Friesian genetics for Holsteins

PUTTING LONGEVITY and fertility back into the UK dairy herd are just two areas Holstein breeders must concentrate on, according to Somerset-based pedigree Friesian breeder Mary Mead.

She told workshop delegates that the emphasis on milk production on Holstein genetics has led to a huge decrease in fertility and longevity. “It is no wonder butterfat figures have dropped as well as associated problems such as lameness and calving index.”

Selecting sires using PIN indexes has also proved problematic, she added. “PIN figures have influenced producers to breed from their younger cows to push for high milk yields.” Mrs Mead said she prefers to breed from older proven cows from her 320-cow herd. “This way resistance to mastitis is also good.”

But she believes problems with the modern Holstein can soon be rectified with Friesian genetics. “By crossing with Friesians, breeders can keep their pedigree status but also bring back some of that desired fertility, calving index and longevity.”

The Friesian is now capable of meeting the Holstein in the middle, she added. “And now with its own designer index, Friesians can be compared within the breed instead of being recognised as the poor relation to the Holstein.”