“I cross tender Holsteins with Fleckvieh”

The Holstein cow is no longer the standard cow on a dairy farm. Dairy farmers like to add a bit of strength or self-reliance by crossing into other breeds. “I crossed Holstein with Fleckveh, and was pleasantly surprised by the effect,” says cattle rancher Eric Bolen.

© Elly Geverink But the photo belongs to Xsires

“I had to constantly chase the cows, they always had something wrong with them.” Dairy farmer Eric Bullen of Devlin wanted to raise stronger cows. “Our Holsteins have become too tender for me.” So a dairy farmer bought hay from an ox and sufficed it sixteen years ago.

Originally from the Austrian Alps, this dual-purpose breed is known for its strength and good milk production. Bolin also hoped for well-muscled calves, as this would increase their turnover and growth rate. He always impregnated the lower end of his dairy cows with Belgian blues.

The farmer put Fleckvieh hay on a few modest Holsteins (lactation value less than 90). He was pleasantly surprised when, after more than two years, the calves started producing milk. He pointed out that “their lactation value is not less than 110-115.”

“Through Triple-A I keep the balance in the animals and I don’t get short fat cows”

Eric Bolen, dairy farmer

Red fur norwegian

It tasted like more. The farmer has been in contact with Xsires Crossbreeding, which specializes in crossing cows. Pauline bought 25 straws to suffice him there and also some straws from a red and white Norwegian bull. The latter breed is less heavy and therefore more suitable for calves. In that period, I also started doing triple A, so as to keep the cows balanced. Otherwise, you will get fat and short cows.

Dairy farmer Eric Bolen spells it out with other breeds.
Dairy farmer Eric Bolen spells it out with other breeds. © Reggestreek Photography Bert Kamp

The CRV breeding organization also focuses on crossbreeding. You can use this to breed specific breed characteristics into your cows, says the organization. They have set up Crossfit for this.

The contrast effect gives a profit

Sometimes three out of ten ranchers cross or are considering doing so, according to figures from CRV. ‘The contrast effect gives you an extra profit,’ says Hein Tegenbosch, CRV breeding specialist. “If you cross two unrelated bloodlines, you get reverse inbreeding. You can use this to improve fertility, udder health, resistance or self-reliance, for example.

To enhance the health properties, Tegenbosch recommends Fleckvieh, MRIJ, and sometimes Brown Swiss. For a more efficient cow, he recommends Jersey and Brown Swiss. “For better ingredients, it’s best to cross with MRIJ or Jersey, and if you find high milk yield important, go with Fleckvieh or Brown Swiss.”

Holstein is superior to production

Tegenbosch adds that breeding farmers usually also continue to use Holstein. “This variety remains superior to milk production and udder quality, for example.”

Calves born on the Bullen dairy farm of Holstein x Fleckvey grew into strong animals. “Flekveh has really given our cows a boost,” says Pauline. “I immediately saw fewer animal health problems, it just got a lot easier.”

Then he put a red Norwegian Holstein bull on these offspring. Animals that were born from this were often crossed with Holsteins. But he saw a best score of 75 percent from Fleckviehs. Or: Holstein x Fleckvieh x Norwegian Red Holstein x Fleckvieh.

“Farmers want cows with better fertility, good health characteristics, lower production loss, higher turnover and gain,” says Hans Kerkhove, Director of Xsires. Eighteen years ago, he founded that company with Henk Schoonvelde and it has grown exponentially since then.

According to Kirkhove, the Holsteins are good cows, but the breed requires more attention in the period of weakness from dryness to postpartum. On large farms with two hundred cows, where labor is the determining factor, more robust breeds are crossed.

Dairy farmers used to be very skeptical. They thought that crossing would give you fat cows without milk,” Kerkhoff says.

In Farmer Pauline’s Farm, where the herd consists of several crosses, the average milk yield is 9,200 kg per animal with 4.50% fat and 3.50% protein. Most animals let it suffice. It mainly uses Der Beste and Hokuspokus oxen, and the prices for hay are comparable to those of Holstein oxen.

Less affluent shares

Bolin appreciates Flakefeh crosses for their late maturation and feeding efficiency. They can manage less affluent quotas. On average, we feed 23 kilograms of grain for every 100 kilograms of milk. “

There are also fewer udder health problems. The cell count is 180,000 cells per milliliter. I only see mastitis a few times a year, but I blow dry all the cows. The daily dose for the animal is on average Dutch 2.4 min.

Brown Swiss crosses
Brown Swiss crosses © CRV

The vet rarely comes to the yard, almost only to vaccinate and vaccinate against bacterial vaginosis. The load is controlled by the farmer himself. What does Pullen recommend to mates who also want to crossbreed with other varieties? “Just start with it. A lot. But only if you do a triple A.”

Dairy farms stop using Norwegian red fur. This desolate bloodline’s legs and udders were a disappointment to him. He occasionally crosses the heavy Flickvih cross with Swiss Braun. In this way, the type of milk returns. “This breed is also known for its best hooves and high protein content,” the farmer concludes.

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