This has resulted in a world-leading cow that has excellent production, health, and fertility traits.
In the best herds in Norway, milk production (ECM – Energy-corrected milk) exceeded 12,000 kg (26,455 lbs) in 2020, with the best performing cows milking more than 16,000 kg (35,275 lbs). The average percentage of fat and protein in milk in 2022 was 4.3 % fat and 3.54 % protein, across the entire population of cows of all lactations.
Health traits are important for the economy, animal welfare, and sustainability (low use of medicines) in dairy production. Health traits have been included in the Norwegian Red breeding program since 1978.
There are three different groups of health traits included in the TMI for Norwegian Red. These are udder health, claw health, and other disease resistance.
Fertility has been included in the TMI since 1971. The index for fertility is based on the number of inseminations.
Calving ease has been included in the selection program since 1978. The Norwegian Red is characterized as a breed with a low frequency of calving difficulties. 2,2 % of the calvings are reported as having major calving difficulties. Stillbirths are also included in the TMI, and less than 3% of Norwegian Red heifer calves and around 3 % of bull calves are stillborn (2020).
A significant number of Norwegian Red bulls are polled and some are homozygous polled. All offsprings of homozygous polled bulls will be born polled.
Size and feed efficiency
The Norwegian Red cow is a medium-sized cow. The average mature Norwegian Red weighs about 1,342 pounds/610 kg. The average mature Holstein weighs about 1,540 pounds/700kg. Small cows require less feed to maintain their body weight, so they eat less compared to Holstein cows.
With good production capabilities, and known as the "problem-free cow", the Norwegian Red lasts longer on average than most modern dairy breeds.
Norwegian Red has become an innovative, healthy, fertile, and robust cow that produces well with its broad breeding goal. This has undoubtedly positive effects on climate emissions.
Norwegian Red calves and cows are vigorous and healthy with lower mortality compared to most other dairy breeds. Both cows and young stock command better prices when sold for slaughter due to their healthy nature, excellent growth, and muscling. These characteristics all contribute to a more climate-friendly cow. Norwegian farmers have achieved a very sustainable and climate-friendly cow through an innovative and forward-thinking breeding program.
Automatic Milking System (AMS)
Around 30% of Norwegian dairy farmers (including 55% of cows) milk by automatic milking system, AMS (milking robot). This makes the Norwegian Red the dairy breed with the highest % worldwide of cows in AMS.
Traits that are especially required in ASM are good behavior, very good udder conformation, milking speed, and good locomotion. The balanced breeding program developed in Norway has been successful to provide Norwegian Red genetics with all these key traits.