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Norwegian Red, Holstein-Friesian & NRFxHF in Ireland

The results of this trial conducted by Moorepark Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Republic of Ireland show increased profits using Norwegian Red (NRF) crossbred cows. This is due to increased health, fertility and calving ease coupled with keeping production at the same level.

The net profit per crossbred Norwegian Red (NRF) x Holstein Fresian (HF) cow is 130 Euro per cow per lactation in Ireland. This was presented by Frank Buckley at a Moorepark breeding forum, January 18th 2012 (see link to presentation on top right).

Objective of the trial

To generate data which will facilitate the estimation of parameters pertinent to the provision of genetic evaluations for NRF sires and HF x NRF crosses in Ireland i.e. to put in place an "Across-breed Evaluation". At minimum this requires estimates of the relative breed effects (for the HF and NRF breeds) and the estimated level of heterosis (obtained when the two breeds are crossed) for the range of traits currently represented in the Irish Economic Breeding Index (the EBI). These are milk yield, fat yield, protein yield, calving interval and survival.


A number of other economically and biologically important criteria were monitored including measures of calving ease, calf vitality, growth rate, temperament, body condition score, live weight, intake, routine fertility measures including pre-breeding utero-ovarian measurements, udder health, bloods samples for various metabolites and for the DNA depository at Moorepark etc.

400 Norwegian Red calves in dairy crossbreeding trial on Irish farms

In 2004 the Moorepark team initiated a study to compare Norwegian Red (NRF) purebreds, NRF x Holstein crossbreds besides pure Holstein herdmates across 46 Irish dairy herds. Moorepark imported 400 Norwegian Red calves from Norway and sold them to commercial Irish dairy farmers.


The trials were carried out on 46 commercial dairy farms mainly in Cork and Tipperary. Moorepark researchers gathered information from the performance of these animals over several years and lactations. This is strong research data – coming from a large number of farms and management systems.


The results of this trial show increased profits using Norwegian Red (NRF) crossbred cows. This is due to increased health, fertility and calving ease coupled with keeping production at the same level.

The results show significantly better fertility and survival for NRF crossbreds.


Table 1. NRF x HF – Irish Crossing Research (2nd lactation)

Number of 2nd lactation 633 269 293
Milk yield on grass (kg) 6194 6081 5867
Fat (%) 3.95 3.89 3.90
Protein (%) 3.48 3.49 3.49
Fat + Protein (kg) 458 447 432
SCC lactation average 186,000 179,000 153,000
Mastitis incidence (%) 13 11 10
Pregnancy % (1st service) 46 56 55
Pregnancy % (after 6 weeks AI) 58 71 68
Survival 1st to 3rd lactation (%) 67 74 78


Figure 1. Incidence of cows with Mastitis (1st lactation)

Figure 1. Incidence of cows with mastitis


Table 2. Effect of breed group on 305 day milk production parameters and SCC Ireland (1st lactation)

Milk yield (kg) 5356 5339 5149
Milk yield (gallons) 1144 1141 1100
Fat (%) 3.99 3.97 3.93
Protein (%) 3.46 3.45 3.45
Fat + Protein yield (kg) 399 396 380
Lactation average SCC 190,000 137,000 131,000
Lactation average SCC >400,000 cells/ml 9,5 6,9 5,7

Frank Buckley 2007


Teagasc summary:

Crossbreeding – is it more profitable? (pdf)


Irish Farmers Journal:

Norwegian Red Crossbred – an Irish solution? (pdf)

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