ProCROSS cows are more efficient than pure Holsteins in converting feed into milk

Lisbon, Portugal. The ProCROSS conference “Lower feed costs – increase your profit” in Portugal has gathered farmers and journalists from the most progressive dairy markets in Europe. Participants were coming from Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden. The purpose of the two-day conference and farm visits was to officially launch the results of the latest trial from the University of Minnesota regarding feed efficiency on crossbred cows in the ProCROSS system.
Les Hansen, Ph.D. Dairy Cattle Genetics Specialist from the University of Minnesota, who has led many research about the crossbreeding system ProCROSS, has presented the results of the latest study about feed efficiency and therefore, scientifically proved that the ProCROSS cows are inherently able to convert feed more efficiently into milk solids compared to the Holstein cows.

“Improved feed efficiency can be added to the list of advantages of ProCROSS cows over Holstein cows”, Prof. Les Hansen stated in Lisbon, Portugal. “ProCROSS cows are more feed efficient than Hol-stein cows with equal fat and protein production”, he added while explaining that the study consisted of measuring the feed intake of individual cows.

The study was the research project of Ph.D. graduate student Dr. Brittany Shonka-Martin at the Univer-sity of Minnesota, he explained. Dr. Shonka-Martin’s research compared 123 first-lactation cows (63 ProCROSS© and 60 Holstein) and 80 second-lactation and third-lactation cows (43 ProCROSS© and 37 Holstein) for dry matter intake, body weight, wither height, body condition score, milk volume, and fat plus protein production over a 3-year period.
Les Hansen, Ph.D. Dairy Cattle Genetics Specialist from the University of Minnesota explaining the study results in a press conference in Portugal on 12th July
All cows were fed the same TMR (Total Mixed Ration) twice daily in tie-stalls with partitions in the mangers. Feed samples were collected twice weekly to determine dry matter content. Feed intakes were recorded only from days 4 to 150 of lactation. During the same lactation period, body weight, height, and body condition score were recorded for each cow.

”Fat and protein production (kg) was no different for the two genetic groups during the first lactation or during the second and later lactations. However, the ProCROSS cows had higher percentages of fat and protein in their milk than the Holstein cows and, for most milk markets, milk price is based mainly on the solids in milk and not on the fluid carrier of milk”, Hansen said.
Les Hansen, Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota explaining the ProCROSS study results for to an international group of  dairymen attending the event
He also states that this trial demonstrated that ProCROSS cows carried significantly more body condition, but were not different from the Holstein cows for body weight. ”Smaller frame sizes of cows and more body condition of cows to enhance fertility and health are advantages of ProCROSS cows over Holstein cows for commercial dairying”, he stated, during his participation in the conference “Lower feed costs – increase your profit”.

Independent research in feed efficiency is very valuable and of high importance for the dairy industry. Farmers are facing rising feed costs and low milk prices all over the world. “As farmers use breeding strategies leading to cows that are more feed efficient, they will realize savings in feed costs without sacrificing production”, Ph D. Brittany Shonka-Martin has said.
"In an uncertain dairy economy when every penny counts, even the smallest increase in revenue or reduction in expenses can have an impact on farm profitability. The good news is that ProCROSS offers ways to significantly cut feed costs, and optimize forage resources" Stéphane Fitamant, managing director for ProCROSS, stated.
A detailed study

Feed efficiency was evaluated with alternative measures. Some of them were:

1. Fat plus protein production divided by dry matter intake
2. Energy-corrected milk divided by dry matter intake
3. Dry matter intake divided by body weight
4. Residual feed intake (which is currently used for genetic evaluation of dairy cattle)

“For all four of these measures, the ProCROSS cows were significantly more feed efficient than the Holstein cows”, Dr. Les Hansen, summed up.
ProCROSS is the only proven crossbreeding programme in the world. It is used by progressive farmers in the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom among other countries. The combination of VikingRed (Swedish red), Montbéliarde and Holstein has proved to be the most profitable cross. The three breeds combine and compensate very well their strong and weak points. On top of that, you also get maximum heterosis.

The effect of heterosis is the opposite of inbreeding depression. Research shows that heterosis improves traits like vitality, fertility, health and longevity and also higher milk production than the parentage average.

For more information, please contact:
Stéphane Fitamant, managing director ProCROSS

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