The interest in crossbreeding in dairy cattle has increased the recent decade throughout the world. Yet, many farmers are still reluctant to crossbreeding. One reason for this is a common impression that crossbreeding is only beneficial in herds with suboptimal management conditions. We analyzed the crossbred performance of Nordic Red x Holstein crossbreds compared to purebred Holstein in commercial herds. The animals were grouped into three different management levels – high, average, and low - based on the mean 305-day kg fat plus protein yield of animals in the herd born the same year. Least-square means of a total of 16 traits within milk production, calving performance, fertility, udder health, and longevity were calculated. The results show that the crossbred cows are superior compared to Holstein for most traits, regardless of management level. For 305-day kg fat yield in first parity, the largest benefits of crossbreeding were in herds having high or average management level. In second parity, only herds at high management level benefitted from crossbreeding. Crossbred animals did not outperform the purebreds in 305-day kg protein, but there was no difference in crossbred performance between the levels of management. Crossbreeding causes a remarkably large reduction in stillbirths and calving difficulties at all management levels. The crossbred animals had less days from first to last service and fewer days open, regardless level of management. The frequency of mastitis treatments is reduced by crossbreeding, and in first parity it was particularly in herds having high or average management level. Survival to second and third lactation was improved as well through crossbreeding in herds at all management levels. The current results prove, that farmers have no reason to doubt the benefits of crossbreeding at any management level. Keywords: crossbreeding, dairy cattle

Julie Clasen, Morten Kargo, Anders Fogh

Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume Genetic Gain - Breeding Strategies 1, , 164, 2018
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