Norwegian Red overcomes inbreeding

Time to read: ca 2 min

Inbreeding in dairy cattle is a struggle that is growing in many breeds with the use of genomics. Recent analysis has proven that it remains low in the Norwegian Red breed.

Norwegian Red lying down atop a hill
Recent analysis has proven that inbreeding in the Norwegian Red breed remains low. Photo: Elisabeth Theodorsson

Inbreeding in dairy cattle remains a struggle for the dairy industry, and with the intensive use of genomics, inbreeding is growing faster than ever in many breeds. Increases in inbreeding lowers production and have a detrimental effect by increasing stillbirths, reducing cow fertility, reducing disease resistance, and shortening herd life.

Inbreeding in the Norwegian Red population stands low

Recent analysis has proven that inbreeding in the Norwegian Red breed remains low:

  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Change in Inbreeding per year .04% .04% .04% .04% .04%
Change in Inbreeding per generation .21% .21% .21% .20% .20%


"Many dairy geneticists have raised concerns about the growth in inbreeding especially since the adoption of genomic selection. According to the US Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding the US Holstein breed has increased in inbreeding by .28% per year over the last 10 years and this is 7 times faster than the increase in inbreeding in Norwegian Red", explains Dr. Gary Rogers, Technical Advisor for Geno SA.

Minimal inbreeding in the Norwegian Red is due to the well-managed national breeding program based on optimal contribution and use of elite sires. The Norwegian Red breeding program is designed to maximize genetic improvement while maintaining inbreeding at an acceptable rate.

Use of Norwegian Red in a crossbreeding program will contribute to a more sustainable breeding solution

Crossbreeding with Norwegian Red eliminates concerns associated with inbreeding, while at the same time can offer significant advantages such as:

  • Improved fertility
  • Better health for a more sustainable production
  • More efficient cow
  • Boosting performance due to heterosis or hybrid vigor
  • Norwegian Red crosses will be superior in many key traits due to the breed effect.

With over 50 years of breeding for health and fertility, the Norwegian Red breed excels in these traits. Geno continuously focuses on maximizing genetic gain in a sustainable way and continuing to deliver value to the farmers. Geno's sustainable breeding program has a good balance between production, health, fertility, and functional traits allowing genetic progress for key traits.

Crossbreeding with Norwegian Red has been proven to help eliminate the negative effects of inbreeding experienced in many populations.