NEEDING a cow that would breed regularly, to meet a tight autumn calving pattern, and produce milk profitably from a low-input system, encouraged one Cleveland producer to try crossbreeding.
Crathorne Farms, Yarm, were milking 400 cows, before losing 270 head on one unit due to foot-and-mouth. But they remain committed to a new crossbreeding programme using New Zealand Jersey semen on Holstein cows.
Farm manager, Graham Bell, says herd profitability rather than high yields is the units priority. "We run a tight block-calving system, between September and November, but we have had problems getting our pure Holstein cows back in-calf to fit that period.
"It is expensive when you have to start selling cows, and particularly heifers, because they wont breed regularly. We have had to sell too many heifers after one lactation."
Mr Bell adds that the loss of condition of Holstein cows during early lactation is thought to be reducing their fertility.
"We want a cow better suited to our system, where profit and not high yield is key. Rearing a heifer for two years and then having to sell her because she wont calve to fit the system is a high cost exercise," he says.
The herd now has 19 Jersey x Holstein heifer calves born last autumn and Mr Bell plans to use more New Zealand Jersey semen in future. *