ProCROSS is the only proven crossbreeding program used by progressive dairy farmers in the US, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Portugal and other countries. By now, the combination of VikingRed, Montbéliarde and VikingHolstein has been proven to be the most profitable cross. The three breeds combine and compensate their strong and weak points. On top of that, you get the maximum heterosis.

Heterosis - Your Free Gift! 

Heterosis is created when unrelated breeds are crossed. The lower the relation between breeds, the higher the heterosis that you get. The effects of heterosis are the opposite of inbreeding depression. Research indicates that heterosis really improve traits like vitality, fertility, health and survival allowing also higher production then parent average. Inbreeding leads to depression, mainly in the secondary traits. Heterosis is the extra added genetic value that is generated above the parent average.

The additive breed effects are important in crossbreeding as well as in all breeding. The heterosis is an extra benefit on top of the parents average. Using the best breeds and the best bulls in these breeds is essential for successful crossbreeding. A crossbreeding programme needs to be well planned and organized to produce benefits. ProCROSS is the combination of three unrelated, productive and very competitive breeds, all with efficient breed improvement programmes.

Why three breeds? 

Capturing and sustaining heterosis is a key part to an efficient crossbreeding program. Once you experience the extra bonus of heterosis, you do not want to go lower than 75%. Only using 2 breeds the heterosis will drop to 50% in the second generation – leveling at 67%, in future generations. A system of 4 breeds results in an even higher heterosis leveling at 93%. But it is very hard to find 4 competitive, unrelated breeds that produce sufficient milk. ProCROSS is a 3-breed rotation system generates optimum results with an average heterosis of 86%.
Images: The added extra benefit of heterosis and Heterosis level in three-breed cross compared to two-breed cross

Inbreeding - No Problem At All! 

Effects of high inbreeding levels

When parents are closely related inbreeding occurs. Pure-inbreeding leads to inbreeding - and genomic selections will increase inbreeding even more rapidly. Inbreeding results in animals that have more health and reproduction problems - and therefore lifetime production will decrease. Inbreeding levels over 4% will give depression in the offspring. Holstein populations are closely related and show inbreeding levels between 5% and 8%. Holstein bulls that are used nowadays have over 10%  inbreeding rates. The high genetic level of these bulls will not show in their daughters anymore. Due to inbreeding the results will be worse than expected. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of the  population, known as inbreeding depression. Genetic defects such Blad, CVM etc, will occur. All AI-centers use genomic-DNA selection in their breeding programs. This is resulting in faster inbreeding. The promised genetic levels will not be expressed in the results at dairy farms. Lifetime productions will not go up. Cows can only perform if they are supported with costly management tools. Feed costs will go up. More young stock is needed.

Only crossbreeding can solve inbreeding. The very good and sometimes even surprisingly results of ProCROSS can be explained by the inbreeding problems in Holstein and the heterosis using ProCROSS.

Inbreeding leads to the following most mentioned situations:

  • Cows performance does not match her breeding levels
  • More problems with fertility
  • More problems with calving
  • More stillborns
  • Cows get less vital
  • More labor per cow
  • Lower value cull cows
  • Lifetime production does not improve
  • Problems get bigger, despite using the best Holsteins bulls and the best mating programmes

Inbreeding coefficient: 

  • Inbreeding can be maximum 4% if you want to avoid problems
  • Inbreeding in the Netherlands with Holsteins: > 5%
  • Inbreeding in the USA with Holsteins: > 7%
  • Inbreeding in Canada with Holsteins: > 8%
  • Inbreeding in France with Montbéliardes: 4.2%
  • Mating programs have moved the maximum acceptable inbreeding up from 2 to 4 to 6%
  • Genomics will cause an increase in inbreeding
  • Notice the kinship level; the Holstein bulls you are using are between 6 and 15%
  • Outcross bulls do not exist

More information about the benefits of heterosis and information about inbreeding here.