2010 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
To evaluate the performance and profitability of first-generation (F1) crossbred Norwegian Red x Holstein dairy cattle, relative to their pure Holstein contemporaries, via a large, controlled, randomized experiment to be carried out on commercial dairy farms located throughout the U.S.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
A total of 27 commercial dairy farms in 11 states (FL, IA, KS, KY, MI, NC, NE, OH, TN, VA, and WI) will participate in the study. Average herd size is 673 lactating cows, with a range of 100 to 4000 cows per farm. Each herd will use >= 4 Norwegian Red sires over a 2-year period (2007-2008), and semen from these sires will be used to mate >= 100 cows per farm per year. Cows and heifers will be selected and subsequently mated to specific Norwegian Red sires in a random manner. Data regarding reproductive performance (days to first breeding, conception rate, embryonic loss, abortions), calving ability (calving difficulty, stillbirths, pre-weaning mortality), infectious diseases and metabolic disorders (mastitis, ketosis, metritis, milk fever, lameness, displaced abomasum), survival (death, culling) will be captured from on-farm herd management software (PC Dart, Afimilk, DHI Plus, DairyComp 305), whereas data regarding milk yield, milk composition, and somatic cell count will be obtained either from on-farm software or from the DHIA milk recording program. When possible, data regarding milking speed will also be captured. Statistical analyses of differences between crossbred Norwegian Red cattle, which have been selected for improved udder health, fertility, and calving ability for > 25 years, and their pure Holstein contemporaries will be carried out for all traits noted above. Subsequently, economic values will be assigned to estimated breed differences to determine the overall advantage or disadvantage in farm profitability associated with crossbreeding.
The project is related to in-house objective 2 (characterize phenotypic measures of dairy practices and provide the industry with information for determining impact of herd management decisions on profitability). The Cooperator collected and standardized data for analysis of fertility, calving traits, production, health, and longevity from 34 commercial dairy farms. Data continued to be collected from herds in Michigan (6), Wisconsin (5), Iowa (4), Kansas (3), Texas (3), Florida (2), Pennsylvania (2), Kentucky (2), Oklahoma (1), Tennessee (1), Vermont (1), Ohio (1), Virginia (1), North Carolina (1), and Utah (1). On-farm data recording and management systems included PCDART (21 herds), DairyCOMP 305 (7 herds), DHI-Plus (3 herds), AfiFarm (3 herds), and traditional Dairy Herd Improvement (2 herds). Records from crossbred animals and their purebred contemporaries in project herds and a few nonproject herds were extracted from files supplied by Dairy Records Management Systems (DRMS), AgSource Cooperative, AgriTech Analytics, National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB), and DairyCOMP 305, and ARS. Construction of master data sets continued; e.g., over 251,000 calving records were extracted from the NAAB database, DHI-Plus, and DairyCOMP files for 28 herds (14 nonproject) and DRMS cow/heifer fertility data files (21 project herds). Several herds that started participation in the project in late 2006 had cows with Norwegian Red sires and lactations of 100 days in milk or more. Data that meet edits will be used to assess phenotypic differences in reproductive performance, health, survival, and other economically important traits between Norwegian Red crossbreds and Holsteins. Identification of features and flaws in the national recording systems for production, fertility, and calving data that prevent routine transmission of data from crossbred cattle to ARS continued. Conversion of cow and bull breed identification from 1- to 2-character codes increased the percentage of sire and service-sire breed and NAAB coding errors for non-Holstein bulls during this project. In the PCDART data set of 101,123 records in 21 project herds, 8,872 (60%) of 14,808 breedings to Norwegian Red bulls had to be corrected for inclusion in analyses. Without past collaboration with DRMS to implement standard NAAB coding for service-sire and cow-sire identification, an even higher percentage of data would have been miscoded for Norwegian Red sires. After completion of data edits during summer 2010, analyses will be performed on fertility and calving traits followed by analyses of production, health, and longevity traits. Data collection from Norwegian Red offspring and their contemporaries continues in project herds as does collaboration with dairy industry partners that are providing data files and have an interest in improving identification of crossbreds in the national dairy herd. Monitoring activities for the project included phone calls and e-mail exchanges. Routine project oversight is being carried out by Cooperator personnel.