Background Dairy producers have interest in crossbreeding because crossbred cows have enhanced fertility and survival compared to Holstein (HO) cows, leading to more profitability. This research study was designed to compare the phenotypic performance of Montbeliarde (MO) × Holstein and Viking Red (VR) × HO crossbred cows with pure HO cows in large, high-performance dairy herds. Methods All cows were either 2-breed crossbred or pure HO cows that calved for the first time from December 2010 to April 2014. Best Prediction was used to calculate 305-d milk, fat, and protein production as well as SCS, and 513 MO × HO, 540 VR × HO, and 978 HO cows were analyzed for production during first lactation. Body condition score (BCS) and conformation were subjectively scored once during early lactation by trained evaluators. The analysis of survival to 60 d in milk included 536 MO × HO, 560 VR × HO, and 1,033 HO cows during first lactation. Cows analyzed for other fertility, survival, and conformation traits had up to 13% fewer cows available for analysis. Results Age at first calving was similar for breed groups, and the herds calved both crossbred (x̅ = 23.8 mo) and HO (x̅ = 23.9 mo) cows at young ages. The MO × HO crossbred cows had +3% higher production of 305-d fat plus protein production (actual basis, not mature equivalent) than the HO cows during first lactation, and the VR × HO were similar to the HO cows for fat plus protein production. Breed groups did not differ for SCS during first lactation. The VR-sired 3-breed crossbred calves (from MO × HO dams) were similar to pure HO calves for calving difficulty (CD) at first calving; however, MO-sired male calves born to VR × HO dams had a mean score that was +0.5 points higher for CD than pure HO male calves. The 3-breed crossbred calves from both MO × HO (4%) and VR × HO (5%) first-lactation dams had much lower stillbirth (SB) rates compared with pure HO calves (9%) from first-lactation dams. The first service conception rate of the crossbred cows (both types combined) increased 7%, as did the conception rate across the first 5 inseminations, compared with the HO cows during first lactation. Furthermore, the combined crossbred cows (2.11 ± 0.05) had fewer times bred than HO cows (2.30 ± 0.05) and 10 fewer d open compared with their HO herdmates. Across the herds, breed groups did not differ for first-lactation survival to 60 d in milk; however, the superior fertility of the crossbred cows allowed an increased proportion of the combined crossbreds (71 ± 1.5%) to calve a second time within 14 mo compared with the HO cows (63 ± 1.5%). For survival to second calving, the combined crossbred cows had 4% superior survival versus the HO cows. The MO × HO and VR × HO crossbred cows both had increased BCS (+0.50 ± 0.02 and +0.25 ± 0.02, respectively), but shorter stature and less body depth than HO cows during first lactation. The MO × HO cows had less set to the hock and a steeper foot angle than the HO cows, and the VR × HO had more set to the hock with a similar foot angle to the HO cows. The combined crossbred cows had less udder clearance from the hock than HO cows, more width between teats both front and rear, and longer teat length than the HO cows; however, the frequency of first-lactation cows culled for udder conformation was uniformly low (< 1%) across the breed groups. Conclusions The high-performance herds in this study experienced superior fertility and survival with no loss of production during first lactation for 2-breed crossbreds compared to pure HO cows. The fertility and survival of cows are very influential on lifetime profitability. The first-lactation results from this study suggest MO × HO and VR × HO 2-breed crossbred cows may have increased lifetime profit than pure HO cows in high-performance dairy herds. A comparison of the lifetime profitability and, also, profitability of the subsequent generations of crossbred cows for this rotational crossbreeding system versus pure HO cows warrants further examination.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.December 2017. Major: Animal Sciences. Advisor: Leslie Hansen. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 92 pages.
Comparison of 2-breed crossbred cows sired by Montbeliarde and Viking Red compared with pure Holstein cows during first lactation in high-performance Minnesota dairy herds.
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