Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fleckveih cattle: quietly entering the dairy crossbreeding and grazing scene

From the March April Dairy Newsletter 2015

Next to Holsteins, the Fleckveih breed of cattle (primarily from Germany, Austria and Alpine regions of Switzerland and Italy) is the second largest population of dairy cattle in Europe.   Of all the red breeds in Europe, they are the most widely disseminated around the world, and has the larger AI sire development program (with more AI stud participants) than any other breed that has been introduced to the USA from Europe as a choice for a crossbreeding rotation.

Fleckveih was ignored in US crossbreeding mostly because the source studs in Europe were competitors of, rather than partners with, the major US studs exporting Holstein and Brown Swiss semen to Europe.  
World Wide Sires brought Skandinavian Reds to the US in trade for Holstein and Jersey semen wanted from the US, for example.     Today each major system has a chosen breed they offer crossbreeders (as with ABS and the Norwegian Red sires from Geno).     Fleckveih had no one to partner with except the few individuals (like Dr John Popp of Alberta) who had done comparisons and found the Fleckveih was adaptable to North America just as it has been adaptable across Latin and South America.

Fleckveih in some circles are confused with “beef” cattle, due to their historical descent from the Swiss Simmental, the first of the large frame continental breeds American AI studs imported in the ‘60s to meet demands for growth rate and frame among beef cattlemen.   The Simmental was true dual purpose breed selection, compared to the pure beef  Charolais, Gelbveih, Limousin, Maine Anjou, Chianina.  
(1)      They fed them on grass alone during the grazing season, in the foothills of the Alps
(2)      They milked them once per day after bringing them down out of the pastures
(3)      They still nursed their calf until weaning when in the barn in the evening
Fresh milk cheeses made from Simmental cows’ milk (like Camenbeart and Emmental) earned market premiums for Swiss cattlemen, and the management routine followed (1)(2)(3) above) also gave them a 700+ pound weaned feeder animal to sell at the end of the grazing season (on top of 10,000 pounds of 4% milk used for cheese).    The Simmental had fertility to breed back annually and stay in this spring grass calving seasonal window.     They are typically a sturdy 55 inches tall but might weigh 1500 lbs.

In Austria and Germany Fleckveih sire programs test several hundred bulls annually for both “rate of gain” and for “dairy production” (a goal of 100 daughters milk tested from each sire sampled) so the needs of both “dual purpose” cattlemen and specialized dairymen can be fulfilled.    Pedigrees show 24 active breeding lines (how does that compare to what we see in American breed selections?) are used.

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