Making headway with Milking Fleckvieh registry in North America

Making headway with Milking Fleckvieh registry in North America

IMG_1318Many farms want to register Fleckvieh cattle and track performance while doing dairy crossbreeding. There are publications out there that demonstrate the viability of Fleckvieh use and their use in dairy production. Nothing beats having your own system though. Recently, the Composite Dairy cattle registry has made a place for milking Fleckvieh. Read on to see current developments:

An endorsement by the Dairy Crossbred Blog (

The Composite Dairy cattle registry has nice potential with this Registry for information gathering purposes on crossbred animals. Already, efforts have succeeded in getting the Milking Fleckvieh its own breed code (FL). CDCB has changed its databases to reflect this addition and currently efforts are being made for DHI processing centers to modify their databases. 57 Fleckvieh bulls have been added to the NAAB cross referencing program and soon CDCR will have a list for all of us with Fleckvieh sired animals to correct sire information on them.

Please see following below the home page content discussing the Fleckvieh cow as a milking dairy animal and its advantages to farmers at

Milking Fleckvieh

The Fleckvieh breed dates back to the early 19th century. From 1900 onward the breeding work was entirely characterized by pure breeding.
The herd-book in Southern Germany was closed and Fleckvieh continued to develop as an independent breed with triple purpose as the breeding aim: medium-framed cattle with a balanced emphasis on muscling, milk production and high work performance.

The Simmentaler/Fleckvieh breed is one of Europe’s oldest breeds and, with its total population numbering over 42 Million , it is the second largest breed in the world. The Milking Fleckvieh are a proponent of that population, with the highest quantity of Milking Fleckvieh concentrated in portions of Germany, Austria, Italy, France and the Czech Republic. They were developed in the highland regions of Germany and Austria. They are a very popular breed for this part of the world, because of their adaptability to these harsher climatic conditions. They were developed to be highly productive on a mostly grass based diets and yet produce higher amounts of fat and protein for cheese making. In addition they had to be durable, hardy and be easy handling to work within a small family farm. They also needed excellent feet and legs to handle the mountainous regions they were asked to graze.

The Milking Fleckvieh cow in milk production shows a strong forehand and maintains sufficient muscling on back and hind legs to keep stability and health even during peak lactation. The body proportions are harmonious both when standing still and in motion. Milking Fleckvieh cattle are well characterized by their sound feet and legs.

Crossbreeding with Dairy cattle Breeds – different types of cows

Fleckvieh can particularly score as breeding partner in regions and countries with a high proportion of dedicated dairy breeds. Many dairy producers are fighting health problems in their herds and have recognized that, given falling returns from milk, a supplementary income is required to keep their operations profitable.

The experience gathered over several years from operations with rotational or upgrading crossbreeding programs have resulted in advantages due in particular to:

  • Improved Fertility
  • Higher Fat and Protein percentages in the milk
  • Reduced Mastitis and Somatic Cell Counts
  • More hardiness and stronger cows are easy keepers
  • Increase longevity in the offspring
  • Possess good udder quality
  • Excellent milking persistence during lactation
  • Higher percent ratios of components for cheese production
  • Lower veterinary costs that other breeds
  • Improved fattening traits of calves
  • Cull cows have higher carcass values than other breeds
  • Perfect cross with Holstein in a 3-way composite

Milking Fleckvieh Strengths

Milking Fleckvieh cows are healthy, hardy and very adaptable to different geographical and climatic conditions. Easy calving, good fertility and a long productive life are, besides the high performance potential for milk and beef, the basis for efficient production. Very good conformation of udders and feet and legs together with the medium body size of animals is ideal with respect to longevity and feed efficiency. No other breed combines both milk and beef traits in such a strong way as the Milking Fleckvieh:

  • Strong  dairy qualities
  • Good Milkability
  • Strong Feet and Legs
  • Healthy udders with low somatic cell count
  • Strong and Functional Type

The idea of having one calf per year, a short inter calving period of 12 months and return to pregnancy, the lower somatic cell counts, better health and sellable male calves (steers can become feedlot animals) and better longevity make this breed a good choice

How To Reduce The Causes of Mastitis

Mastitis is production-limiting, complex condition that can increase cull rates, veterinary visits and operating costs.

Management and environmental factors are important and one way to help reduce mastitis, lower somatic cell counts and get more lactations per cow, is by taking advantage of hybrid vigor with crossbreeding.

An indicator used as a standard measurement to assess the level of mastitis is the somatic cell count. This reflects the state of the herd’s udder health overall with an inflammatory cell count per mL of milk.

This is called Somatic cell count and it has an impact on milk quality, reflects sanitation practices on the farm as well as udder health. The lower the count, the better the milk quality. With a high somatic milk count, there are deductions from the milk price also.

New Technology To Measure Somatic Cell Counts

Somatic cell counts can be quickly determined with a simple, user-friendly hand-held device attached to an iPhone (check out This allows early detection of Mastitis symptoms in dairy cows, permitting symptoms of mastitis to be treated early.


Environmental Causes of Mastitis:

  • Feed and water quality and quantity;
  • Rumen environment (poor quality silage);
  • Insufficient hygiene in stalls or bedding

The Cow’s Role in Causes of Mastitis:

reduce-masitis-in-dairy-cowsBad teats for example: Hyperkeratosis is a condition where the teat opening has formed extra tissue from milking and handling stress. This creates an easier portal of entry for pathogens.

Other causes of associated difficulties that can contribute to several types of mastitis in dairy cows

  • milking since the teat canal ends up narrowing;
  • Moist teats when entering parlor;
  • Uncomfortable milking procedure that causes pain;

Poor milking machine maintenance causing teat damage or introducing infection may also be causes of mastitis in cattle.


The Role of Man in Causes of Mastitis

Insufficiently emptied udders ( should not have more than 300 to 500 ml milk left in the udder – this will ensure normal udder health and function)

Any residual milk, previous infections and cow parity may have negative these impacts on udder health;

  • The entire udder feel after milking should be soft and pliable – any hard areas may reflect abnormality;
  • It is paramount that clean gloves are being worn;
  • Pre milking cleaning with clean cloths;
  • Post milking teat dips;
  • Routine teat condition supervision – by assessment periodically;
  • Removal of mastitis cases from milking until recovered or at end of cycle;
  • Specific inspections to look for teat abnormalities to assess risk;


Fleckvieh and Lower Somatic cell counts:

Many dairy breeds focus on the udder and its conformation. Fleckvieh has proven that also other traits when given attention produce an overall more powerful animal. Therefore they have a better immune system for example which can ward off infection like mastitis better.

The act of crossbreeding in itself takes advantage of hybrid vigor and specific genetic expression: The F1 generation of Fleckvieh bred with another breed shows lower somatic cell counts because the Fleckvieh influence by their character  makes for a flat lactation curve. This will stress the udder less and helps reduce mastitis.

Lower somatic cell counts, less treatment costs, less penalties on milk prices and also a lower insemination rate right off the  hop makes this a choice for many farmers to try Fleckvieh.



The History of Fleckvieh Dual Purpose Cattle

Considering Genetic Change For Your Dairy Herd?

The most accepted theory about the history of Fleckvieh and the formation of the modern Fleckvieh animal goes as such:

A dark colored bovine animal that was related to prehistoric cattle was cross bred with other tame domesticated cattle, to form this strong and very large “germanic cattle” in Switzerland. Migration of people from other areas brought on a new mix of bloodlines to this now domesticated, tamed cattle.

The large boned “Swiss Fleckvieh” was influenced also by Southern Scandinavian blood lines. For 1400 years for sure, the Fleckvieh of the Simmental region in Switzerland was raised and bred. In the last 200 years, other genetic influences and movements over greater geographical areas led to more bloodlines. The original dark red, big boned animals with some white in the hair coat was the most useful durable agricultural animal.

Swiss Fleckvieh Come To Germany

The Swiss Fleckvieh came into Germany in the late 1700’s and was used as milk and meat producer but also as working animal (plowing the fields for example). Not only meat and milk, but also hide (leather), and farm work was in the rapporteur of the Fleckvieh animals. Many noble men throughout Europe in different regions begun to develop certain blood lines called “Schlag”. To get into the details of these is beyond the scope of this article.

Obstacles such as war and Rinderpest caused changes in the population dynamics and gene pool over the years.

Onward and upward it went around 1830, when more Feckvieh cattle were coming into Germany from the Simmental area. The main person who did imports from Switzerland on foot on an annual basis was Max Obermeier of Gmund am Tegernsee. He brought cattle from the Simmental in Switzerland to his area for 50 years.

Official beginning of “German Fleckvieh”

The genetics were spread from this importation to the various regions in Germany. This time marks the official breeding of the “German Fleckvieh”. Early dairy herd management involved crossbreeding in three main regions was started: Royal regions of Bavaria, Baden and Wuertemberg.

By the time the 1900’s rolled around, the breeding of the original Swiss Fleckvieh throughout Europe made it the most common breed of cattle. Because of their original region being the Simmental in Switzerland, the name “Simmentaler” cattle was used instead of Swiss Fleckvieh.

Simmentaler Fleckvieh Milk Production

Simmentaler Fleckvieh production levels were first assessed in the early 1900’s:

Milk production was measured and on average of 7000 liters, with high milk yielding cows all the way up to 12000 liters in a 365 day period was determined. Also milk fat ranged form 3.88% to 4.13%. In terms of meat production, it was observed that animals had huge bone mass and meat yield because they were being bred for being in the mountains.

This history of Fleckvieh has given rise to the breed goals of optimizing the meat and milk yields. The dual purpose Fleckvieh found today to assist in dairy herd management.

General characteristics favored by Simmentaler Fleckvieh farmers:

  • Great growth rates and feed conversion
  • solid bone and muscling characteristics
  • strong tendons and tough claws
  • lively temperament
  • benevolent character

This makes it so that the animals can be handled and kept in all kinds of barn systems or grazing systems.

The History of Fleckvieh in Canada and USA

As a youth, Werner Popp ( 10.10.1940 – 30.03.2007) raised Fleckvieh cattle on his grandfather’s farm in Germany. He is seen here working the fields with Fleckvieh cows in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria near Hirschau. In 1983, Werner moved his family to Canada and started farming cattle and some grains.

Recalling the benefits of Fleckvieh from his youth, Werner started a working relationship with Bayern Genetik in the year 2000, to introduce dual purpose genetics of Fleckvieh to the North American continent.

Now his two sons Max Popp of BetterDairyCow, and John Popp of BigBearGenetics, are working together with the goal of improving animal welfare and better dairy farm efficiencies with the strength of Fleckvieh Genetics.

Four Big Advantages of Fleckvieh Dairy Cows


There are several good reasons why dairy farmers in North America are learning about the advantages of Fleckvieh x Holstein crossbreeding! Worldwide, the Fleckvieh cattle breed has a large population of about 42 million animals. In some areas of the world these cattle are very common place on dairy farms, and in other areas, they are just beginning to incorporate the advantages of Fleckvieh with a crossbreeding program. For example in the Americas, there are fewer Fleckvieh Cattle in dairy farms, compared with the homeland of Europe specifically in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

1. Fleckvieh are well Adapted To Climate

Bavarian Fleckvieh are well adapted to all kinds of climate. Successful production of high quality milk was recently observed in Brasil by the author. Also in colder climates like Canada and USA, or mountain ranges of Germany, these animals do very well. An explanation that was found again through slaughter house carcass observations by the author and thermoregulatory studies by Bayern Genetik in Germany: Fleckvieh dairy cattle skin is thick like that of a strictly beef animal. Bavarian Fleckvieh have a better circulation because of this and can dissipate heat better into the ambient environment.

This is very helpful in hot climates and summer conditions of temperate regions of the world. Conversely, during cold winter days, the thick skin (up to ¼ of an inch in thickness) helps to insulate the animals. From a nutritional perspective, one can find that the dietary intake is less in cold weather since less energy is required to keep warm. This can be beneficial in terms of cost of operating.

Fleckvieh stem from the Simmentaler breed (more in the blog pertaining to “genetic change”) and were bred to be very manageable in the mountains of Austria and Southern Bavaria. They had to ambulate on mountainous terrain and therefore the breed goal is to have a withers height of 143 to 147 cm with a body weight of approximately 1500 lbs. This size works well on a mountain and it also works well in a modern milk parlor and even robotic milking machines. Their frames are such that they can support a lot of muscle mass and have feet and legs that are strong. This strength is also an advantage of Fleckvieh when they are put to work in a modern dairy farm.

2. Fleckvieh Produce High Quality Milk

Fleckvieh dairy cows produce high quality milk with fat levels on the high end of the industry standard norm in the 4.2 percent range. Also, milk protein levels are in the 3.5% to 3.8% range.

Milk volume tends to be 1 – 3 % less than the traditional Holstein herds. This has to be observed very carefully since the parity makes a difference in production volumes. A first lactation animal will produce a lot less than an older animal. And the trait of muscularity and strength with Bavarian Fleckvieh genetics adds to the lifespan so more lactations can be achieved per animal. An advantage of fleckvieh is a longer lifespan, and more lactations make Fleckvieh dairy cattle very competitive among the highest milk producing cow breeds. Overall qualities had to also be that they have a quiet disposition and are easy to work with. This is definitely the case especially with reference to the Fleckvieh breeding bulls.

The animal’s milk quality is essential in making good quality cheese. In parts of Bavaria, there is a group of producers who will use only use hay to make milk. They call the milk “Heumilch” meaning haymilk. This is testament to the fact, that Fleckvieh do very well on a grass based diets. In modern day dairy farms, this translates into better feed efficiency and in many cases cost savings due to less feed required and a lower input cost with a forage based diet. Many rations are set up with a 55% forage base. Their ability to gain weight starts in calf hood for example where a daily gain of up to 3 lbs per day is commonly observed.

Fleckvieh have Reduced Somatic Cell Counts

As a result of careful and well documented state regulated breeding programs of Bavaria’s government, the genetics are geared towards the development of high quality milk components with reduced somatic cell counts. This definitely pays off for farmers who crossbreed with Fleckvieh cattle. Teat anatomy, milk let down and milk speeds as well as a flat or persistent lactation curve make these ideally suited for dairy production. The muscling adds beef value which is why the Fleckvieh cattle are referred to as dual purpose cattle. Careful selection is applied to traits like udder height, fore and hind udder attachment as well as suspensory ligament strength and persistence.

Fleckvieh have Fewer Milk Fever Issues

Milk fever issues are also less prevalent since Fleckvieh dairy cows do not deprive the calcium stores and are less subject to major fluctuation in post-partum blood levels of Calcium, which, if they dip too low, cause milk fever.

Health Advantages of Fleckvieh

3. Fleckvieh have Easier Calving, Better Calf Survival

Easy calving is another Advantages of Fleckvieh in crossbreeding systems. In the author’s veterinary experience, one of the big reasons for easier calving is that the muscle tone and strength of the uterus of Fleckvieh dairy cows is much stronger than in other types of dairy breeds. We can help with careful mating decisions to ensure the sire chosen can help improve calving and calf survival.

4. Fleckvieh have Reduced Risk Of LDA

Documented research studies show a lower incidence of left displaced abomasum (LDA). The scientifically peer reviewed report done by Bavarian veterinarians of Obing, Germany shows, that “the relative risk of LDA in Fleckvieh cattle was markedly lower than that in Holstein Friesen cattle. The annual average of LDA over a 4 year period was 0.5% for Fleckvieh and 4.8% for Holstein Friesen. The circumstances of feeding practices and production parameters were included in the analyses. The farms in the study were intensive production milking dairy herds. Additionally conditions like subclinical and clinical ketosis are much less when using the Fleckvieh breed – provided a solid dairy nutrition program is in place. A well balanced animal that stays in a positive energy balance stays healthier.

Get Detailed Fleckvieh Mating Advice

Other advantages in using the Fleckvieh breed are the detailed genomic mating charts and mating advice available upon request. The philosophy of maintaining a good portfolio with a variety of blood lines of genetics is really important to prevent inbreeding. BetterDairyCow provides Advantages of Fleckvieh genetics of Bayern Genetik (imported from Germany), to dairy farmers throughout Canada, United States and we have contacts and partners around the world. Contact us about our 24 bloodlines and the huge genetic trees we track in order to provide the best genetics for today’s herdsman.

Why Fleckvieh Cows Have Longer Production Lives

When studying cattle life cycle, much like a horseman that looks at his horse and says: ”No feet , no horse” , a similar approach should be taken when looking at the life span of dairy cows:

In Veterinary practice and farm visits I have seen many cases of foot diseases that shorten dairy cow lifespan. A lot of problems are management related – for example this means there is poor hoof care or inadequate stalls for cows to lie down without injuring their feet and legs. Some of the problems are not at all management related but relate to the resistance to disease problems in the foot by way of “design”.

Develop Animals With Better Feet and Legs

Upright position rear foot dairy cow characteristicThe cows suffering from foot problems are suffering pain and discomfort. They lose milk production and are in need of Veterinary care. So not only does the farmer then have production losses, also there is now a need to spend time, money and resources on treatments. In some cases, the problems have advanced so far, that a culling decision is just around the corner. At that point – it is frequently not even possible to ship the animals to slaughter. Why? Because they may have been medicated and there is a withdrawal time for an antibiotic that has to be observed. If the animal gets shipped to slaughter, a long standing condition of pain in the feet and legs will have caused weight loss. In an already compromised state she may end up condemned at slaughter.
So how can a dairy cow have less foot problems? Outside of management, another option is to develop animals with better feet and legs.

Through the use of Fleckvieh genetics, the following benefits can be reaped:

  1. Inter digital ligament strength. What is this? Each of the claws has the ability to flex or move separately. This makes it possible to navigate rough terrain and also to spread the force over the claws while walking. The two claws are held together by a strong set of ligaments called inter digital ligaments. By design, the claws have to stay closely associated so these ligaments do not get overstressed and stretch or tear. Over time, a foot with weakened ligaments will change to accommodate the pressures of walking. What are these changes? A wider space between the claws, and a change in contact surface that is used for stepping. So the hoof wall which is designed to bear weight now slides away sideways and the hoof horn/center pad is used to bear weight and becomes subject to bruising, foot infections, abscess formation etc. Correction with trimming can only go so far after a while because the foot is still used the wrong way by the cow. In conclusion, a tight inter digital ligament with strong hoof walls make for longer lasting cows.
  2. Upright position of the pastern area. What is this? Looking at the feet of a mature dairy cow from the side, the goal is to have all the weight spread equally or throughout the whole foot. If however the angles are such that more weight is going to the heel or the back of the foot, more stress is put on the supporting tendons and this causes pain. The animal is going to lose condition and production. Additionally, she may require treatment of infections, sole bruises etc.

Largely – much like in the horse, these things are genetic. A good way to make improvements in production life cycle is to select against these poor foot structures with the mating selection decisions. Fleckvieh animals have very robust feet and can stand up to stresses of modern production longer than many dairy type breeds.

What Everyone Ought to Know About Fleckvieh and Genomics

Dairy Farmers can lower costs and improve herd health with a proven sire program. Consistently applied targeted mating can improve the genetics of a given herd with highly predictable outcome.

Find out how BDC and Fleckvieh use genomic estimated breeding values to increase the accuracy of genetic evaluations to assure mating predictability and precision phenotypic expression of heritable traits, and help your Dairy Herd live a healthier, more productive life.

Facts about Fleckvieh and Genomics

Sire selection as done by Bayern Genetik in Bavaria:

Bayern Genetik purchases genomically tested breeding bulls per year at local livestock auctions or directly out of the farmers’ barns. The bulls are selected from a population of 750.000 Fleckvieh herdbook cows in Bavaria. Many of these young sires (candidates) come out of matings:  The highest priority is given to selected siredams were mated to the best Fleckvieh sires available. The other bulls come out of regular but promising matings with herdbook cows.

Bayern Genetik also purchases sires from other countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, Australia and South Africa. The focus is on production and fitness traits when buying sires. The phenotypic appearance of a sire weighs heavily in the decision making process.

Testing of the chosen candidates:

After the quarantine period is over (28 days pre-quarantine and 28 days main quarantine period) 1.200 doses of semen of each candidate are collected and used in farms that take part in milk recording. The goal is to get as much data of first lactations of daughters of a candidate as possible in order to judge his hereditary performance.

This testing period lasts for six weeks. Each bull is tested in different regions (crop farming, grassland). This guarantees that regional effects do not have a major influence on a bulls breeding value.

Waiting bulls:

After the testing period further 15,000 semen straws are collected from each sire. Afterwards the sire is kept on one of our waiting stations at Börnchen / Saxony or Anzing, till the first production data of his daughters are published. This takes about four years.

Genomically selected young bulls:

The German Animal Breeding Law now allows us to sell semen of bulls without previous progeny testing that have genomic breeding values with an accuracy of 50%. This means that semen of all bulls that finished the quarantine period can now be immediately marketed. Naturally there is a huge time saving of at least two years – since the wait for progeny results is not there.

Proven sires:

Bavarian Fleckvieh Genetics attaches great importance to the fact that the bulls still run through a field progeny testing. Especially the estimation of the type traits is subject to variations. After production results of the progeny are published and the daughters were inspected for their type traits, “the wheat is separated from the chaff” and the bulls marketed as “proven sires” are chosen.

New selection methods:

New methods of biotechnology allow us a precise testing of single traits of the hereditary performance of a sire, as for example beef quality traits or milk quality traits. Of course we take advantage of these methods and test our sires.

The History Of Genomics in Dairy Cattle

The use of genomic information in genetic evaluation has brought about revolutionary change in dairy cattle selection. Genomic evaluations increase the accuracy of genetic evaluations and have the potential to rapidly increase the rate of genetic improvement in many traits.

Their use is especially effective where there is limited information such as with females and young bulls, and with traits of lower heritability. The sequencing of the bovine genome in 2004 spurred a worldwide effort to use basic information about genetic coding to improve how the genetic values of cows and bulls are estimated. The bovine genome is made up of about 25,000-30,000 useful genes.

For genomic selection, the genome researchers look for markers or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). An SNP is a place in a chromosome where the DNA sequence can differ among individuals. SNPs are particularly useful when they occur on a gene or close to a gene that contributes to an important trait. As most traits are controlled by many genes, the process is complex, and real progress was not made until a genotyping computer chip, called the Illumina 50K test, was developed that could be used to identify over 50,000 SNPs on the genome.

Although the 50K test continues to be used for high-end breeding stock and screening young artificial insemination (AI) sire entries, a simpler, cheaper test called the 3K test, which identifies about 3,000 carefully chosen SNPs, has been developed to allow herd owners to make use of genomic testing on a wider basis. Provided that at least one parent has been tested with the 50K test, the more economical 3K test can be used with only a small loss in accuracy due to the use of a method called imputation, which uses knowledge of the parental genome in the calculations. Recently, more SNPs and improved accuracy have been added to the 3K test, now called the 6K test.

Tests Available

The initial genomic test available used the Illumina 50K chip, which evaluated about 54,000 SNPs that were of value on the bovine genome. This has become the accepted standard for genomic testing of AI sires, potential bull dams and screening of young sires. The cost of using this test has declined since it was first introduced, however, it is still very expensive for widespread use by dairy farmers. In 2010, Holstein Canada and the Semex Partners launched GenoTest, a program that makes the 3K test, and an even better one – the 6K test, available to Canadian dairy producers at a cost of $47 per animal.¹Although genomic testing can be carried out on a variety of tissue samples, the preferred samples are hair, including roots, or, in the case of young calves, a nasal swab. Test kits are available from Holstein Canada and the Semex Partners. Detailed instructions are available from the Holstein Canada website

Genetic Improvement:

The publication of the August 2009 dairy genetic evaluations marked a new era in Canada for bull “proofs,” when the majority included genomic information. With a few exceptions, all bulls available in Canada in the top 100 Lifetime Profit Index (LPI) list published by the Canadian Dairy Network now have genomic estimated breeding values (GEBVs) – breeding values in which genomic information was used.

With proven sires, which have many daughters and a reliability over 90%, the estimated breeding value (EBV) is already a pretty accurate measure of the genetic value that a bull passes on to his offspring. For these sires, the addition of genomic information improves this accuracy only a small amount for most traits. However, the improvement can be substantial for traits with low heritability, which are difficult to evaluate accurately through traditional methods. With genomic testing, it is now possible to screen thousands of candidate young sires for AI selection and select the best possible candidates to enter the progeny testing program. This increases the selection intensity and also reduces the costs of maintaining large numbers of young sires awaiting proofs. A definite advantage using this technology becomes evident here.

Dairy producers can now use young sires that have genetic information (genomic parent averages or GPAs), as well as proven sires. These bulls’ GEBVs are equivalent to the addition of 9-20 daughters for production and type traits in a traditional proof. They are not as accurate as a progeny proof, and breeders should use them in groups rather than trying to select one or two top bulls to use extensively. Research has shown that, in most situations, a group of five genotyped young sires has an average reliability nearly as good as that of proven bulls. A group of 10 such sires has the same average reliability as proven bulls. These young bulls, on average, can impart superior genetics as long as one does not concentrate on one particular bull, given their lower reliability.

Strategies and potential advantages of genomics:

#1. A strategy could be to use top, highly proven sires on 50% of the herd and a group of young sires on the remaining 50% of the herd. Set a limit on the number of breedings to any one sire and then replace it with a new top bull. Review the list of sires at every genetic evaluation and add and delete individuals as better bulls come along.

#2. An added advantage to GPAs is the availability of accurate information on individual traits. The breeder can take advantage of top young bulls that meet criteria such as calving traits and fertility, for use on heifers in the breeding program. This is an opportunity to bring the best available young genetics into the herd as quickly as possible.

Female Selection
#3. Test cows and replacement heifers that are candidates for bull mothers, embryo transfer and/or export of genetic material with the 50K test or at least with the cheaper 6K test. The ease of use and availability as well as low cost of the 6K test makes genomic selection within herd a real possibility. Genomics are the most useful for heifers, which can be tested shortly after birth, allowing selection decisions and planning well in advance of their potential entry into the milking herd.  Genomics provides the opportunity to make meaningful in-herd selection decisions.

 Genomics in Herd Management:

The availability of genotype parent averages, or GPAs, for replacement heifers provides new tools by which the owner may make management and breeding decisions. GPAs are calculated for all traits allowing the owner to select sires to use on heifers using complete production, type, health and fitness trait information. Genomic information may alter management of some heifers. Replacements that have an exceptionally high GPA for production may be managed differently prior to calving and in the milking herd. Heifers with a high genetic value for somatic cell score – meaning they may be prone to mastitis but are otherwise good quality heifers – might be managed differently to reduce exposure to mastitis infection. If an owner uses sexed semen on a selective basis, the high-GPA heifers could be chosen for sexed semen to ensure they have female offspring. Genotyping is a very new scientific development, and its uses and applications are developing very quickly. Dairy producers will quickly adapt to the many ways this technology can be used to better manage and improve their herds.


The availability of genomic testing for dairy selection purposes has improved selection for AI sires and females within herd. For sires, genomic testing has improved accuracy such that young sires may be screened prior to entering a bull stud. With GEBVs, the accuracy of genetic evaluations is improved for young sires as well as for traits with lower heritabilities such as health and fertility across all sires. As the dairy industry takes advantage of genomic testing, the rate of genetic progress could be improved by as much as 60%. This could be accomplished as AI studs take advantage of more efficient bull proving, producers make better use of younger sires and use more accurate genetic evaluation of cows and heifers to select the best animals within their herds. GEBVs, however, do not take away the need for participation in progeny-proving programs and keeping records of production, calving and other traits. These data are required to update the reference values on which the effects of the various SNPs are estimated.

BDC Interpretation of Fleckvieh Genomics:

The information provided above gives a general oversight but warns of the fact, that there is a huge value in traditional progeny testing in a proven sire program. Mating predictability and precision phenotypic expression of heritable traits can not be surpassed with this method in the author`s opinion. Consistency of applied targeted mating with highly predictable outcome improves genetics in a given herd. The AI stud takes on the challenge and investment in developing and making available the best semen. The farmer ends up with the best calves. Semen pricing? Well again – the progeny tested Fleckvieh Genomics provides the best investment and this is because there are less mishaps with the the newborn animal. Industry reports from farms and veterinarians have reinforced this in discussions with the author.

Improve Reproductive Anatomy in Your Dairy Herd

Poor Confirmation Dairy Cow Rear Pelvis

Forward rectum position trait exampleWhen you take a close look at this dairy cow, you will note a great udder quality.

The position if the rectum is clearly more forward than the vagina.

It almost appears as though the rectum is tucked into the body cavity while the vaginal opening sits on the rim of the pelvic bone further to the back of the cow.

This positioning leads to the deposition of manure and urine pooling on top of the vagina when the animal voids.

This process can lead to undesirable contamination of the vaginal area. Also, as a result, bacteria may enter into the vaginal area and vestibule which can lead to reproductive problems by way of this contamination. This can lead to unnecessary embryonic loss, infections of the reproductive tract e.g. metritis and conception delay or failure.

Improved Fleckvieh Rear Pelvis Angle:

Rear view of Fleckvieh dairy cow pelvis
You can see the anatomy of a cow that is skeletally built in such a way that this contamination is prevented from occurring.

Also, more body fat reserves and muscling keep the rectum apart and above the vagina to address potential contamination issues.