We started keeping our first dairy cows in 1990. They were bought from four large scale commercial farms and were mainly cross-bred commercial dairy heifers and some few pure-bred Israeli Holsteins. Our first bull was a great disappointment and out of the 14 calves he sired, ten were bulls and the remaining four heifers total disasters. I soon realized that fast genetic progress was achievable only by using the best sire I could obtain. Our second bull from a renowned Kenyan breeder was a pedigree Holstein out of the very first cow in Kenya to produce over 50 liters of milk per day. He was a great sire, but realizing that it would be close to impossible to find a still better replacement for him changing to artificial insemination with imported semen was the only logical choice. This opened whole new horizons and a shear limitless choice of world-class sires. We had started off with a majority of cross-bred heifers and after all the pure-bred Holsteins proved to be less productive and much more susceptible to heat stress and disease than their cross-bred herd-mates we decided to continue along this line. Much to the horror and disgust of the Kenyan pedigree breeders, I must add. Cross-breeding allowed us to utilize a much wider gene-pool (we could use the top bulls of each of several different breeds) and our location in Kenya gave us the opportunity to purchase semen from almost anywhere in the world. Our herd may now well be the most international herd in the world, combining genetics from: USA, Canada, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Israel, Kenya, South Africa, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. Compared to the more widely adopted pure-breeding strategy in dairying, cross-breeding will give you the many added advantages heterosis provides: Added productivity, fertility, adaptability and vitality in general. The greater the number of breeds included in the cross-breeding program the less the amount of hybrid vigour lost in subsequent generations. The more genetically different the utilized breeds are, the greater the effects of hybrid vigour. These are the fundamental rules to follow in order to obtain and retain a maximum degree of hybrid vigour. Cross-breeding for beef production and in the poultry industry (resulting in “hybrid” breeds) is widely accepted but dairy cross-breeding also works, especially for extreme conditions and climates, as many composite breeds as “Australian Milking Zebu”,“Australian Frisian Sahiwal”, “Jamaika Hope” and “Girolando” breeds prove. Even one of the most widely used and successful present day Red-Holstein sires “KIAN” (top NVI sire!) is actually a cross-bred of Holstein X MRI ancestry. We have combined 14 of the most diverse dairy breeds we could find, which has resulted, as you might suspect, in the most heterogeneous looking herd imaginable, both in shape, size and colour (and this is the first impression you get if you see our herd today). Now that we have introduced all the right genetics into our herd we will have to properly mix them (like in baking you really have to knead in all ingredients vigorously to produce a smooth dough!) to form a uniform, homogeneous herd. Out of the 40 plus cows we initially bought, only 18 still contribute their genetics to our herd today, whereas almost 50 internationally acclaimed sires decorate our cow´s pedigrees.
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