The 10-year study – the ProCROSS avantages, 2019
The 10-year study is the most important scientific trial into crossbreeding dairy cattle yet undertaken. It was led by Professor Les Hansen from the University of Minnesota and its results were published in July 2019. The trial was conducted on 7 dairy herds in Minnesota & 3.550 Holstein were committed for the foundation. The conclusions included the following:
There was 33% more Lifetime Profit with ProCROSS crossbred cows, compare with Holsteins.
There was 9% to 13% more Daily Profit with ProCROSS cows, compare with Holsteins.
Lifetime Production (kg of milk) = 31,819
Lifetime Profit = $3,743
Daily Profit = $4.29
Lifetime Production (kg of milk) = 35,308
Lifetime Profit = $2,823
Daily Profit = $3.95
In the second and third lactations, the conception rate to first service was 35% for Holstein cows against 45% for the ProCROSS cows. This meant, the Holstein had to be bred 2.4 times, against 1.9 times for ProCROSS cows.
Veterinary fees were 26% lower in the ProCROSS compared with the Holstein (third lactations).
41% of ProCROSS cows reached their fourth lactation against 21% for Holsteins.
On average, ProCROSS cows had 147 days more production in their lifetime than the Holstein.
ProCROSS cows produce 134g of fat plus protein for each 1 kilogram of dry matter intake. This compared with 124g for pure Holsteins. This means ProCROSS cattle have better feed efficiency than Holsteins.
The study concluded that “ProCROSS crossbreds were more profitable than their Holstein herdmates in a 10-year study with high-performance Minnesota dairy herds.” The study was conducted by Dr Amy Hazel, Dr Brad Heins, and Dr Les Hansen from the University of Minnesota. The final results of the study were presented during the ProCROSS Conference, July 2019, the Netherlands.
This 10-year study compared the ProCROSS three-breed rotational crossbreeding programme (Holstein (HO), VikingRed (VR) and Coopex Montbéliarde (MO)) with their pure Holstein herdmates. It began in 2008 and continued until 2017.
The seven Minnesota herds were enrolled in the study in 2008 by researchers at the University of Minnesota, and the managers of the herds committed 3,550 HO virgin heifers and cows to the study as ‘foundation’ females. The herds were in central, southeastern, and southwestern Minnesota and were elite for production. At the end of the study in December 2017, the seven herds’ average production over the course of the study was 13,587kg milk, 512kg fat and 426kg protein with an average herd size of 982 cows. All herds were fed a total mixed ration, and lactating cows were housed in free-stall containement barns.
This study is unique, because no previous study on crossbreeding, using carefully designed mating across generations in commercial American dairy herds, had been undertaken before. Each of the seven herds in the study offered a minimum of 250 foundation HO females, which were assigned by the researchers to be mated to create either HO or ProCROSS progeny. The foundation females were paired and assigned to the two breed types based on their age (for heifers), lactation number (for cows), sire, and production level.
At least 150 foundation females were mated in each herd to HO AI bulls, as were their descendants across the generations. Also, at least 100 foundation HO females were mated in each herd to either VR or MO AI bulls (in equal number) to initiate a three-breed rotational programme in both directions. The two-breed crossbred offspring of the foundation females were mated to the third breed to create three-breed crossbreds. Finally, all three-breed crossbreds were mated to HO AI bulls to keep the rotation moving forward. The two alternate rotations of breeds in each direction continued in successive generations in a designated order.