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Crossbreeding gives a more robust herd

Why crossbreeding?

Are you dealing with some of these problems in your herd?

  • Poor fertility
  • Health problems
  • No increase in lifetime production 
  • Too much work per cow 

Would you like to improve production of solids and, at the same time, reduce maintenance costs and have fewer problems with your cows? Take a closer look at the systematic three-way crossbreeding concept.

The benefits of heterosis

One of the great benefits of crossbreeding is heterosis. Heterosis is the increase of favourable characteristics of a hybrid organism over those characteristics of its parents, when two unrelated breeds are crossed. The lower the relation between breeds, the higher the heterosis that you get. 

Research has found that heterosis has the greatest improvement in traits like:

  • Vitality
  • Fertility
  • Health
  • Survival

Crossbred cows stay longer in the herd and lifetime production is increased. 

Counteracting inbreeding

With pure bred cows you need to keep an eye on the level of inbreeding in your animals. Inbreeding depression negatively impacts traits connected with survival and overall fitness, e.g. reproductive rate, health and disease resistance.

It therefore increases the risk of recessive lethal diseases and defects, reduces the performance of your cows and also reduces adaptability to production environments.

The opposite of inbreeding depression is hybrid vigour (heterosis) where we have animals whose parents are not related at all. 

The main point in crossbreeding is to get all the good traits and lose the bad undesired ones!

Crossbreeding with GoldenCross - Heterosis

Two-way or three-way rotation?

Two-way cross

The simplest model of rotational crossbreeding is the two-way cross where two different breeds are crossed. The next generation is called F1 and if the offspring from this cross is mated back to one of the original breeds, this is called a backcross.

The highest level of heterosis is always in the first generation and the level decreases in following generations. When F1 cows are backcrossed, in generation F2 the heterosis is halved compared to the level in the F1.

The heterosis rises again in the F3 generation but then levels to 67% in few generations. 

Three-way cross

The three-breed crossing can be seen as the optimal crossbreeding system as the heterosis stays higher than in two-way crossbreeding.  In three-way crossbreeding the first generation is also called F1, but instead of starting the backcrossing with the cows, the cows are mated to a third breed.

The heterosis stays at 100% for the first two generations, but then drops when the first backcrossing is made to one of the original breeds in F3 generation. After few generations the heterosis level steadies at 86%.

You keep the desired traits in dairy production, but as an added benefit the crossbred offspring will have improved fertility and health traits.

With four-way crossbreeding even higher heterosis can be achieved but maintaining the correct rotation gets more complicated. It's harder to find breeds that complement each other well and are unrelated populations. Therefore, the four-way crossbreeding is not recommended.

Why choose VikingGoldenCross for your spring block-calving herd? Contact us to hear more
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2021 Spring Grazing Bull Catalogue

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