ProCROSS, a successful option in the dairy business worldwide

November 15, 1998 was the birth date of the ProCross crossbreeding system in Oakdale, California. Dairy farmers in the Oakdale area were experiencing problems with their Holstein herds which were partly due to co-efficient inbreeding of their cattle. The economics of dairying did not leave room for errors or additional expenses.  Such a situation persuaded the founder of local Artificial Insemination (AI) Company Creative Genetics, Mike Osmundson to join forces with a group of other dairy farmers to search for ways to survive in the dairy business. 
“By carefully listening to our customers, we recognised there were problems with the US Holstein, including calving difficulties, high Somatic Cell Count (SCC) and poor fertility, plus general diseases and problems with longevity. Many of these problems are a direct result of inbreeding and poor breeding (breeding programmes focused on high production only),” Osmundson says. 

Persuading other farmers to do crosses was tough, not all farmers encountering such problems with their pure Holsteins were willing to risk their livelihood by trying something so radically different. Only a handful of farmers had the courage and the vision to try crossbreeding.
 
 “In 1999, we felt like our cattle had reached the point where poor health and fertility were taking away the joy of farming and profits. After many conversations with a few local friends, we began crossbreeding our herd. The first few years were a case of trial and error to determine which breeds would be successful or not successful,”,  Kevin Prins, co-owner of pioneer herd Prins Dairy with 600 ProCROSS cows, recalls.  

A group of nine local dairies decided to join Creative Genetics in a joint venture in trying many breeds to determine a crossbreeding programme. Over time, the best breeds emerged and were demanded by the dairy farmers involved. The three breeds were Holstein, VikingRed and Montbeliarde. This would become the world unique university proven crossbreeding programme known as ProCROSS.
 
“Looking back, we jumped in with both feet and never looked back. Today, our programme is a three-breed rotation using Holstein, Montbelliarde and VikingRed. We are very happy with it and wouldn´t have it any other way,” Prins says. 
Picture: Kevin Prins and his family
“Everything starts with thinking, that becomes a thought and that gives birth to action,”, Osmundson says as he describes the beginnings of ProCROSS, which also became the first scientifically proven crossbreeding programme in the world. Soon after nine California dairies started using the three-way cross the University of Minnesota started a trial to determine the pros and cons of the system. “ProCROSS is the only breeding programme in the world where two university trials have proven it is profitable and another that has proven that ProCROSS is more feed efficient than Holsteins and produces more combined fat and protein,” Osmundson says.
 
“For me, this process brought success to dairy farmers. ProCROSS is a long-term programme that offers a few quick fixes for health problems, reproduction, inbreeding, longevity and SCC. However, it is important to understand that it entails a long-term commitment,” he adds. 
Picture: The founder of Artificial Insemination (AI) Company Creative Genetics, Mike Osmundson
Follow the plan
 
With over 18 years experience using ProCROSS, the ProCROSS pioneer herds and Creative Genetics stress that it is very important to stick with the plan. “Once you have decided to use ProCROSS, follow the plan and be determined to do this faithfully and then just do it,” Osmundson says.
 
“You’ll hear many voices telling you to stop,” Prins adds, “but you must stick with it, because at the end of the day, you will be extremely happy.” Osmundson also recommends you select the best 3-4 bulls from each breed. “I know that selecting for too many traits ends up nullifying everything. Just select for 2-3 main traits,” he says.
 
Be prepared for the surplus
 
All of a sudden you will have too many calves, cows and heifers. This is because of small gains in areas such as more calves being born alive, a lower cull rate, together with better reproduction and reproduction efficiency in  older cows. You will have to plan ahead because your herd will grow quicker than you think.
 
You can be sure it’s going to happen,  Osmundson explains, in talking about the effects of good reproduction. “When old cows don´t depart as quickly and your cows calve more often, you have to think faster,” he says.
 
 
Heterosis, the hidden gift
 
Each of the three breeds contains several very strong attributes that contribute to the ProCROSS system. Each breed is strong in areas where the other two are not as strong. They are also unrelated in their genes which produces additional hybrid vigour (heterosis), which will increase longevity 25-28%, reduce units per pregnancy and lower the SCC count. The best part about the ProCROSS system is that the heterosis effect is a bonus that is totally free. This will provide better beef values, better components and longer lasting cows which will make your life more profitable.

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