Anders Kirch has been herd manager for the 430-head herd of Holsteins at Gammelbygaard Farm in Denmark for around 20 years and also runs a second farm in Germany. Over the years, he has applied his keen interest in breeding to develop the herds’ Holsteins although has recently undergone a change of direction.
After years of deliberation and visits to other breeders in both Denmark and the USA, he decided to switch to ProCROSS breeding about a year ago.
He says a visit to the herds of the ProCROSS pioneers in California clinched it for him and he became totally confident the ProCROSS could give his herd the boost it needed on several levels.
“In California, I saw very healthy, strong cows and felt confident of making the change to 100% ProCROSS”, he says.
He felt the challenges with his Holsteins’ fertility and their feet and legs would be addressed by the change, and says: “I could see the benefits of the ProCROSS in the herds I visited before making my decision, and it was obvious that the crossbred cows’ fertility and robustness would be of great benefit to us.”
Starting to crossbreed using bulls from Coopex Montbeliarde and VikingRed, he says it was important that he picked the right bulls from each breed for his herd.
In the VikingRed, he looked for maternal calving ease, so the heifers and cows he bred would give birth easily. These would be put in calf to Coopex Montbeliarde bulls, which he selected for their good temperament and moderate size – traits which would help his cows fit into his current facilities.
Also seeking high milk yields and good milk quality, he found the Montbeliarde had more to offer than other breeds, including, for example, the Fleckvieh.
Indeed, it is because of the Montbéliarde’s higher milk yields and constituents – resulting in a greater weight of energy corrected milk (ECM) – as well as its high fertility score and robustness, that it has been selected for the ProCROSS system.
“Now, the first crossbred calves have started to arrive, and the Holstein-Montbeliarde crosses are stronger-bodied to look at than the Holstein calves,” says Mr Kirch.
These are the progeny of bulls such as Ilanne and Neutrino from Coopex Montbeliarde and VR Fanof P from the VikingReds.
Gammelbygaard Farm, Denmark: