October 16, 2012



Charollais Rams = Profitable Lambs 

The Charollais breed is a terminal sire breed so emphasis on selection should be placed on its excellent fleshing qualities and growth.  The purpose of the breed is to breed rams for crossing with commercial ewes to produce quality meat lambs for slaughter.  Easy lambing is an important trait associated with the breed; so skeletal structure to ensure this is essential.  The fineness of bone of the breed also contributes to the higher killing out % of their progeny.  Selection and assessment of the breed falls into two categories; structural correctness and breed characteristics.

The breed was first imported from France in 1976. The breed is centred around the town of Charolles in the Saone Loire region of France where it grazes alongside the famous Charolais Cattle. Since that time it has grown in popularity and is currently probably the 2nd most numerous terminal sire breed for the UK.


Lambing %, single, twins, triples ratios
Lambing in December the breed will average 180-190%.  The majority of births will be twins, with some triplets and single.
As lambing moves towards the natural season; February/March the lambing % will increase to 200-215%, with more triplet births.
Quadruplet births are sometimes recorded from the breed, but would only be >1%

Table below is from Signet Performance Recording data, Birth type of Charollais lambs born since 1/11/2017.  Showing that single and triplets more or less even themselves out.

Birth Type Count of Birth Type
1 2959
2 8238
3 2490
4 284
5 23
Grand Total 13994

Lamb survival at birth
UK Charollais have much improved survival rates than the original French flocks.  We have developed animals with thicker skins, more fleece and head cover.  As a result of this work in the pure breed we would record lamb survival at birth of 90-95%.  Losses would be higher in triplet births.  Below chart of data from Signet Flock Performance Recording (independent data collection) 

Sub-set of Charollais Data – Born 01/11/2017 – present Count of Lambing ease
Unobserved 4067
No Assistance 3684
Slight Assistance By Hand 927
Severe Assistance 104
Non-Surgical Veterinary Assistance 15
Veterinary Assistance, Surgery Required 6
Elective Cesarean 14
Grand Total 8817

Lamb Weight
At birth typical weights are :

Single Male 5.5 – 6.0 kgs
Single Female 5.0 – 5.5 kgs
Twin Male 4.5 – 5.0 kgs
Twin Female 4.0 – 4.5 kgs
Triplet Male 4.0 – 4.5 kgs
Triplet Female 3.5 – 4.0 kgs

The breed does not have large heads or shoulders and fine bone; so lambing is easier than for many terminal sire breeds.  They develop their muscularity very quickly after birth.  Chart below from Signet Performance Recording.   

  Single Female Single Male Twin Female Twin Male Triplet Female Triplet Male
Count of Birth Weight 1012 981 2729 2646 831 763
Average of Birth Weight 5.50 5.81 4.89 5.11 4.22 4.48
Std Dev of Birth Weight 1.02 1.16 0.90 0.95 0.88 0.85

Lamb Weights at Weaning
For our recording system we weigh lambs at 8 weeks of age.  Weaning will generally be a bit later 10-12 weeks of age.

Recorded 8 week weights for December born lambs reared with access to ad lib creep.

Single Males            32 – 43 kgs
Single Females        28 – 41 kgs
Twin Males              26 – 32 kgs
Twin Females          24 – 32 kgs
Triplet Males            24 – 27 kgs
Triplet Females        22 – 26 kgs

Daily Liveweight Gain to 56 days
Single Males            > 650 gms/day
Single Females        > 600 gms/day
Twin Males              > 550 gms/day
Twin Females          > 480 gms/day
Triplet Males           > 400 gms/day
Triplet Females       > 380 gms/day

Maiden Ewes fertile at month of age
Charollais females will reach sexual maturity from 7 months of age. Charollais rams are also fertile from 7 months of age.

Breeding Season
The Charollais breed has an extended breeding season.  Charollais will lamb in the Northern Hemisphere from December until June; with peak fertility in late January/February.  Most Charollais rams are fertile all year round.

Wool Quality
The Charollais produces a fine fleece type which is creamy/white in colour with an average weight of 1.5 – 2 kilos / fleece.  The micron range would be 29 – 30.5 microns with a staple length of between 4-6 centimetres.  The main use for Charollais wool is in the Japanese bedding market and blends for clothing.  (Source : British Wool Marketing Board)

Meat Quality
The Charollais has exceptional meat eating quality.  The breed has consistently topped trials for sheer force (meat softness) and taste.  It was renowned in France for top quality meat and was one major reason for importing the breed into the UK, over 40 years ago.  Typical carcases carry just the correct amount of fat cover; sufficient to cook well but not overfat and unpleasant to the consumer.  The demand for lamb meat is that it must be succulent, tender and with little fat; Charollais supply this.

Breed Climate Zones
The breed is found in all European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South America, USA, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Armenia.   

Pasture Based or Indoor Feeding
In its original habitat of Central France the breed was grazed during Spring and Summer months and housed during the Winter (lambing period).  In the UK we have a mixture of flocks; those who lamb in December will be housed for lambing but turned out to grass as soon as grass is available at pasture.  Other flocks who lamb later in the year will only remain inside for a few days and then turned out to pastures.  However the breed is adaptable and can be reared indoors all year if climatic conditions demand this.

Genomics Testing
We are in early days of genomic testing.  A number of sires are currently being analysed and we should have results later in the year.

Mature Size and Weight
Mature Ewes           90-100 kgs
Mature Rams          100 – 130 kgs (some rams will weight up to 150 kgs)



Active and fertile rams – Charollais rams are renowned for being hard-working. They reach sexually maturity from 7 months of age and will work for most of the year. They certainly are keen and ready for work for early lambing flocks. Most Charollais rams will work for 6 or 7 seasons and many have been known to live for 10 years or more. Farms and research projects have found that Charollais rams sire more lambs than other terminal sires working at the same time.

Easy lambing – Charollais rams will without question give shepherds (and ewes) easier lambing. The skeletal structure of the breed; without heavy bone, broad shoulders or big heads makes lambing a joy. First time users of the breed cannot believe how easy birth is with the breed.

Robust vigorous lambs – Lambs are straight up on their feet, bleating and ready to suckle. The trouble-free birth ensures they are not stressed and the nature of the breed means they ‘get up and go’.

Fast growth – growth rates for Charollais cross lambs are excellent. Their length, wide loin and good hind quarter confirmation mean heavy, well-fleshed lambs. Single lambs can achieve weights of 40kg in just 8 weeks .

Prolificacy – The breed has very strong maternal traits. Mature ewes lambing in December will average 180%; this will rise to 210 – 220% in February.  Eight out of ten ewe lambs will take the ram from 7 months of age and will lamb at 130%+.  The ewes have an extended breeding season.


The Charollais breed is managed by one of the most progressive thinking Societies in the UK . The objective of the Society is “to promote, develop and improve the breeding of Charollais Sheep in the UK ”.  To achieve this we undertake projects with a number of organisations to improve the quality of the Charollais breed and ultimately lamb meat for the consumer.

The Society, together with Charollais Sires (the breed’s performance recorded group) is involved in many trials :-

  • The use of Charollais rams on indexed Mule ewes
  • Comparison of high – v – low index rams
  • The development of computer tomography to improve the selection of rams
  • The improvement of selection indices for recorded Charollais rams
  • Investigation into quantitative trait loci in sheep
  • Resistance for scrapie
  • Use of Charollais rams on hill ewes to improve carcass quality

The Society organises a variety of events to promote the use of Charollais to commercial farmers. It also runs a programme of conferences, meeting and training days to help our breeders keep abridge of new developments in the prime lamb industry.

Growth Rates

RAM LAMBS Average Birth Weight Av. Weight Gain – 0 to 56 days
Single 5.0 kg 500 g / day
Twin 4.5 kg 420 g / day
Single 4.7 kg 395 g / day
Twin 4.0 kg 380 g / day
MULTIPLES 3.5 kg 330 g / day

Mature Bodyweight

  •  Rams 100 – 150 kg
  •  Ewes 80-100 kgs

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