Crossbreeding study commences

The arrival at Teagasc Moorepark of 400 purebred Norwegian Red heifer calves has signalled the start of a major new crossbreeding study.

Norway’s breeding programme for more than thirty years has succeeded in incorporating improved female fertility and traits such as mastitis resistance and calving ease.

A study to examine if the same merits can be bred into the Irish dairy herd began with the arrival of the calves in Moorepark.

These have now been distributed to 50 commercial dairy farms. Both the Norwegian Red and Norwegian Red crossbreds will be evaluated under Irish dairy farming conditions.

The calves, together with a similar number of crossbred (Holstein Friesian x Norwegian Red) and pure Holstein Friesian calves, will provide essential study data.

This will enable Teagasc and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) to provide genetic evaluations (EBIs) for Norwegian Red sires and crossbred cows.

Moorepark says the results will enable Irish dairy farmers to compare like with like when selecting the top sires within the EBI from both the Holstein-Friesian and Scandinavian Red breeds.

Dr Frank Buckley, who is leading the study, said Norwegian Red cows at the Teagasc farm in Ballydague have performed very well over the past three years.

“They have combined excellent fertility with good production and their breeding ability is akin to British Friesians.”

Dr Buckley said using sires of an alternative breed, even a credible breed, without suitable genetic evaluation is not a sensible strategy.

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