More live calves, less reproductive cost, a higher survival rate and a similar, even higher production. With these characteristics the first generation Montbeliarde and VikingRed crosses are more profitable than purebred Holstein cows, according to research at the University of Minnesota on 8 large-scale high performance dairy herds.
About 8 years ago, 8 elite herds in Minnesota started to participate in this University of Minnesota crossbreeding study. Dairy farms with an average production of 30,410 lbs. of milk (about 14,000 kg) with 3-times daily milking. Nevertheless, these dairy producers (with 275 to 1,940 cows) were disappointed with the health, fertility, and survival of their pure Holstein cows. They were aware of the greater profitability for 2-breed crossbreds of Holstein with Montbeliarde and VikingRed breeds compared to pure Holstein cows from a previous field study in California. For several years, researchers of the University of Minnesota analyzed all data of the crossbred and purebred cows on the 8 dairy farms. They published scientific conclusions at the end of 2015 about the success of crossbreeding on these high-performing dairy herds.
A total of 2,265 cows (Montbeliarde x Holstein, VikingRed x Holstein and pure Holstein cows) finished a first lactation and the results are crystal-clear. The crossbred cows produced similar for fat and protein production, the Montbeliarde x Holstein cows produced even 3% more fat and protein. In conformation, the crossbreds had less stature (height), a more slope rump and a greater body condition score than the pure Holstein herd mates. The fertility was better as the crossbred cows have less open days resulting in a shorter calving interval. In combination with the lower stillbirth rate, the number of live born calves from the crossbred cows was higher. An advantage with a value of ten thousands dollars, calculated the University of Minnesota.
Significantly more crossbred cows survived to a second lactation. 84% of the Montbeliarde x Holstein cows calved for the second time, 4% more compared to the purebred Holsteins.
Differences in SCS and udder health problems were not found. They tend to surface more during second and later lactations. The researchers keep collecting data for analysis in the future when cows had the opportunity to complete at least three lactations in the 8 dairy herds.
This will include a calculation of economic return of the crossbreds versus the pure Holsteins. However, results from first lactation suggest the Montbeliarde x Holstein and VikingRed x Holstein cows should be more profitable than their pure Holstein herd mates because they gave birth to more live calves, required less reproductive cost, and had higher survival rates. Furthermore, the crossbreds produced at least as much milk solids as their pure Holstein herd mates and returned to peak production sooner for their second lactations.
The eight dairy farms continue to crossbreed. The 2-breed crossbred is the first step in the transition to the ProCROSS program. In the 3-breed rotation with Holstein, Montbeliarde and VikingRed only proven A.I. Bulls, with daughter performance are mated to the heifers and cows. The University of Minnesota will stay tuned!
Table: technical scores (Source: University of Minnesota)
|Holstein||Montbeliarde x Holstein||VikingRed x Holstein|
|Number of cows||1134||548||583|
|Age at calving (months)||23.9||23.8||23.7|
|Fat and protein (kg)||741||760||749|
|Body Condition Score||3.2||3.7||3.45|
|First service conception rate (%)||38||43||47|
|Survival to 2nd calving (%)||80||84||83|
Link to the University of Minnesota Press Release:
|Gar-Lin Masolino 9251 (Montbeliarde x Holstein)||Gar-Lin Orraryd 9314 (VR x Holstein)|
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