Crossbreeding: What can it do for you

Many producers have probably heard the term “pro-cross” at least once in their life. Pro-cross is a term used to describe what many managers believe is the most profitable crossbreeding system of crossing three breeds to get optimal profit out of the offspring.

Even if you are not using the pro-cross system, crossbreeding could still benefit your herd’s profitability. In an article published in the Progressive Dairyman written by Mandy Brazil and Evan Schnadt, the authors ask you to think about the most profitable cow in your barn. Is she the”stylish 2-year-old that catches everyone’s eye”, or the cow that flies under the radar because she doesn’t have many problems. The article goes on to identify 5 factors that should be addressed to increase the profitability of your herd through genetic improvement:

  1. Milk and Components – not necessarily breeding for extreme milk pounds, but getting the fat and protein increased as well
  2. Fertility- fewer days open means forwer lost days
  3. Stature- smaller frame means less input needed for maintenance
  4. Longevity- Will that cow stand in the barn for more than 2 lactations?
  5. Milk Quality – fewer issues with SCC and mastitis to decrease dumped milk

I tend to agree quite well with these 5 points, they tend to make a lot of sense. Sure, these factors can all be addressed in a purebred operation, but crossbreeding could greatly enhance many of the factors. Let’s use a Fleckvieh for example:

Photo Credit: Fleckveih UK

  1.  Milk and Components – when crossed with a Fleckvieh, Holsteins will lose less than 3% milk volume, but gain components. Fleckvieh average a 4.2% fat and 3.8% protein. Not to mention, those component levels are easily achieved on a lower concentrate diet.
  2.  Fertility- The increase of inbreeding seen in the Holstein breed accounts for a lowered fertility rate across the breed. Fleckveih, on the other hand, are known to be good settlers and can increase the DPR of the offspring when crossed with a Holstein.
  3. Stature – As the article in Progressive Dairyman states, stature is the most heritable trait observed, and with type being a big push, farmers are involuntarily choosing for taller stature. Breeding to Fleckveih will create “average” sized offspring.
  4. Longevity – Fleckveih cows last. The breed is selected to make it through a lot of lactations easily. Add that fact to the better fertility rates and fewer issues with milk quality typically, a fleckvieh-Holstein cross could stand much longer in your barn with fewer reasons to cull her.
  5. Milk Quality – Fleckveih are bred for less milk quality issues as well. when crossed with holsteins, they can help decrease the milk quality issues, including mastitis and higher Somatic Cell Counts.

It comes out pretty well when you factor in the crossbreds. There are a lot of options for crossbreeding, although here at Global, we are most interested in the Fleckveih crosses. No matter what cross interests you, one thing that should be remembered is crossbreeding is a long-term investment. It is much easier to start a crossbreeding program in your herd than it is to return a crossbred herd to purebred.


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