Norwegian Red cow in Norway - smallThe Norwegian Red breed, renowned for its fertility in Norway and across the world, is becoming popular for its health and disease resistance as well.

In Norway the total number of veterinary treatments of 1.3 per cow per year in 1990 has been reduced to below an average of 1/2 treatment per cow per year today!  This is truly amazing due to the fact that farmers are required to call a veterinarian to treat animals with antibiotics and with many other health treatments.

Recently the Norwegian breeding goal for the healthy, fertile and productive Norwegian Red breed has increased and enhanced its emphasis on breeding for “(resistance to) disease other than mastitis.”

The weight for “(resistance to) disease other than mastitis” has increased from 2% to 4% of the Norwegian Red’s Total Merit Index (TMI) in 2015 and is more comprehensive for diseases that affect dairy cattle worldwide.

This new version of “disease other than mastitis” now includes data from 6 diseases (ketosis, milk fever, retained placenta, metritis, cystic ovaries and silent heat) recorded in the first 5 lactations. This trait now provides more detail for the 3 diseases included previously (ketosis, milk fever and retained placenta) and for the 3 new ones (metritis, cystic ovaries and silent heat) for Norwegian Red sires.

For bulls proven for the 1st time in 2014, only 2.4% of their daughters were treated for ketosis, milk fever and retained placenta. The frequency of ketosis, in particular, has decreased markedly since the 1980’s – – to a current average of 1.7% in lactations 1 through 3.

The addition of 3 more diseases to the older group of 3 diseases will likely also decrease the frequency of these – – metritis, cystic ovaries and silent heat – – in the Norwegian Red population.

Since cystic ovaries and milk fever are more common among older cows, the recently added information from later lactations will be particularly valuable in genetic evaluations to increase the accuracy of breeding values for resistance to these 2 important diseases.

Reduction of disease incidence and treatment of Norwegian Red crosses in other countries, both in research trials and in commercial herds, are proving the Norwegian Red to be healthier and less problematic to manage. Here are some examples:

• Sean Mallet, a grass-based, organic dairyman in Idaho (USA) milking over 1,000 Norwegian Red crosses: “We treat the Norwegian Red crosses with any type of organic medicine much less than any other breed of animal on our dairy from birth through lactating animal.”

Ernesto Fasoli, Santo Stefano Lodigiano, Italy, milking 130 cows (confinement management): “It’s the health benefits that are coming to the fore on the farm. I immediately liked the improved feet, fertility and disease resistance that came with the Norwegian Cross cows. And that meant better longevity.”

Tom Appleby, Eversham, UK: “Because of reproduction and health concerns in the herd, we felt we had to try something. Our first Norwegian Red crossbreds came through and the results were astounding: fertility and health was far better and production was similar. They were the easy-keeping cow we were looking for.”

• Large herd in western USA grouped as purebred Holsteins (2,823) and crossbreds (2,883): They calculated a ratio of 5.5 Holsteins to 1.0 crossbreds in hospital barn in the same months in 2013.

To search out the herd nearest you with Norwegian Red crosses, contact the distributor for your area. Click here to find your distributor. If this short summary of the disease resistance of this breed seems impressive, wait until you hear from your “neighbor” about the fantastic reproductive performance of Norwegian Red crosses!


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