Dairy farmers starting to look at crossbreeding

US - Commercial dairy producers are beginning to discover what their cousins in the beef cattle industry have known for years - the purebred dairy breeds are suffering from being inbred, and crossbreeding with other dairy breeds is increasing the performance of the dairy herds that have tried crossbreeding.
calendar icon 16 February 2007
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According to Brad Heins from the University of Minnesota Department of Animal Science, inbreeding is increasing at a rate of about 0.1 percent per year in the Holstein breed. This inbreeding is causing such things as increased mortality in the herds, and decreased fertility and health, all of which is placing a drag on herd production levels.

Holstein heifers born in 2006 have an average inbreeding of 5.2 percent, Heins pointed out, and it's generally accepted that inbreeding should not surpass 6.25 percent. Much of this inbreeding can be traced back to the fact that 30 percent of the genetics in the U.S. Holstein herd today goes back to two bulls born in the 1960s - Elevation and Chief. Canadian Holsteins also have an inbreeding problem, since they have a 20 percent relationship to Starbuck, a son of Elevation.

Realizing that the increasing degree of inbreeding was robbing dairy producers of income by increasing stillbirths, reducing cow fertility, inhibiting disease resistance and shortening herd life, seven large California commercial dairy farmers decided to mate some of their Holstein heifers and cows with imported semen of the Normande and Montbeliarde breeds from France and Scandinavian Reds from Sweden and Norway.

Source: Minnesota Farm Guide

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