Choosing a complementary breed for crossbreeding in a dairy herd can maintain production, increase efficiencies of feed intake and lessen reproductive and health inputs.

First, let me say that this blog was inspired by an article written for Progressive Dairyman “Breeding through the eyes of a CFO” by Richard Williams the North American general manager and Mandy Brazil a genetic specialist with ABS North America. PD ran this article in October 2016 and again in May 2017, so it’s fair to say it is a popular read.

Second, Genus/ABS Global is partnering with Geno in the US, Canada and other countries to distribute Norwegian Red semen. They believe that the Norwegian Red (NR) is an excellent choice for crossbreeding – – to increase efficiency.

Here are bottom line estimates of differences between NR x Holstein crosses and straight Holsteins when comparing daughters of top sires:

Higher fertility
The Norwegian Red breed may be the most fertile breed in the world with a 77% 1st-service conception rate in heifers and a 69% rate in cows (2016 average in purebreds in Norway).
• Crosses have increased conception rate by 9%
• Crosses have reduced days open by 16 days
• Total value of improved fertility is $48 per NRxHO cow per year

Better feed efficiency
Breeding Norwegian Reds to Holsteins results in cows weighing 75-100 lbs less than purebred Holsteins. Moderate-sized cows have smaller feed intake (maintenance) requirements than do large cows.
• Crosses reduced feed intake by at least 1 pound (0.5 kg) of dry matter per cow per day due to lower body weight
• Total value is at least $40 per NRxHO cow per year over Holsteins

Lower disease incidence
Mastitis – Norway has very low frequency of clinical mastitis (5.7% in 1st lactation heifers and 15% in all cows) and average 121,000 across all cows in all lactations in Norway. This indicates a dramatic genetic progress in resistance to clinical mastitis since 1995 as most cows have zero clinical mastitis.
• Reduced clinical diseases like transition diseases by at least 20%
• Reduced on farm cow mortality by 50%
• Reduced mastitis by 10%
• Total value of reduced direct and indirect health care costs is at least $10 per cow per year

“Look for ways to reduce inputs”
The following are quotes from “Breeding through the eyes of a CFO

  • The common thread among the best business operators is they consistently focus on efficiency.
  • Health traits are well worth the investment to create cows that are less labor-intensive. Cows genetically opposed to health problems, such as transition cow diseases, create a smoother operating herd and keep cows out of the hospital pen.
  • For many dairies, the most profitable cow is a strong producer, but easy to maintain because of solid health and fertility traits. The extreme producer might generate the highest income, but at the end of her productive life might also have higher expenses.
  • The moderate producer with lower inputs and fewer expenses will often return a higher net profit.
  • A herd can have the best management with elite facilities, but genetics will eventually limit the environment potential.
  • Look for ways to reduce inputs. The largest expense will always be feed. Use genetics to develop future generations with reduced feed intake requirements.
  • Making a cow which is lower maintenance and has reduced inputs helps a dairy maintain strong footing in a cyclical market. Enable your operation to stand strongly regardless of the market factors you cannot control.

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