Caracu is a Brazilian dual purpose (beef and dairy) cattle breed known for its adaptability, hardiness and excellent maternal ability. . Like the Mocho Nacional, the Caracu is a tropical European breed created in Brazil and its origin is of the race Minhota. Its main use is as a cross to beef cattle. The Caracu accounts for less than 5% of Brazilian beef cattle; the Nelore breed is by far the predominant breed in Brazil.
The Caracu breed is from cattle imported from the Iberian peninsula and possibly with some influence from African cattle from the Moorish occupation of the area. The first entry of such animals occurred in 1534 in São Vicente-SP where for several centuries faced all kinds of difficulties in feeding and parasites. This natural pressure evolved into the Criollo such as the yellow Caracu.
The arrival of zebu from India in the 19th and 20th century almost led to its extinction. The Caracu is the most suitable European race to tropical conditions found in Brazil. With more than four centuries of selection, Caracu today brings important qualities and increasingly sought after in the beef cattle segment, mainly for industrial crossing.
The rusticity acquired over the years has resulted in the smallest food requirement, greater resistance to pests, and increased the longevity of the cows. The Caracu is the most suitable Taurine breed for the tropical conditions found in Brazil.
Since 1980 the Caracu was improved with the use of the most modern selection techniques and genetic improvement, led by the Brazilian Association of Caracu Breeders (ABCC). Major industry initiatives such as the Animal Science Institute of Sertaozinho (IZ), Embrapa - Beef Cattle (Campo Grande / MS) and the Agronomic Institute of Paraná (IAPAR), carry out studies and research related to race. In less than 30 years Caracu presented an accelerated evolution of performance in many ways, always keeping intact its rustic features.
The Caracu of European origin (Bos Taurus) is extraordinary in its adaptation to tropical and sub-tropical climate. The Natural Selection for almost 5 centuries in Brazil resulted in anatomical and physiological changes that provided the following characteristics:
Short hair suitable for the Brazilian climate
Resistance to heat, and climatic and environmental adversities
Resistance to endo- and ectoparasites
Strong legs and hoof resistant to both hard floors and wet conditions
Ability to digest coarse fibers
Great adaptability to the severest environment
High foreskin ideal for Brazilian pastures
Females have high fertility rates, good body structure, easy calving, good production of quality milk and good conformation. The excellent maternal ability is a characteristic sought for in crossbreeding makes the breed one of the most recommended for use in crossbreeding.
Females can be bred in 14-15 months old. Cows can be kept breeding until 16-17 years with some up to 21 years old. Average per cow are from 11 to 13 births.
In addition, the race of females present:
Fertility more than 80%
F1 females have 10% more fertility and 20% more weight at weaning;
Calving ease, with calves being born with an average of 32 kg.
Females have their first breeding service at 15 months
First calving between 24 and 28 months.
Under exclusively pasture regime, the average weight of cows is around 550-650 kg with some reaching up to 750 kg. The Bulls weigh around 1,000 kg. and up to 1200 kg. At two years old heifers reach about 400 kg., with some weigh up to 500 kg. Calves at one year old reach an average of 300 kg. due to good maternal ability of cows.
In relation to meat quality, the Caracu have meat tenderness and desirable juiciness. Caracu crosses maintain the advantages with heterosis. Even compared to 5/8 synthetic races, the bull maintain strength through heterosis - 100% in the half-blood calves.
The Caracu selected for dairy production provide around 2,100 kilos per lactation (including heifers in 1st lactation) on pasture with little supplementation. Milk fat content is around 5%.
The Caracu is a gentle and docile cattle, which facilitates the management of the herd in the field. The Caracu herd moves around in the pasture. It spreads, decreasing the intensity of trampling, allowing a better use and longevity of the pasture. In cold regions, cattle penetrates the woods, consuming leaves and protecting itself from the cold. In the Brazilian cerrado in the period of food shortages (drought), it complements its diet with a variety of native shrubs.
The breed is currently used for crosses, mainly on zebu cows in the areas of extensive production. Being a Bos Taurus (European) it breeds a mestizo with a high degree of heterosis with Zebu cattle (Bos indicus). The results have been encouraging as competing on equal terms with specialized breeds in quality and productivity of its mestizos. It takes advantage especially in areas where the system is pasture based.
Bulls give good results in crossbreeding the field, and the Caracu is one of the few European races that perform well in natural breeding in the tropics.
Another fact that demonstrates its multifunctionality is that it can be used at rotation crossbreeding with F1 females (1/2 blood) from other breeds, maintaining the good heterosis. The Caracu has been widely used in the formation of suitable cattle composite breeds.