rigel Jethro Poll, taking the top price at the Perth Spring Bull Sales, and another, Rigel Pistol Poll, doing the same at the Salers Society Spring Sale at Bristol.

Rigel Thomas Poll
The March 2005 born red polled bull, Rigel Richard Poll, was sired by Polled Red Sun semen imported from North America, and is out of Rigel Rhea, a heifer from one of Rigel's best cow families. Rhea's dam is Rigel Regan, a former Great Yorkshire Show Junior Champion, and by the world famous Bruno, who was imported from France.

Bruno semen and progeny were exported all over the world in the late '80's before BSE brought the trade barriers down.

Regan is full sister to Rigel Cordelia, who was the breed champion at the Royal Show, the Royal Highland Show and the Great Yorkshire Show, and who won the breed championship and was crowned Supreme Interbreed Champion at the Royal Lancashire Show, all in 1997, an achievement that remains unmatched to this day.

Rigel Richard Poll
Rigel Pedigree is a family partnership comprising Terence and Jane Pye, and Malcolm and Gill Pye.

The Pyes have a 150 cow herd of pedigree Salers and also some pedigree Charolais at their all grass farm at Middleton-on-Leven, near Yarm.

They have been breeding and showing Salers since 1990, and believe that Salers cattle have a unique combination of easy calving, high growth rates, milkiness, and longevity that make them the ideal cow for commercially minded suckler farmers today, where without subsidies, the minimum requirement is to wean at least one strong calf per suckler cow per year.

The Pyes are optimistic for the future for suckled beef producers, especially where this is based on using the best Salers genetics, formal herd health planning, routine weighing and other performance measurement, and marketing direct to the customer. Their investment in developing a website ( has proved very successful in this respect.

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