Dairy Breeds - Rejoice !
the 10 -11th of June 2005 delegates from all over the world will meet in South
Africa to interchange ideas about the present and the future of the Red Dairy
a few years ago, the Red Dairybreeds were considered breeds of little importance
and with the exception of the Red Holstein ( which genetically is not
a different breed, but a black and white Holstein dressed up in red..) and the
Red Breeds lived in the shadow of the Big Giant which undoubtedly is the
today things are changeing and the Red Breeds have every reason to rejoice.
the ADSA Congress in Phoenix, Arizona in May 2003, Professor Leslie Hansen
presented the first results of his research on the Crossbreeding experiments
carried out in Southern California that are being monitored by him and his
collaborators at the University of Minnesota.
results fell like a bomb in the Dairyworld.
more than three decades, the Holstein cow has been considered the undisputed
Dairy Queen, the Supreme Milk Producer of the World.
she found herself surpassed in some comparative tests by an insignificant red
little cow from some remote Northern countries : The SRB or Swedish
Red and the Norwegian Red or NRF.
crossing experiments had been carried out mainly to try to solve the Fertility-
and Calvingproblems that were causing trouble in the huge dairyherds of Southern
California. However, when data were evaluated, it was found that the
pure Holstein cows had been surpassed even in production of milk by the
crosses with these obscure Red breeds !!
to a very strong selection for Production and " Dairy type", the
Holstein breed has during the last decades been transformed into a Super
Effcient Milking - Machine.
at the same time, the breed is experiencing an increasing lack of
hardiness and female fertility, and in Holstein herds all over the world, culling
frequency, especially when caused by reproductive problems, is increasing.
turned out that Milking Machines can sometimes be hard to get back in calf ...
Even if a cow that has been selected only for a high production of milk and for determined traits of conformation, certainly may be able to produce lots of litres and in some cases may even enjoy a long productive life, as an average this type of selection leads to a series of problems, primarily as to the fertility of the dairycow.
Today it is well known that a unilateral selection for High Productions and Dairytype only, has a strong negative genetic correlation with Female Fertility and with the Resistance to certain Disease, especially to Mastitis. This fact, together with the increasing inbreeding coefficient within the Holstein breed, would explain at least in part, why this formerly healthy and hardy breed has today run into such an amount of functional problems.
The calvings of Holstein heifers have become a real nightmare for many farmers. Some have tried the use of Jersey bulls or even bulls of Beef breeds to aliviate these problems, rather than risking to lose their valuable Holstein animals by breeding them to Holstein bulls. In the large Californian herds recruitment has turned into a real headache, as the calves that are born and survive are not enough in numbers to replace the cows that die or that are culled because of reproductive problems or mastitis or foot and leg problems.
In some countries like France, Holland, Australia and New Zealand and also in Scandinavia, all countries, where normally the owner himslef milks his cows and so has to fight all the practical problems personally, the search for solutions to these problems has been on for some time.
Many recurred to crossbreeding, thus also taking advantage of the Hybrid Vigor of the crosses, others tried different kinds of selection within their breeds. In Sweden since more than 30 years a selection for traits within the Swedish Red Breed SRB and the Swedish Holstein breeds has been carried out. This selection for many traits at a time ( The "Total Merit Index" or TMI) was for many years ridiculed by many geneticists in the rest of the world.
was maintained that it is virtually impossible to select for too many traits at
a time, as this would impossibilitate any faster improvement as to
production and that the problems of mastitis and high cellcounts were only
caused by lack of hygiene and incorrect milking routines.
in Sweden, in spite of the critisisms, the selection for almost 50 traits and
subtraits was continued, including the selection for Funtional traits with a
very low hereditability. Bulls whose daughters had problems getting back in calf
or experienced difficulties calving or who suffered from too many cases of
mastitis, were continually being culled and removed from the breeding programme.
Large groups of daughters were evaluated before the semen of a any bull was
again used, once the performance of his test- group were known.
Sweden, production and conformation are certainly evaluated, but special
emphasis is put on the reproductive traits, on calving, resistance to
disease and on the culling reasons for any of the 150 daughters that
are monitored by each bull. Thanks to this selection a cow has emerged that is
not only healthy and fertile and has very easy heifer calvings, but who is also
very highproducing, both as to milk and to solids. The male
descendants of each bull are also evlauated as to the production of beef.
to this patient and detailed follow - up of each bull and his
offspring during many years, the SRB is today a breed on which the whole
dairyworld today is focusing its attention, not only because of high productions
of milk and solids but mostly because of its excellent functional traits.
The Swedish Merit Index is a Profitability index, where emphasis is put only on those traits which may help to improve the profitability of the farmer. To prove how this works, the example of the SRB bull Backgard should be mentioned.
is the most successful bull ever within the SRB breed. However, his dorsal
line was somewhat weak, a fact which migth not have helped him to win any
rosettes in the Showring and would possibly have excluded him from the breeding programmes
of most breeds.. However, Backgard was a strong, calm bull and his daughters
inherited not only good conformations and kind tempers, but also exceptionally
well adhered and shallow udders. They did not suffer from calvings problems
or excessive cases of mastitis, they got back in calf readily and they
walked on strong and correct legs. On top of these functional traits, they
inherited the capacity to produce vast amounts of milk and solids...( and only
very few inherited the weak topline..!!)
for Dairy farmers from all over the world, the Swedish geneticists in
charge of the SRB selection programme, considered that all these traits combined
were far more important than a showy topline ! Today Backgard has
successful sons and daughters and even "grandchildren" who help to
make life more pleasant and profitable for dairyfarmers on both sides
of the globe...
this exceptional bull and others like him, the Proof was definitely there:
The Multiple Traits selection works and from there on the success
story of the SRB breed only continues ascending! Today many countries
would want to copy the Swedish Selection Programme, but this might not prove all
that easy, as great organization and discipline is necessary to be able to
recollect and evaluate all the required data.
The most important export market for Swedish semen is today in the US. The
results as published by Les Hansen showed that by crossing with these Red
Breeds, not only will you solve many fertility and longevity problems, but most
likely you will also get an important increase in production...! And
this attracted the attention of US dairyfarmers.
When the first results were published, nobody could believe their ears when it turned out that not only did the Holstein Scandinavian crosses surpass all the other breeds used within the crossbreeding programme( = Normande, Jersey and Montbeliarde), but they did even quite a bit better than the purebred Holstein cows, surpassing THEM as well with 6.8 % in production of milk and solids and on top of this having by far the lowest somatic cellcount of all the groups !
was hinted that these results may have been obtained only by chance, as the Scandianvian
cows in the experiment were much less numerous than those of the
other breeds or crosses and for this reason results might not be very reliable.
However, when the second crop of results were presented, with an equal number of
animals of all breeds and crosses participating, the Nordic crosses
increased their advantage over the pure Holsteins to 7 %...!
a humble export of SRB semen to the US of some 5 or 6.000 doses per year, sales
suddenly boomed to 50.000 in the first trimestre of 2004 and demand is
steadily growing...Considering that the SRB is a small breed with less than
200.000 cows in production, these numbers are not negilible.
another country where the SRB breed is having a strong impact. It is
actually the third importer of SRB semen and live animals in the world. The high
productions of milk and solids combined with the low cellcounts makes the milk
of the SRB cows especially suitable for the manufacturing of Cheese and today
the SRB milk is used ot prepare the traditional Parmesano cheeses from Northern
Australia since over 20 years SRB bulls are used to
improve on the inbred "IIlawarra" and as a matter of fact the "Aussie
Red Dairy Breed" created from this cross is today almost 80 % pure
SRB. In grazing conditions these red cows are equalling or even surpassing the
Holsteins in productions of litres, Fat and Protein, besides making life a lot
easier for the Australian farmers thanks to their calving ease and
promptness to get back in calf.
New Zealand a son of the aforementioned Backgard, "Kilfennnan
Challenge" is at the top of the Ayrshire ranking and even competing with
the New Zealand Friesians. Other bulls of Swedish and Finnish origin are
This fact would definitely ruin the theory exposed by many : that a breed cannot be and selected in a stabled environment if you want it to produce and funtion in grazing conditions.
Swedish bulls have showed that they do function exceptionally well in all
conditions and that the key to this success does not lie in the
place where the selection is carried out, but to the criteria used.
In South America since 14 years there is a 350 cows SRB crossbred herd in Argentina, and it is gradually becoming all red, by continuos upgrading of the original Holstein herd. Calving and fertility problems are solved and Productions are very encourageing. Today over 100 farmes all over the country are trying the SRB semen in theri herds ! Especial interest is shown from farmers of the Northern provinces of Cordoba and Santa Fe, where beef production of the male calves is also considered important.
In Chile the SRB breed is used to improve on the Holsteins of North American origin for the same reasons as in other countries: i.e. for easier heifercalvings, more solids and better female fertility without losing production in litres. But the breed is also used to improve production in some Overo Colorado herds, a red breed of German origin. The Over Colorado is a heavy Dual purpose breed with great beef production, but with rather poor productions of milk..
Colombia, Swedish bulls are used to improve on Fertility,
solids and legs in a national herd of 5.000 registered Ayrshires of
Canadian origin. The SRB is also being employed by the Dairycooperative
COLANTA, the largest in the country, to try to increase the content of
solids in the milk that the company receives from its farmers. The
Colombian Holstein herds often have problems reaching even 3 % of
protein in their milk....
In Uruguay imports of SRB semen was initiated in 2003 and the first claves ar enow being born ( without problems!).
the first semen import will hopefully arrive in 2005 and Peru is also
trying to get the importpermit to be able to start inseminating in 2005, as
is Venezuela, who wants to try to improve on the
production capacity of its native cattle and zebu crosses..
already has a growing number of SRB crosses in Shorthorn and Ayrshire herds
and SRB semen is also being used successfully in some Holstein herds.
In 2004 the "South African Red Dairy Breed" was created imitating the Successful example of the "Aussie Red Dairy Breed" in Australia.
can be seen the Red Dairybreeds have more than enough motives to rejoice
and also many topics to discuss during the IRCC ( International Red Cow
Conference) in South Africa in 2005, concerning the best ways for future cooperation
to ensure that the Red Breeds should remain a Useful and Profitable
alternative to the Holstein breed.
Prominent genetecist from all over the world will be present at the
International Red Cow Conference, among them Professor Les Hansen
who will show more results from his California crossbreeding trials, now
completed with important fertility and reproduction data. Dr Bennet
Cassell, well known geneticist and columnist from "Hoard's
Dairyman" will speak of the Selection within Breeds, as opposed to
crossbreeding and results of comparative trials in Irish Grazing conditions will
also be presented at the Congress, together with more interesting talks
from local speakers..
Haras Tres Coronas
|© 2010 Per E.
Falk, Uppsala, Sweden..|
Last updated 27 Mars 2010.