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A History of the Salers Breed in the United States

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A History of the Salers Breed in the United States


This Western Colorado ranch has been in the family for 4 generations going on 5. George Volk Sr. homesteaded the ranch in 1911. He was working in Crested Butte in the coal mines at the time. The homestead is at about 7200 feet with a south slope exposure. Several natural springs and ponds are scattered throughout the ranch. About 1919, Grandpa Volk moved his family to the one room roofless cabin he had built on the homestead. Winter was setting in so they put a tent up inside the cabin but an early snow caved the tent in and they had to cut logs and put the roof on.

George Sr raised potatoes, grain, and other truck garden vegetables. They milked cows and sold cream. Starting with 2 milk cows he built a function commercial Hereford herd.

His son George Volk Jr. worked with him on the ranch as he was growing up. George Jr. bought his first land adjoining the family ranch when he was 14. He married and continued working the ranch after his father retired.

Gary George Volk, son of George Jr. grew up on the ranch and helped with the garden and milkings cows the same as his father. This father-son team bred all breeds of cattle to find an efficient, easy calving; good quality cattle with cut ability for the meat industry.

Of all the breeds, the Salers come the closest. Currently the ranch runs 650 head of Fullblood, Purebred and Commercial Cattle. The ranch is being preserved for future generations to work and enjoy as our forefathers did.

Salers cattle on hillside near Salers, France

The foundation of our herd goes back to the registered Hereford my grandfather raised and several registered breeds our families have raised. In the 1970’s we traveled to Canada, where we purchased and brought home a newly imported breed of cattle from France called Salers (Sa’lair).

As one of the last European breeds to be imported into North America, the Salers breed has made tremendous strides in growth and is now an influential part of the American cattle industry.

The historical journey for the Salers breed was first recorded by archaeologists as depicted from ancient drawings in cave dwellings dated some 7,000 years ago. The drawings were found near Salers, a small medieval town in the center of France. The breed is considered to be one of the oldest and most genetically pure of all European breeds. This fact produces a marked positive effect on the predictability of Salers in crossbreeding programs.

Salers cattle are now known to be native to the Auvergne region of south central France. This isolated, mountainous area noted for its rough, rocky terrain and harsh, damp climate is characterized by poor soil and a wide range of temperatures throughout the summer and long winter. The Salers cattle were forced to become foragers with bred-in range-ability.

Until modern times, Salers cattle were respected not only as beef animals, but as milk producers for cheese products and were also utilized as strong sources of animal power.

Salers cattle are typically horned and dark mahogany red in color. However, a growing number of polled and black Salers are available. With more than a decade of solid growth behind it, the Salers breed continues to make lasting contributions to modern commercial cattle production. Documented proof of the breed’s attributes of calving ease, maternal efficiency and carcass merit, gives this breed a future as the “balanced breed” to meet the need of the beef industry.


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