27181147013_94c3f25712_mThe International Red Dairy Breed Federation (IRDBF) conference 2016 was held in Hamar, Norway June 14-16.  Red breeds have a bright future including being a key breed in successful crossbreeding schemes.

Why IRDBF continues to meet

IRDBF was founded in 1989 as the IRCC (International Red Cow Club) to provide a platform for members to discuss the genetic progress of their red breeds, to promote and exchange genetics and to create linkages around the globe on a business and breeding basis. Most of the members are representatives from red breed organizations, plus others involved in the dairy industry. The IRDBF conference is held every third year in a different country. It now has 22 members.

At this year’s conference there were participants from Australia, USA, Norway, Germany, Israel, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, France and England. Around 45 in total.

The conference went over three days, with a European Red Dairy Breed meeting on day one, the conference on day two, and the IRDBF business meeting on day three (including a presentation from each country) followed by a visit at Geno AI station and a farm visit to the Tore Nordlis farm in Løten.

Two post conference tours were arranged for those wanting to see the sights and red breeds on-farm in Norway (June 17-18) and Germany (June 19-21).

Some of the themes for the conference were genomic selection (GS), feed efficiency and genetics, Spermvital, crossbreeding and milk production around the world and in the future (structure and economics).

The future of red breeds, a farmer’s perspective

Henk Schoonvelde, a top-ranking farmer in the EDF (European Dairy Farmers) from the Netherlands, talked about how he achieved that top ranking in the EDF. His main goal in utilizing crossbreeding has been to get strong and healthy dairy cows with high production.

Henk also focused on what he thinks is important to the future farmer. About 50% of EDF members are using some crossbreeding and about 15% of cows in the Netherlands are crossbreeds.

His focus points for the red breeds in the future were:

  • Be different
  • Focus on health and animal welfare – be more transparent with the public
  • Use low or no antibiotics
  • Invest in data collection
  • “Selling milk with a story” is the future

Expect big market share for:

  • Milk from cows which are healthy by nature
  • Authentic image from milk produced from green grass, silage and pasture

Looming challenges and opportunities

In a panel debate, “Global perspectives on dairy production, environment, animal welfare and challenges in the future”, lecturers thought these would be among the biggest challenges for dairy production in the future:

  • Control of inbreeding when using GS
  • Keeping people in the cities believing in farmers
  • Keeping family farms with the next generation motivated to continue in farming
  • Adapting to milk price fluctuations
  • Water resources (problem in parts of the US)
  • Interface between the dairy and public, especially concerning the environment and animal welfare.

Opportunities for the future include:

  • Use new technology
  • Concentrate on developing farm management skills (agricultural skills). Social networks are important here. Learn from each other’s experience.
  • Speak positively about genetics, technology and animal welfare.
  • Use animal breeding as a tool to solve problems for the long term (to minimize antibiotics, decrease dehorning, etc.)

The IRDBF conference 2019 will be held in Australia in March 2019.  An 8-day program with 2 days for the conference is being planned.

Eva HusaasAuthor: Eva Husaas, Geno Marketing and Communications Department


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