December 4, 2008


Crossbreeding Holsteins may resolve breeding problems


A tri-breed rotation of Holstein, Swedish Red and Montbeliarde could be the answer to problems in pure Holstein breeds including cow fertility, health and longevity.


American breeding expert Les Hansen of the University of Minnesota says cross breeds could achieve high milk yields and cut down on the number of young cows which have not given birth to calves known as heifers dying from lactation. Another problem is that a tri-breed would solve is stillbirth which is as high as 12 percent in Holstein breeds. With crossbreeding, deaths within the first lactation is reduced from 8.7 percent in pure Holstein breeds to 2.6 percent. 


Hansen said that by cross breeding, performance is boosted through hetrosis, or hybrid vigour which has been used widely by the poultry and pig sectors for many years.


The University of Minnesota was coordinating an eight-year trial across 10 dairies involving 4185 cows, 40 percent bred to Holstein and the rest to Montbeliarde or Swedish Red AI bulls. Hansen said that a full economic analysis based on actual, not predicted, production will prove the benefits of hetrosis or crossbreeding.

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