Recent research results show greater fertility and survival with crossbred cows compared with pure Holstein cows, writes Professor Bradley Heins.  His research at the University of Minnesota and his summary of other research trials was published May 20, 2014 at The Dairy Site in the article “Helping Survival and Fertility Through Cross Breeding.”

“Professor Heins is a cattle crossbreeding expert with extensive knowledge of organic dairy farming and he has noted the recent trend for producing more robust cows for the parlour. He has stressed the importance of heterosis in increasing profitability and efficiency in both grazed and indoor systems alike.”

The summary begins with research conducted in Ireland during the early 2000’s that concluded of dairy breeds used for crossbreeding (Normande, Montbéliarde, and Norwegian Red), the Norwegian Red was most suited to seasonal grass-based production because of their advantage for fertility and survival.

Additional studies summarized in this article include:

  • a follow-up study in Ireland with Norwegian Red×Holstein compared with Holstein
  • studies in Northern Ireland with Jersey crossbred cows
  • a New Zealand study of primarily Jersey×Holstein
  • a U.S. study analyzing California data from Scandinavian Red×Holstein and Montbéliarde×Holstein compared with Holsteins
  • a Penn State University study comparing Brown Swiss×Holstein cows and Holstein cows during first lactation
  • a University of Minnesota study comparing Jersey crossbred cows  with Holsteins
  • a University of Minnesota study comparing crossbred cows sired by Montbéliarde bulls compared to Holstein cows

The combined results from these studies indicate that crossbred cows have similar production to Holsteins, but crossbred cows have advantages over Holsteins for fertility, survival, and longevity. Professor Heins notes from his University of Minnesota studies that these functional traits will compensate substantially for any potential loss of production of crossbreds compared to Holsteins.

Be sure to read Professor Hein’s entire summary at The Dairy Site in the article “Helping Survival and Fertility Through Cross Breeding.”  Excellent, concise and easy-to-read!


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