Testimonials about Norwegian Red
"How do they (Norwegian Red crosses) milk?" "Where can I go to see some?"
Hear from producers in many countries (below) who are more than satisfied with their milking Norwegian Red crosses.
Sean Mallett, Harmony Organic Dairy, Idaho, USA:
"I believe that the milk cows for successful dairymen in the future will have some Norwegian Red genetics."
Sean Mallett and his wife Staci own the very successful 1,450-cow organic farm, Harmony Organic Dairy LLC, in Twin Falls, Idaho. Mallett is very pleased with Norwegian Red genetics and has data from more than 1,000 Norwegian Red crosses to support his enthusiasm.
"I have been using Norwegian Red semen since 2009. The herd make-up is now 50% Norwegian Red x Holstein, 25% Holstein and 25% Norwegian Red x (Holstein x Jersey). We milk 1,450 cows 3X through a double-26 parallel parlor and raise our 1,300 youngstock ourselves," Sean says.
According to Sean, feed efficiency from birth through lactation, smaller stature, excellent udders, health traits, excellent fertility (10% higher pregnancy rate than Holsteins, etc.) and good milk production with high milk solids are the main advantages of using Norwegian Red. "We follow all organic rules including organic health treatments, no usage of hormones and our animals graze pasture at least 120 days per year."
"My annual herd average is 66 lb (30 kg) of milk per day, 3.75% fat and 3.3% protein with the Norwegian Red crosses pulling up the Holsteins. Our annual herd average is 21,000 lb (9,525 kg) and we are in the top 10% of organic herds (average US organic herd is about 15,000 lb (6,804 kg)."
Overall, Sean doesn't experience problems at calving for Norwegian Reds. Non-issue for stillbirths or difficult calvings. In addition, his Norwegian Red crosses hold their condition very well after calving - - "they are the least problematic of any animal I've dealt with" (Sean's family was heavily into conventional dairying for 23 years and milked 10,000 cows at one point).
Read the genoBULLetin article about this farm including 12-month fertility comparisons to purebred Holsteins and Jerseys: Organic dairyman in Idaho loves his Norwegian Reds
Henk Schoonvelde, Ph Koekange, Holland:
"For us, the Norwegian Red is the number one breed for crossbreeding. The cows are strong and self-supporting. That's what we like! "
We have used Norwegian Red for crossbreeding for 10 years now. We started crossbreeding to breed more self-supporting cows. In our opinion the purebred Holsteins needed to much input.
Mostly, we do a three-way cross with Holstein, Fleckvieh and Norwegian Red or a two-way cross between Norwegian Red and Holstein. We also tried some Jerseys and Brown Swiss.
After 10 years we can tell you that our cows are working. Even with a low milk price, they still make money for us. We milk 260 cows with two people. This was not possible with pure Holsteins. Our production level is 10.000 kg with 3.6% protein and 4.2% fat.
Last year we slaughtered only 30 cows, which is around 15% of the herd. Norwegian Red is the number one breed for us. They are medium sized cows with the same production levels as purebred Holsteins. The Norwegian Reds are strong and self-supporting. That's what we like!
Francesco Rossetti – Rossetti Dairy Farm, Po Valley, Italy
"I now expect more from my cows – now I've seen what the crossbreds can do. Four lactations, a lower calving interval and good yields."
Second lactation Norwegian Red Cross gives 74kg of milk a day in third week of lactation.The Raastad daughter out of a Holstein cow is part of Francesco Rossetti's dairy herd in the Po Valley. The Rossetti family have a 330 cow herd on their 150ha unit including 25 Norwegian Red cross bred cows; the majority of the herd is made up of high performance Holstein cows. Total herd average is 13,800kg of milk with the Holstein cows averaging 40kg of milk a day and the crossbred cows averaging 38kg a day. Cows are housed 365 days and on a maize and ryegrass based TMR with a high protein concentrate.
Francesco is especially pleased with the performance of this crossbred cow who, along with very high yields, has maintained excellent body condition and udder health. Like his other crossbreds, udder confirmation and health are excellent and both attributes contribute to cow productivity, longevity and profitability.
A milk recorded herd, results for the crossbreds are published alongside the Holstein cows so comparisons are fully transparent. Despite marginally lower milk yields, the records demonstrate a calving interval of 390 days from the Norwegian Red crosses; 30 days less than the Holstein average in his herd.
Francesco Rossetti has introduced the Norwegian Red blood into his herd to improve cow strength and fertility. He is an enthusiastic user of SpermVital semen – a technique used by Geno on its Norwegian Red sires that increases the life of sperm post insemination from typically 24 hours to 48 hours, thereby increasing potential conception rates.
By their own admission, the Rossetti's move to crossbreds will be slow but they are getting more enthusiastic and record-breaking yields seen in his cross bred cows are making the family appreciate the breed's ability to improve herd sustainability in the future.
Francesco is especially pleased with what he considers a 'perfect' udder on the crossbred and, thanks to this strong type feature, their ease of milking, particularly in later lactations compared with some of his Holsteins. He also appreciates their lower average cell count of 60,000/ml compared with his Holstein cows that average 80,000/ml.
"We will always want a dairy type cow and we will keep the Holstein in the breeding programme – that is for sure. But this year we will have 15% crossbreds in the milking herd," says Francesco Rossetti.
Ernesto Fasoli, Fasoli Dairy Farm – Santo Stefano Lodigiano, Italy:
"I immediately liked the improved feet, fertility and disease resistance that came with the Norwegian Cross cows. And that meant better longevity."
Po Valley producer Ernesto Fasoli runs a 35ha farm with his brother and the two sons Nicolas and Simone. Ernesto started crossing some of his 130 Holsteins with Norwegian Red seven years ago, mainly to improve his herd's health characteristics. Despite average yields of 10,000 litres, he wasn't happy with cell counts of 180,000/ml and fertility. He really wanted better fertility that would bring the calving interval down from 420 days.
Ernesto now uses Norwegian Red sires across the whole herd and 80% of his cows now have Norwegian Red bloodlines. He is considering a three way cross with the Fleckvieh. Yields have not been affected since introducing the crossbred cows. The herd 305-day average is 9762kg at 3.8% protein and 4% fat in with a calving interval of 390 days. Days open has fallen to 110 days from 140 days and they are now using 1.7 straws of semen per pregnancy compared with 2.5. "We are not such good business for the semen salesman now," comments Ernesto.
But it's the health benefits that are coming to the fore on Ernesto's 35ha farm that he runs with his brother and the two sons Nicolas and Simone. "I immediately liked the improved feet, fertility and disease resistance that came with the Norwegian Cross cows. And that meant better longevity," he says. Although he admits that the second generation Norwegian Red sires he used offered far greater improvements than earlier sires he used and he takes care to select from within the breed for the traits of most importance to him and his herd. His current favourites are Skjelvan and Prestangen.
"And as time passes, the disease resistance – or health – aspects become more evident. We hardly ever have any retained cleansings, cell counts remain low – typically under 140,000/ml – and we rarely have a case of mastitis," although he admits that he and Simone follow strict milking and hygiene protocols. "The crossbreds are stronger – if they slip they get up and carry on, if the Holstein slips she stays down. For us the old Holstein has too many health weaknesses."
Denis Dunlop at Grasslands Dairy in Western Idaho, USA:
"We have an ongoing crossbreeding program in our dairy herd and after learning about Norwegian Reds, we thought that they would be an excellent fit for our breeding program. We are especially looking for moderate or smaller cow size along with good solids production and high fertility."
Grasslands Dairy has been in the dairy business for almost 20 years. Denis and Patricia Dunlop have been crossbreeding for many years and almost all of the cows in the herd are crosses. Jersey crosses are heavily represented in the herd but in recent years Norwegian Red sires have started to contribute significantly to the herd. Holsteins and Swedish Reds are also part of the breeding program.
Grasslands Dairy sells milk to a cheese plant so protein and fat production are the drivers of milk income. Milk volume is not important because solids production determines milk value which is common in Idaho. Protein is generally valued at about two times as much as fat.
Feed costs have been high in recent years so smaller cow size has been seen increasingly as a positive for the herd. The farm feeds male calves destined for beef in a feedlot except those that have mostly a Jersey pedigree. Those with a heavy Jersey pedigree are given to small local calf growers for rearing. Norwegian Red sired bull calves are the best performers for beef in the farm's feeding operation.
The cows in Grasslands Dairy are housed in open lots or large pens and are always outside. The milking herd is fed a total mixed ration using a variety of feeds. Each pen has a large feeding area with lockups used to catch cows for breeding and veterinary work. Dry cows and heifers are grazed during some parts of the year. Open lots or pens where the cows are kept have the manure removed routinely and straw is used for bedding as needed. Western Idaho has a dry and cool climate so this type of facility is common in the area.
James Willcock, Cornwall, England:
"We had 18 Norwegian Red cross cows to breed earlier this year and they all got back in calf straight away apart from one. This is far better than the other breeds I've used. Their fertility and conception rates are excellent. They show strong signs of bulling – often for 24 hours. This makes life a lot easier!"
Four years down the line and James Willcocks feels he's got his choice of dairy breed right for his forage based system. Based in south west England, between the Cornish towns of Bodmin and Wadebridge, James runs a 300-cow dairy herd and followers on the family 200 hectare farm.
Originally a Holstein herd, six years ago James decided to switch to Brown Swiss for a sturdier cow that was better suited to his grazing based system. But he found these cows a bit too big and not ideal for grazing from February to November in a forage based block calving system.
A discussion with Geno UK's Wes Bluhm and local Geno adviser Liam Healy persuaded him to try the Norwegian Red and enter a three way crossbreeding programme. With Norwegian Cross cows now in their second lactation James is very pleased with their performance, especially with their health and fertility.
Average heifer yields for James' first Norwegian Red crosses were 6000 litres in a herd average of 8000 litres. Roughly half of this milk comes from forage – grass silage in winter and grass with some buffer feeding as required in summer.
Convinced of the benefits of the three way cross, James will breed the Brown Swiss cross Norwegian Red cows to a New Zealand Friesian type sire, maintaining a three way cross and breeding out the pure Holstein. And now a Norwegian Red enthusiast, James is very keen to see the breed in herds in Norway at some point.
Marco Gobetti, Gobetti Dairy Farm, Scandiano, Italy:
"I started to use Norwegian Red for crossbreeding mainly to increase fertility, health and longevity."
Marco Gobetti produces milk for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on his 180 milking cows. The herd is now 90% NRF crossbred and the milk production is equal to the one Marco had with the pure Holstein but with much less problems and veterinarian costs. He likes to stress also the importance of having cows with easy calving and Norwegian Red is helping a lot in that.
Martin Vissers, Ravenstein in Holland:
"The Norwegian Red crosses are amazing."
The Vissers family milks 275 cows. Herd average milk yield is 9,328 kg, 3.98% fat and 3.50% protein. The family started crossbreeding some years ago and are very satisfied with the way their first-lactation Norwegian Red x Holstein crosses are milking. They are also milking about 40 Fleckvieh x Holstein crosses and are very happy with them, too.
Tom Appleby, Bretforton House Farm, Worchestershire, Southwest England
"Fertility problems were the main reason promting us to look around for other genes, which led us to try Norwegian Red."
Tom Appleby, together with his wife Nicky and parents James and Sue, runs an organic dairy farm in Worcestershire, in the southwest of England. A Holstein sign hanging on the barn wall testiﬁes that they have been active breeders of pure Holstein on the farm, and Tom still holds an honorary post in Holstein Young Breeders. Fertility problems were the main reason prompting them to look around for other genes, which led them to try NRF.
When they started with NRF in 2005, the first bull they selected for semen was 5603 Lien. Somatic cell count and leg quality, together with fertility, were decisive factors for trying something different from Holstein, and their choice fell upon Norwegian Red. This resulted in 11 heifers, but they unfortunately lost half of them due to tuberculosis. Then they continued with purebred Holstein for four more years, which Tom says was because they were biased against crossbreeding and were wary of losing the pure Holstein animal with its high yield.
They started up with crossbreeding again one year ago. Tom came into contact with Wes Bluhm of Geno-UK and drew up a plan for crossbreeding. He had aslo come to the conclusion that it was better to adapt the animal to his farm than the other way round.That is, it would be better to breed a slightly smaller cow instead of being forced to make new stalls. "Crossbreeding has gotten us away from thinking that we constantly have to produce more. We only care about the bottom line and not how much the cows milk or what they look like", says Tom, who has converted from dedicated Holstein breeder to NRF ambassador.
Tom Dunne, county Cork, Ireland
"Norwegian Red is superior to any other breed and will be the main breed on my farm in the future."
Brothers Tom and Mike Dunne have a lot of experience with crossbreeding. The choce is made: NRF will be their primary breed.
Tom and Mike began with crossbreeding as early as 2000. 75% of their herd is now crossbreeds. They have tried both SRB and NRF, but Tom says NRF is their breed of coice for the future. The reason is that they think that NRF has better fertility performance than SRB.
"NRF cows are easy calvers and the calves are up their feet fast. The cows quickly go back in calf after calving, and they can be kept in the herd for a long time", says Tom.
The plan was to use a two-way cross with Holstein and NRF, but based on their experiences, the Dunne brothers now want to use NRF only. This also fits in with their goal of having a middle-sized cow.
To Tom and Mike the most important traits of the NRF are the fertility and health. The cows also have extremely good feet and legs and they find that the Norwegian Red is very suited to the grass based milk production system in Ireland. They are a medium sized robust animal that hold condition very well. According to Tom they have very god milk yield and compete with the Holsteins as far as the yield is concerned.
Read The Dairy Site's article about brothers Tom and Mike Dunne: