September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Another breeding option

Crossbreeding research presented during grazing conference Dec. 8

By Krista [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Farmers from across the state gathered for the 2011 Video Conference titled, "Grazing Research for Minnesota's Future" on Dec. 8.
Throughout the day, six seminars were presented from five different locations throughout the state - Grand Rapids, Lamberton, Rochester, Staples and Thief River Falls. Brad Heins, assistant professor in organic dairy production at the West Central Research and Outreach Center at the University of Minnesota-Morris, presented from Staples, Minn., about "Crossbreeding Dairy Cattle for Improved Milk Production on Pasture."
Heins said recently there has been an increased interest in crossbred dairy cattle.
"(Purebred Holstein) cows have calving problems, which in turn affect many things," he said.
It affects fertility, health, longevity and survival, Heins said.
"Producers want cows that calve without problems, give lots of milk, get bred back, look pretty, can walk and don't have health problems. All these help the survival of cows," he said.
Heins said studies have shown this is a possibility using crossbreeding. The seminar looked at data from three research studies - one from California, one from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities herd, and another from the University of Minnesota-Morris herd.
From the California study, which used A.I. sired Holsteins, Normande-Holsteins, Montbeliarde-Holsteins and Scandinavian Red-Holsteins, research found crossbreeding lowers calving difficulty and stillbirth rates. For example, in Holstein dams in their second to fifth calving, stillbirths were at 12.7 percent when a Holstein sire was used, 7.3 percent when a Normande bull was used, 5 percent for a Montbeliarde and 4.7 percent for a Scandinavian Red bull. Percent of deaths and cattle removed from the herd were also lower for crossbreed cattle.
For fertility, although the Holsteins were about the national average for number of days open, all three other breeds crossed with a Holstein lowered that number.
"There's a big advantage in survival and fertility," Heins said.
Although the average somatic cell count for the Holsteins in the research was 121,000, the crossbred cattle were lower. They were also lower in their average 305-day production with the Normande crossbreds trailing Holsteins by almost 10 percent while Montbeliarde and Scandinavian Red crossbreds were 3.1 and 3.8 percent lower.
Lifetime production was higher for the crossbred cattle because they stayed in the herd longer than Holsteins
"These producers were willing to give up 5 to 15 percent production to take advantage of the productive life - fertility and less death rate - of their cows," Heins said.
Overall Montbeliarde and Scandinavian Red crossbred cattle had 5.3 and 3.6 percent higher profits per day than Holsteins. Normande crossbreds had 6.7 percent less profit per day than Holsteins.
"On a daily basis, Normandes didn't do so well. They just don't have the production," Heins said.
Two research herds at the University of Minnesota also studied crossbreeding. One looked at Holstein and Jersey crossbred cows. The Jersey-Holstein cows had lower body weight, fewer days open and higher body condition scores compared to Holsteins.
These Jersey-Holsteins also had lower milk production but showed very little difference in the pounds of fat and protein produced. Their SCC was higher and the udder clearance score was lower.
"There are some disadvantages to Jersey," Heins said. "As the cows get older, the Jersey (crossbreds) can't keep up. Their udders are lower to the ground which causes higher SCC."
In the herd at Morris, Minn., Montbeliarde was added into the mix. Production levels for the Montbeliarde-Holsteins and the Montbeliarde-Jersey-Holsteins were lower than purebred Holsteins in their first lactation, but higher in the second and third lactations.
"Crossbred cattle tend to milk more than Holsteins and have lower SCCs. Although it's not statistically different, there's a trend showing they have more production," Heins said.
Body weight and body condition were higher in crossbred cattle, but their frames were smaller than the Holsteins.
These crossbred cattle, like the other studies, had fewer days open and also had lower mortality rates than Holsteins.
"The big advantage in crossbreeding is that you'll improve breeding almost immediately," Heins said.
The University is in the process of creating a breed that doesn't include Holsteins and instead is using Jersey, Scandinavian Red and Normande.
"We think Normande will work in a pasture situation without a lot of grain, especially on organic farms where grain prices are through the roof," Heins said.
Heins said three breeds will give the best results for crossbreeding; however, in order to get the best genetic improvement, Heins said to use A.I. bulls.
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