Norwegian Red – The number 1 breed for crossbreeding in the Netherlands
There is growing interest for Norwegian Red in the Netherlands. A cross with Norwegian Red results in high production for kg of fat and protein, good health, fertility and vital calves.
The breeding program for Norwegian Red emphasizes health and fertility and is focused on the economic benefits that these traits gives the farmer. This unique breeding program has had major investments made over time into improving low heritable traits in combination with production, which is now paying off. Not only in the country of origin but also internationally where it is the leading red dairy breed, often used in a two- or three-way rotational cross.
In the Netherlands, Fleckvieh has been the most used breed for crossbreeding for many years, but there is a growing interest for Norwegian Red genetics. This shift has become even more visible since the new “phosphate quota” was introduced. In the near future, less emphasis will be put on increasing milk yield. Instead more focus will be on inputs, and contents. This way more kilograms of fat and protein are delivered within the same phosphate reference.
After purebred Holstein, Norwegian Red has the highest production of fat and protein. Of all the different crossing schemes in the Netherlands, the cross between Norwegian Red x Holstein has the highest production for kilograms fat and protein, no less than 587 kilograms.
The Norwegian Red crosses make up for their difference in solids through a shorter calving interval of 14 days and a lower insemination number of 0,2. By keeping a balanced breeding goal for the last 40 years, Norwegian Red has overcome the negative correlation between production traits and health and fertility traits. This has resulted in a world-leading cow that has excellent production, health and fertility traits, and vital calves.
Vital calves and fertile cows
“I always had Holsteins, but the farm was getting bigger, I was also getting a bit older, so a more effective and sustainable platform had to be found”, says Wim Wolswinkel. He is a Dutch farmer who has been milking cows in a robotic system since 2001. He went in search of a more robust high yield platform and is now using Fleckvieh and Norwegian Red in a three-way cross. “Fertility is getting better, you can already see it when you use the straws on the Holsteins, they are easier to get pregnant.” According to the farmer, 10177 Braut gives a short gestation period and therefore no calving problems on his daughters. “The calves are also very vital”
Smaller, more robust and more compact
Wolswinkel does not know how the animals will perform in the long term yet. The oldest Braut daughter is having her third calf this year. The farmer says the Norwegian Red daughters have performed very good on cell count, production and fertility.
The health and production characteristics of the Norwegian Red has contributed to a marked improvement in Dutch dairy cattle health, says Jan Klijnstra of Xsires Crossbreeding. He credits the Norwegian Red breeding program’s forty years emphasis on health for this feat. "It is a self-reliant cow. The animals are smaller, more robust, more compact and have better feed conversion." Klijnstra claims.
Lars Bredahl of the Norwegian cooperative Geno, which is the breeding organization for Norwegian Red, indicates that Geno has the largest red breeding program in the world, while the breed nucleus with 200,000 animals is relatively small. Consisting of all Norwegian herds in the program. With only 26 animals, the average size of the Norwegian dairy farms is quite small. However, due to the policy, the effective breeding population with more than 200 bulls is large. “The effective genetic population of the Holstein breed consist of around 60 bulls worldwide” compares Bredahl.