Within the Norwegian Red dairy cattle population, all treatments for disease or ailment are recorded. And that data is reliable because all treatments are administered and recorded by veterinarians who are required by law to report all treatments. The recording system, known as the Norwegian Cattle Health Recording System, has been in place for the entire country since 1975.
With this data, it has been possible to track the overall incidence rate of diseases and treatments in the Norwegian Red dairy cattle population. Some of the results are quite impressive.
“For several of the most common diseases, there was a reduction of more than 50% from the 1990s to the years after 2000.” – Olav Østerås, Results and Evaluation of Thirty Years of Health Recordings in the Norwegian Dairy Cattle Population
The most noticeable results were seen in a decreased treatment rate for milk fever, ketosis, acute clinical mastitis, chronic clinical mastitis, and silent heats.
Several studies show more favorable response of Norwegian Red x Holstein crossbreds compared to purebred Holsteins to a challenge or infection.
- In a study completed in Canada on 13 commercial dairy farms, immune response data was collected on 135 calves, 68 Holstein calves and 67 Norwegian Red x Holstein calves. The results indicated that the calves crossbred to Norwegian Red “had the ability to produce a greater primary antibody response compared with the HO…”
- In a study completed in Ireland, superior primary antibody response was also observed for Norwegian Red (NR) compared with both Holstein-Friesian (HF) and Norwegian Red x Holstein-Friesian (NRX) with a total of 648 2nd-lactation cows (HF n = 274, NR n = 207, and NRX n = 167) in 30 herds. The NRX was very close to being significantly superior to the HF for primary antibody response.
Both the Canadian and Irish study indicated that there is a difference in the primary response to an infection. In the Canadian study, it is not possible to determine whether the response is due to the effect of Norwegian Red genetics or crossbreeding in general since no purebred Norwegian Reds were compared. However, crossbreeding results in hybrid vigor, and estimates of heterosis* about 3-6% for milk production traits and 10% or larger for cow fertility/reproduction, health and longevity have been recorded.
The results of these studies demonstrate that crossbreeding a herd with Norwegian Red can have a positive impact on the immune response of a herd, which can mean fewer veterinary visits and treatments.
Heterosis – Added performance (above average of breeds) in a trait that results when crossing breeds that have different genetic origins. Also, known as hybrid vigor.
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