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Holstein (cattle)

The Holstein or Friesian is a breed of dairy cow known today as the world's highest production dairy animal. Originating in Europe, Holsteins were developed in what is now the Netherlands and more specifically in the two northern provinces of North Holland and Friesland (not from Holstein, Germany). The original animals were the regional cattle of the Batavians and Frisians, two tribes who settled in the coastal Rhine region around 2,000 years ago.

The Dutch breeders bred and oversaw the development of the breed with the aim of obtaining animals which would make best use of grass, the area's most abundant resource. The result, over the centuries, was an efficient, high-producing black-and-white dairy cow. It is black and white due to artificial selection by the breeders.

With the growth of the new world, markets began to develop for milk in America, and dairy breeders turned to Holland for their livestock. After about 8,800 Holsteins had been imported, disease problems in Europe led to the cessation of imports.

In Europe, the breed is used for milk in the North, meat in the South - Since 1945, European development has led to cattle production becoming increasingly regionalized. Over 60% of the cattle herd and under 50% of the usable agricultural area, but over 80% of dairy production, is to be found to the north of a line joining Bordeaux and Venice. This change led to the need for specialized animals for dairy (and beef) production. Until this time, milk and beef had been produced from dual-purpose animals, and the leading breeds, national derivatives of the Dutch Friesian, had become very different animals than their American counterparts. It was the obvious choice to import superior production animals to cross with the European black and whites. For this reason, in modern usage of the word Holstein is used to describe North American stock and its use in Europe. Friesian, denotes animals of a traditional European ancestry. Crosses between the two are described by the term Holstein-Friesian.

Physical characteristics

Holsteins, easily recognized by their distinctive markings and outstanding milk production, are large, stylish animals with color patterns of black and white. In the strictest definition, a Holstein cow usually has black ears, white feet, and white end of the tail.

Size: A healthy calf weighs 30 to 35 kg or more at birth. A mature Holstein cow weighs 500 to 750 kg and stands 130 cm tall at the shoulder. Holstein heifers can be bred at 15 months of age, when they weigh over 360 kg. Generally, breeders aim for Holstein heifers to calve for the first time between 23 and 26 months of age. Gestation period is approximately nine months.

History

300 BC: Pastoral nomads from Central Asia arrived with their cattle in the river Ems / middle arm of the Rhine area.

100 BC: A displaced group of people from Hesse, migrated with their cattle to the shores of the North Sea near the Friesians, occupying the island of Batavia, between the Rhine, Maas and Waal. Historical records suggest these cattle were black; and that the Friesian cattle at this time were "pure white and light coloured". Crossbreeding may have led to the foundation of the present Holstein-Friesian breed, as the cattle of these two tribes from then on appear identical in historical records

The portion of the country bordering on the North Sea was called Frisia, situated within the provinces of North Holland, Friesland and Groningen and in Germany to the river Ems. The people were known for their care and breeding of cattle.

The Friesians, preferring pastoral pursuits to warfare, paid a tax of ox hides and ox horns to the Roman government, whereas the Batavians furnished soldiers and officers to the Roman army; these fought successfully in the various Roman wars. The Friesians were thus able to breed the same strain of cattle unadulterated for two thousand years, except from accidental circumstances.

1282: Floods produced the Zuider Zee, separating the cattle breeders into two groups. The western group occupied West Friesland, now part of North Holland; the eastern, the present provinces of Friesland and Groningen.

The rich Polder land in the Netherlands is unsurpassed for the production of grass, cattle and dairy products. Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, the production of butter and cheese was enormous, and history tells of the existence of remarkably heavy meat cattle, weighing from twenty-six hundred to three thousand pounds.

The aim was to produce as much milk and beef as possible from the same animal, and selection, breeding and feeding have been carried out with huge success. Inbreeding was not tolerated, and (distinct) families never arose, although differences in soil in different localities produced different sizes and variations.

United Kingdom

17th to 18th C.: Dutch cattle appear to have been imported into the British Isles, becoming influential in the formation of several breeds in England and Scotland. The eminent Prof. Low recorded: "the Dutch breed was especially established in the district of Holderness, on the north side of the Humber; northward through the plains of Yorkshire. The finest dairy cattle in England...", of Holderness in 1840 still retained the distinct traces of their Dutch origin.

Further north in the Tees area, imports likewise took place of continental cattle from Holland, Holstein or the countries on the Elbe. He added: "Of the precise extent of these early importations we are imperfectly informed, but that they exercised a great influence on the native stock appears from this circumstance, that the breed formed by the mixture became familiarly known as the Dutch or Holstein breed".

Holstein Friesians were found throughout the rich lowlands of France, Belgium, Holland and the western provinces of Germany. The breed did not become established in Great Britain at the time, nor did it invade the islands of Jersey or of Guernsey, where laws existed against imports for breeding purposes from the continent..

Late 19th and early 20th centuries: around 2,000 in calf heifers and several bulls and cows were imported from Canada together with several shiploads of store cattle. This was followed up with the importation of almost 200 animals in the years following World War II. This included a gift of 3 yearling bulls from Canadian breeders to help establish the breed.

The pure Holstein Breed Society was started in 1946 while the British Friesian Cattle Society had already existed for some time. The breed developed slowly up to the 1970s after which there was an explosion in its popularity and following which a considerable number of important imports took place. More recently, the two Societies merged in 1999 establishing Holstein UK as we know it today.

Numbers

Records on 1 April 2005 from NUTS1 (Nomenclature for Units of Territorial Statistics level 1) show Holstein influence appearing in 61% of all 3.47 million dairy cattle in the UK:

  • Holstein Friesian (Friesian with more than 12.5% and less than 87.5% of Holstein blood): 1 765 000 (51%)
  • Friesian (more than 87.5% Friesian blood): 1 079 000 (31%)
  • Holstein (more than 87.5% of Holstein blood): 254 000 (7%)
  • Holstein Friesian Cross (any of the above crossed with other breeds): 101 000 (3%)
  • Other dairy breeds: 278 000 (7%)

The above statistics are for all dairy animals possessing passports at the time of the survey, i.e. including young stock. DEFRA lists just over 2 million adult dairy cattle in the UK

Definition

Holstein in this instance, and indeed in all modern discussion, refers to animals traced from North American bloodlines, while Friesian refers to indigenous European black and white cattle.

Criteria for inclusion in the Supplementary Register (i.e. not pure breed) of the Holstein UK herd book are as follows:

CLASS A: a typical representative of the Holstein or Friesian breed, as to type, size and constitution, with no obvious signs of cross breeding, or be proved from its breeding records to contain between 50% and 74.9% Holstein genes or Friesian genes. If the breeding records show that one parent is of a breed other than Holstein Friesian or Holstein or Friesian then such parent must be a purebred animal fully registered in a Herd Book of a dairy-breed society recognised by the Society.

CLASS B: For a calf by a bull registered or dual registered in the Herd Book or in the Supplementary Register and out of a foundation cow or heifer registered in Class A or B of the Supplementary Register and containing between 75% and 87.4% Holstein genes or Friesian genes.

For inclusion in the Pure (Holstein or Friesian) herd book, a heifer or bull calf from a cow or heifer in Class B of the Supplementary Register and by a bull registered or dual registered in the Herd Book or the Supplementary Register, and containing 87.5% or more Holstein genes or Friesian genes will be eligible to have its entry registered in the Herd Book.

Production

The breed currently averages 7655 litres/year throughout 3.2 lactations with pedigree animals averaging 8125 litres/year over an average of 3.43 lactations.. By calculation, lifetime production therefore stands at around 26,000 litres.

United States

History

American breeders began to become interested in Holstein- Friesian cattle around the 1830s. Black and White cattle were introduced into the US from 1621 to 1664. The eastern part of the State of New York was the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, where many Dutch farmers settled along the Hudson and Mohawk river valleys. They probably brought cattle with them from their native land and crossed them with cattle purchased in the colony. For many years afterwards, the cattle here were called Dutch cattle and were renowned for their milking qualities.

The first recorded imports were more than one hundred years later, consisting of six cows and two bulls. These were sent in 1795 by the Holland Land Company, which then owned large tracts in the State of New York, to their agent, Mr. John Lincklaen of Cazenovia. A settler described them thus; "the cows were of the size of oxen, their colors clear black and white in large patches; very handsome".

In 1810 a bull and two cows were imported by the Hon. William Jarvis for his farm at Wethersfield, Vt. About the year 1825 another importation was made by Herman Le Roy, a part of which were sent into the Genesee valley. The rest were kept near New York City. Still later an importation was made into the State of Delaware. No records were kept of the descendants of these cattle. Their blood was mingled and lost in that of the native cattle.

The first permanent introduction of this breed was due to the perseverance of Hon. Winthrop W. Chenery, of Belmont, Mass. The animals of his first two importations, and their offspring were destroyed by the government in Massachusetts because of a contagious disease. He made a third importation in 1861. This was followed in 1867 by an importation for the Hon. Gerrit S. Miller, of Peterboro, N. Y., made by his brother, Dudley Miller, who had been attending the noted agricultural school at Eldena, Prussia, where this breed was highly regarded. These two importations, by Hon. William A. Russell, of Lawrence, Mass.; and three animals from East Friesland, imported by Gen. William S. Tilton of the National Military Asylum, Togus, Me., formed the nucleus of the Holstein Herd Book.

After about 8,800 Holsteins had been imported, a cattle disease broke out in Europe and importation ceased.

In the late 1800s there was enough interest among Frisian breeders to form associations to record pedigrees and maintain herd books. These associations merged in 1885, to found the Holstein-Friesian Association of America. In 1994 the name was changed to Holstein Association USA, Inc.

Production

Recorded cows in the USA produced 22,347 pounds (10,158 kg) of milk at 3.64% fat and 3.05% protein in the 2005 DHIA (National Dairy Herd Information Association) Summary,. Total lifetime productivity can be inferred from the average lifetime of US cows. This has been decreasing regularly in recent years and now stands at around 2.75 lactations, which when multiplied by average lactation yield above gives around 28,000 kg of milk.

The considerable advantage, compared to the UK, for example, can be explained by several factors:

  • Use of milk production hormone, bST. A study in February 1999 determined that "response to bST over a 305-day lactation equaled 894 kg of milk, 27 kg of fat, and 31 kg of protein". Monsanto estimates a figure of about 1.5 million out of 9 million dairy cows being treated with bST, or about 17% of cows nationally.
  • greater use of 3x a day milking. In a study performed in Florida between 1984 and 1992 using 4293 Holstein lactation records from 8 herds, 48% of cows were milked 3 times a day. The practice was responsible for an extra 17.3% milk, 12.3% fat and 8.8% protein. Three Times-A-Day Milking has become a common milking frequency in recent years. Twice-A-Day Milking is the most common milking schedule of dairy cattle. In Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, milking 2x at 10 to 14-hour intervals is common.
  • higher cow potential (100% Holstein herds). European Friesian types traditionally had lower production performance than their North American Holstein counterparts. Despite Holsteinisation over the last 50 years, a large genetic trace of these cattle is still present (see Numbers above).
  • greater use of Total Mixed Ration (TMR) feeding systems. Total mixed rations (TMR) continue to expand in use on dairy farms. A 1993 Hoard's Dairy survey reported that 29.2% of surveyed U.S. dairy farms had adopted this system of feeding dairy cows. A 1991 Illinois dairy survey found 26% of Illinois dairy farmers utilized TMR rations with 300 kg more milk per cow compared to other feeding systems. The American type of operation (North and South America) is characterised by large loose-housing operations, total mixed ration feeding (TMR) and relatively many employees. However, dairy farms in Northeast US and parts of Canada differ from the typical American operation. There you find many smaller family farms with either loose-housing or stanchion barns. These operations are quite similar to the European type, which is characterised by relatively small operations where each cow is fed and treated individually.

Genetics

The Golden Age of Frisian breeding occurred during the last 50 years, greatly helped latterly by embryo transfer techniques, which permitted a huge multiplication of bulls entering progeny testing out of elite, bull-mother cows.

Osborndale Ivanhoe b. 1952, brought stature, angularity, good udder conformation and feet and leg conformation, but his daughters lacked depth and strength. His descendants included:

  • Round Oak Rag Apple Elevationb. 1965(often abbreviated RORA Elevation), another top class bull. "Father" to over 70,000 Holstein cattle, with descendants numbering over 5 million, Elevation was named Bull of the Century by Holstein International Association in 1999. Elevation was the result of a cross of Tidy Burke Elevation being used on one of the best ever Ivanhoe daughters, Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve. He was unsurpassed at the time for type and production.
  • Penstate Ivanhoe Star b. 1963, sired daughters with similar stature and dairiness as the Ivanhoes but with higher production. He also notably sired Carlin-M Ivanhoe Bell, the great production bull of the 80s, known also for good udders, feet and legs.
  • Hilltop Apollo Ivanhoe b. 1960 ,sire of Whittier Farms Apollo Rocket b. 1967, the highest milk production bull of the 70s; and Wayne Spring Fond Apollo b. 1970, the first bull ever to have a milk transmission index of over 2,000 M and have a positive type index. Wayne had a very famous daughter, To-Mar Wayne Hay, who was dam of the great To-Mar Blackstar b. 1983.

Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief b. 1962, was descended from ABC Reflection Sovereign b. 1946, had a huge effect on modern Holsteins. He sired powerful, high production cows with high fat and protein rates although udder conformation was a weak point. He also gave rise to other famous bulls such as:

  • SWD Valiant b. 1973, who in turn sired such popular bull sires as Applenotch Valiant Calypso b. 1980, Mel-Est Valiant Iros Melvin b. 1980, Tesk-Holm Valiant Rockie b. 1981, Exranco Thor b. 1981 Hanoverhill Inspiration b. 1981 and Utag Valiant Fancy Paul b.1982. Valiant was the sire of the famous cow Walkup Valiant Lu Ella, the dam of Rothrock Tradition Leadman b. 1985.
  • Glendell Arlinda Chief b. 1968, one of the top production sires of the 70s. He was noted as being sire of Arlinda Rotate b. 1975, who in turn sired Arlinda Melwood b. 1982,Juniper Rotate Jed b. 1987, and To-Mar Wister b.1985.
  • Milu Betty Ivanhoe Chief b. 1969, sire of Cal-Clark Board Chairman b. 1976. Chairman sired over 50,000 daughters and was a good correcting bull, as well as providing an alternative source of genes than the narrow base then in use. Another influential bull bringing in "outside" genes was Whittier-Farms Ned Boy b. 1979. Ned Boy sired Singing-Brook NB Mascot b. 1986, a massive production bull of the 90s.
  • Walkway Chief Mark b. 1978. He sired Bushy-Park Chesapeake, Donnandale Skychief b. 1986,Mark CJ Gilbrook Grand b. 1986,Lutz-Meadows Mark Malloy b. 1986, Paradise-R Roebuckb. 1986 and Highlight Mr Mark Cinder b. 1986. Mark was a great udder improver who was unfortunately poor for feet and leg conformation. Many good bulls were bred from his daughters, especially sons of Blackstar.
  • Robe-Jan Skylar Chief b.1979. He sired Mr. Hurl-Three Momentum-Red a famous red bull that has descendents Red and Red-Carrier, one of them, Zee-Cal Persia-Red b. 1998.

Elevation sired:

  • Sweet Haven Tradition b. 1974, one of the best udder improvers who also improved feet and legs. As well as being the sire of Rothrock Tradition Leadman b. 1985, he also sired Bis-May Tradition Cleitus b. 1981, and United Nick b. 1985.
  • Rockalli Son of Bova b. 1974. This milk yield improver was the first ever bull born from embryo transfer. He sired Osdell-Endeavour Bova Cubby b. 1985.
  • Hanoverhill Starbuck b. 1979. Arguably Canada's ticket to the Holstein big time, Starbuck was not only sire to many of the world's most influential cows, he was sire of Madawaska Aerostar (Startmore Rudolph, Oliveholme Aeroline and Maughlin Storm and their descendants), A Ronnybrook Prelude (Duncan Progress, Carol Prelude Mtoto and Comestar Outside), Hanoverhill Raider (Comestar Lee) , Marcrest Encore(Regancrest Dundee and Indianhead Encounter) and Duregal Astre Starbuck (Roybrook Leduc Dusty, STBVQ Rubens and Tcet Lyster ). In the US he was leading sire of All-Americans for 7 consecutive years (1987-1993). Starbuck facts:

*Weight : 1173 kg (2580 lb)
*Size : 187 cm (73 1/2 in.)
*36,976 daughters classified in Canada : 70% GP & Better (326 Ex., 6812 VG et 18 963 GP)
*More than 200,000 daughters around the world
*209 proven sons and 406 proven grandsons
*130 All-Canadian and 82 All-American nominations
*685 000 doses of semen sold in 45 countries

Chief and Elevation accounted for nearly 25% of genes segregating Holsteins in 1990, so heavy was the use of their genes. This led to concerns regarding inbreeding and narrowing of the genetic base.

Other important sires:

  • Burkgov Inka de Kol b. 1948
  • Whirlhill Kingpin b. 1959
  • No-Na-Me Fond Matt b. 1960
  • Sunnyside Standout-Twin b. 1962
  • Roybrook Telstar b. 1963
  • Paclamar Bootmaker b. 1963
  • Paclamar Astronaut b. 1964
  • Wapa Arlinda Conductor b. 1970
  • A Puget-Sound Sheik b. 1972
  • Marshfield Elevation Tony b. 1972
  • Hanover-hill Triple-Threat-Red b. 1972
  • Straight-Pine Elevation Pete b. 1973
  • Glenafton Enhancer b. 1977
  • Thonyma Secret b. 1980
  • To-Mar Blackstar b. 1983; the leading sire of cows over 50,000 lb of milk.
  • ''Emprise Bell Elton" b. 1983
  • Southwind Bell of Bar-lee b. 1984
  • Maizefield Bellwood b. 1989
  • MJR Blackstar Emory b. 1989 said to be the best son of Blackstar.

Cloning

STARBUCK II, clone of the famous CIAQ sire Hanoverhill Starbuck, was born on 7 September 2000 in Saint-Hyacinthe. The clone is a result of the combined efforts of CIAQ, L'Alliance Boviteq inc. and the Faculté de médecine vétérinaire de l'Université de Montréal. The cloned calf was born 21 years and 5 months after Starbuck's own birth date. The calf weighed 54.2 kg at birth and showed the same vital signs as calves produced from regular A.I. or E. T. Starbuck II is derived from frozen fibroblast cells, recovered one month before the death of Starbuck.

Huge controversy in the Uk in January 2007 linked Cloning Company Smiddiehill and Humphreston Farm owned by father and son team Michael and Oliver Eaton with a calf that was cloned from a cow in Canada. Despite their futile efforts to block the farm from view of the press, news cameras broadcast this as breaking news among many of the countries top news stations.

Since then there have been rumors that this calf had been put down to protect the owners from invasions of the press 27

British Friesian Cattle

While interest in increasing production through indexing and lifetime profit scores saw a huge increase in Holstein bloodlines in the UK, proponents of the traditional British Friesian did not see things that way and maintain that these criteria do not reflect the true profitability or the production of the Friesian cow.

Friesian breeders say that modern conditions in the UK, similar to the 50's through to the 80's, with low milk price and the need for extensive, low-cost systems for many farmers, may ultimately cause producers to re-examine the attributes of the British Friesian.

This animal came to dominate the UK dairy cow population during these years, with exports of stock and semen to many countries throughout the world. Although the idea of "dual-purpose" animals has arguably become outmoded, the fact remains that the Friesian is eminently suitable for many farms, particularly where grazing is a main feature of the system.

Proponents argue that Friesians last for more lactations through more robust conformation, thus spreading depreciation costs. There is the added advantage of income from the male calf, which can be placed into barley beef systems (finishing from eleven months) or steers taken on to finish at two years, on a cheap system of grass and silage. Very respectable grades can be obtained, commensurate with beef breeds, thereby providing extra income for the farm.

Such extensive, low cost systems may infer lower veterinary costs, through good fertility, resistance to lameness and a tendency to higher protein percentage and, therefore, higher milk price. An 800 kg Holstein has a higher daily maintenance energy requirement than the 650kg Friesian.

Friesians have also been disadvantaged through the comparison of their type to a Holstein base. It is suggested that a separate "index" be composed to greater reflect the aspects of maintenance for body weight, protein percentage, longevity and calf value. National Milk Records (NMR) figures suggest that highest yields are achieved between the fifth and seventh lactations; if so, this is particularly so for Friesians, with a greater lift for mature cows, and sustained over more lactations. However, production index only takes the first five lactations into account. British Friesian breeding has certainly not stood still and, through studied evaluation, substantial gains in yield have been achieved without the loss of type.

History

Friesians were imported into the east coast ports of England and Scotland, from the lush pastures of North Holland, during the 1800s until live cattle importations were stopped in 1892, as a precaution against endemic foot and mouth disease on the Continent. So few in number were they, that they were not included in the 1908 census.

However, in 1909, the Society was formed as the British Holstein Cattle Society, soon to be changed to British Holstein Friesian Society and, by 1918, to the British Friesian Cattle Society.

The Livestock Journal of 1900 referred to both the "exceptionally good" and "remarkably inferior" Dutch cattle. The Dutch cow was also considered to require more quality fodder and need more looking after than some English cattle that could easily be out-wintered.

It is interesting to note that, in an era of agricultural depression, Breed Societies had flourished as a valuable export trade developed for traditional British Breeds of cattle. At the end of 1912, the herd book noted 1,000 males and 6,000 females, the stock which originally formed the foundation of the breed in England and Scotland. Entry from then until 1921, when grading up was introduced, was by pedigree only.

No other Friesian cattle were imported until the official importation of 1914, which included several near descendants of the renowned dairy bull Ceres 4497 F.R.S. These cattle were successful in establishing the Friesian as an eminent long living dairy breed in Britain. This role was continued in the 1922 importation from South Africa through Terling Marthus and Terling Collona, who were also near descendants of Ceres 4497.

The 1936 importation from Holland introduced a more dual purpose type of animal, the Dutch having moved away from the Ceres line in the meantime.

The 1950 importation has a lesser influence on the breed today than the previous importations, although various Adema sons were used successfully in some herds.

The Friesian enjoyed great expansion in the 1950s, through to the 80s, until the Holsteinisation of the national herd in the 1990s; a trend which is being questioned by some commercial dairy farmers in the harsh dairying climate that prevails today, with the need to exploit grazing potential to the full.

Friesian semen is once again being exported to countries with grass based systems of milk production. The modern Friesian is pre-eminently a grazing animal, well able to sustain itself over many lactations, on both low lying and upland grassland, being developed by selective breeding over the last 100 years. Some outstanding examples of the breed have 12 to 15 lactations to their credit, emphasising their inherent natural fecundity. In response to demand, protein percentages have been raised across the breed and herd protein levels of 3.4% to 3.5% are not uncommon.

Whilst the British Friesian is first and foremost a dairy breed, giving high lifetime yields of quality milk from home produced feed, by a happy co-incidence surplus male animals are highly regarded, as producers of high quality lean meat, whether crossed with a beef breed or not. Beef cross heifers have long been sought after as the ideal suckler cow replacement.

Although understanding the need to change the Society's name to include the word Holstein in 1988, British Friesian enthusiasts are less than happy now that the word Friesian has been removed from the Society's name. With the history of the breed spanning 100 years, the British Friesian cow is continuing to prove her worth. The general robustness and proven fertility provide an ideal black and white cross for Holstein breeders seeking these attributes.

The disposal of male black and white calves continues to receive media attention, and would appear to be a waste of a valuable resource.

One of the great strengths of the British Friesian is the ability of the male calf to finish and grade satisfactorily, either in intensive systems, or as steers, extensively.

This latter system may become increasingly popular due to the prohibitive increase in grain prices. The robustness of the British Friesian and its suitability to grazing and forage systems is well known.

The breed:-

  • Calves more frequently.
  • Calves more often in their lifetime.
  • Needs less replacements.
  • Provides valuable male calves.
  • Has lower cell counts
  • Has higher fat and protein percent.

Red and White Holsteins

The expression of red colour replacing the black in Holsteins is a function of a recessive gene.

The genetic combinations possible with simple dominance can be expressed by a diagram called a Punnett square. One parent's alleles are listed across the top and the other parent's alleles are listed down the left side. The interior squares represent possible offspring, in the ratio of their statistical probability. In the case of red colour, R represents the dominant non red (or standard black and white) coloured allele and r the recessive red coloured allele. If both parents are non red coloured, and heterozygous (Rr) i.e. red carriers but outwardly normal black and white, the Punnett square for their offspring would be:

R r
R R R R r
r R r r r

From this, we can see that if two outwardly black and white carriers are bred together, the chances of the calf being red are 1 in 4, or 25%. In the RR and Rr cases, the offspring will be black and white due to the dominant R. Only in the rr case is there expression of the recessive red coloured phenotype.

If a red bull, rr is used on a carrier cow, Rr, then the Punnett square will give:

r r
R R r R r
r r r r r

There is a 50% chance that the calf will be red. Only if a red bull and a red cow are bred will the resulting calf be sure to be red. If a red bull is used on a non-carrier cow, i.e. the black and white majority of animals, then:

r r
R R r R r
R R r R r

There is no chance of a red calf being born. There is, however, a 100% certainty that the calf will be a red carrier, Rr.

History

13th C: Early records show that cattle of "broken" colours entered the Netherlands from Central Europe. Most foundation animals in the US were imported between 1869 and 1885. A group of early breeders decreed that animals of any colour other than black and white would not be accepted in the herd book, and that the breed would be known as Holsteins. There were objections, saying that quality and not colour should be the aim, and that the cattle should be called Dutch, rather than Holsteins.

Only a small number of carriers were identified over the hundred-year span from the early importations until they were accepted into the Canadian and American herd books in 1969 and 1970 respectively. Most of the early accounts of red calves being born to black and white parents were never documented. A few stories of "reds" born to elite parents persist over time, as there is a tendency to credit the ancestor with the highest (closest) relationship to a red-carrier animal as the one that transmitted the trait, whereas sometimes it is the other parental line that has passed it on, even though the ancestor responsible may have entered the pedigree several generations earlier.

In 1952 there was a sire in an artificial insemination (AI) unit in the US that was a carrier of red coat colour. Although the AI unit reported the condition and advised breeders as to its mode of inheritance, almost a third of the breeding unit's Holstein inseminations that year were to that red-carrier bull. That year, American AI units had used 67 red factor bulls that had sired 8250 registered progeny. However, in spite of this, any change to the colour marking rules was rejected.

The Red and White Dairy Cattle Association (RWDCA) began registry procedures in 1964 in the United States. Its first members were Milking Shorthorn breeders, who wanted a dairy registry for their cattle they had bred in prior years, including some red and white Holsteins. The name was changed to the Red and White Dairy Cattle Association in 1966. When Milking Shorthorn breeders were looking for potential outcrosses to improve milk production, red and white Holsteins came into the picture, since the red colour factor is the same for both breeds. The RWDCA had adopted an "open herd book" policy, and the Red and White Holstein became the major player.

The red trait was thus able to survive the attempts to eradicate it that came from all sides of the Holstein industry. It was inevitable that even when a red calf was killed or sent to a grade herd, the herd owner rarely did anything to remove the dam from his herd and only hoped that she would not have another red calf. Many red calves, born in both countries prior to the 1970s, were quietly disposed of, with a view to preserving the acceptance of their elite pedigrees.

Also, thousands of Holsteins were imported from Canada each year, and many were carriers. More than 14,000 Holsteins were exported to the United States in 1964 and again in 1965. This was at a time when both countries were debating the "red question." While the United States was trying to eliminate the red trait, the Canadian imports simply counter-balanced the US effort to reduce its incidence.

Canada's number one red carrier sire in the 1940s was A B C Reflection Sovereign. His sons and grandsons in the 1950s and 60s spread the red gene throughout Canada and increased its frequency in the United States. Three of the biggest names siring Red and Whites in the United States were Rosafe Citation R, Roeland Reflection Sovereign, and Chambric A B C. The red trait was readily available in Canadian Holstein genetics.

Early on, there was criticism of the policy of the Canadian AI units to remove bulls found to carry red. A number of superior bulls were slaughtered or exported. The studs were simply supporting the Canadian policy to prevent the intensification of the red recessive in the breed. The phrase carries the red factor had to be included in the description, and excessive promotion of unproven red factor bulls was discouraged. They later added the aim of permitting intelligent breeders to utilize any red carrier sire that had an outstanding proof for production and type.

It became obvious that AI was the primary way of finding out which bulls were red carriers. Prior to AI, few red carrier sires were uncovered because their service was limited to one or a few herds. Such herds often had no carrier females, and there was only a twenty-five percent chance that a carrier bull mated to a carrier female would produce a red calf. If a red and white calf was dropped, it was often concealed and quietly removed from the herd.

In 1964, the Netherlands Herd Book Society indicated a breakdown of 71% Black and White Friesian and 28% Red and Whites. A herd book that accepted Red and Whites had already been established in the United States. A separate herd book for Canadian Red and Whites was then established, following which Red and Whites became acceptable to the major Canadian (export) markets. The sales ring began to establish interest in the new breed.

The US Holstein-Friesian Association and its membership worked diligently from its early days until 1970 to eliminate the red trait from the registered population. However, once the door was open, red and whites began to appear in some of the more elite herds. The rush to get the best of Canadian breeding even prior to the opening of the herd book brought red calves to many dairymen who had never even seen one.

Canadian Red and Whites became eligible for registration in the herd book on July 1, 1969. This was done through an alternate registry. Red and Whites were to be listed with the suffix –RED and Black and Whites with ineligible markings would be registered with the suffix –ALT. Both groups and their progeny would be listed only in the Alternate book and the suffixes had to be part of the name. In the Canadian herd books, all –Alt and -Red animals were listed in the regular herd book in registration number order and were identified with an A in front of their number. The Alternates were separate in name only. The A in front of the registration number was discontinued in 1976 and the "–Alt" suffix was dropped in 1980, but –Red was continued. It did not bar the registration of animals whose hair turned from red to black. Holstein Canada has Sabluc Dairy as the farm maintaining the best red and white and black and white Holsteins in Canada.

The US Holstein Association decided not to have a separate herd book for red and whites and off-colour animals. The suffixes of –Red and –OC would be used, and numbering would be consecutive. The first red and white Holsteins were recorded with an R in front of their number. There were 212 males and 1191 females recorded in the initial group of red registrations. Red and Whites registered in the Canadian herd book numbered 281 in 1969 and 243 in 1970.

An American Breeders Service (ABS) ad in the Canadian Holstein Journal in 1974 on Hanover-Hill Triple Threat mentioned one of several colour variants that were not true red. Its existence was undoubtedly common knowledge among breeders in both countries, but up until that time it had not been mentioned in print. Calves were born red and white and registered as such, but over the first 6 months of age turned black or mostly black with some reddish hairs down the backline, around the muzzle and at the poll. The hair coat colour change became known as Black/Red(B/R) and sometimes as Telstar/Red, since the condition appeared in calves sired by Roybrook Telstar. Telstar was the sire of Triple Threat, but nothing about this had hitherto been in print about Telstar who was by then over 10 years old.

Black/Reds were often discriminated against when sold and were barred from Red and White-sponsored shows. In 1984 Holstein Canada considered recoding B/R bulls that had always been coded simply as red carriers, a designation that was not acceptable to all buyers. The breed agreed to change after checking with other breed associations and with the AI Industry. In 1987, Holstein Canada and the Canadian A I Industry modified their coding procedures to distinguish between Black/Red and true red colour patterns for bulls. Holstein Canada dropped the suffix Red as a part of the name in 1990, but continue to carry it as part of the birth date and other codes field.

The easiest pathway to trace when looking at the migration of the red trait in Canada is to work back through the ancestry of ABC>nowiki>'s sire, Montvic Rag Apple Sovereign. Sovereign was sired by Emperor of Mount Victoria-RC.

In Canada the sire Agro-Acres Marquis Ned-RC was born in 1964 and was extremely popular in Canada, siring a number of well-known Red and White females that were imported by US breeders. Among them were Blue-Haven Rose Ned-Red. A popular red-carrier sire was Roybrook Telstar.

Hanover-Hill Triple Threat had a huge influence on Holstein breeding in both the United States and Canada during the 1970s and 80s. He was considered a good mate for the daughters of Elevation, Bootmaker, and other highly-rated sires from both countries, despite the fact that he carried the Black/Red trait. Glenafton Enhancer was dominant in the 1980s as a sire of sons for AI units. He was a son of Roybrook Starlite.

Canadian headliner herds such as Romandale, Rosafe, Springbank, Rockwood, Spring Farm, and Glenafton, with their many sales and interchange of breeding stock, were certain to have the red trait whether they wanted it or not. Heavy use of Montvic Rag Apple Sovereign and A B C Reflection Sovereign and their sons and grandsons, along with the Palmyra line, guaranteed it.

Some early RWDCA sires, including those with Duallyn and Hayssen prefixes, made their way to Canada. However, the two US bulls that had the most influence on Canadian breeding of Red and Whites were Citation R Maple and Hanover Hill Triple Threat.

The Red and White breed has come a long way since it was founded. Great strides have been made in both production and type, and the best of them can go head-to-head with their black and white counterparts. However, the breed does need more herds that are committed to breeding cattle that will produce consistent results in future generations.

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