Dairy farmers are always looking at ways to improve their bottom line. We investigate whether the Fleckvieh breed might be a good option for Ireland’s dairy farmers.
So what is the Fleckvieh?
The Fleckvieh, in layman's terms, is the dairy version of the Swiss Simmental breed. The breed originated in the Austrian Empire and the old Kingdom of Bavaria. The breed came about after cross-breeding local stock with the Simmental imported from Switzerland in the 1830’s.
The Simmental was chosen, due to it’s dual-purpose qualities. They are known to have good milk producing qualities, whilst they are also used extensively in beef production. The resulting crosses of the local breeds and the Simmental were triple purpose as they had milk, meat and draught capabilities. This cross is known as the Fleckvieh. It is now a dual-purpose breed, used for both milk and beef production.
In 1920 the Fleckvieh was developed as an independent breed. A strict breeding programme ensued, to ensure offspring kept all milk, muscling and draught performance qualities. This helped make them a highly-productive dual purpose breed.
They look similar to that of the Simmental and generally have white heads with a red body.
So why would one switch to Fleckvieh?
There are many reasons as to why, but the most important reasons all come back to a farmer’s bottom line.
The first pro for Irish dairy farmers using Fleckvieh is the significantly higher value of bull calves born. This is due to calves been graded better and weighing much heifer than other dairy breeds. This would mean gone are the days of ‘giving’ bull calves away. A bull calf born from a Friesian at birth tends to make anything from €10 up as high as €120. But a Fleckvieh bull calf could earn a farmer anything up to €400.
The next pro for dairy farmers is the Dairy performance of the breed. On average a Fleckvieh cow could produce up to 6,000kgs of milk in their first lactation and up to 9000 kgs in later lactations. They can also produce milk with up to 4.2% fat content and 3.7% protein.
Fleckvieh cattle exhibit good development and performance capacity along with good conformation. 6,000 kg milk in the 1st lactation and over 7,000 – 9,000 kg milk in later lactations with 4.2 percent fat and 3.7 percent protein. Milk production yields will continue to increase until the fifth lactation.
Although yields are smaller day-to-day, yields will be similar in the long run. This is because the Fleckvieh tends to live much longer than the average Holstein. The breed also ranks among the top when it comes to udder health.
Fleckvieh are also very fertile animals, making insemination much easier. 1.8 straws of semen will get a cow in calf, meanwhile, in Holsteins this number is 4 straws. Fleckvieh also have a higher number of lactations than the Holstein's 2.7, though they are generally never milked more than that.
Another key reason to encourage farmers to make the switch is the prices paid for Fleckvieh cull cows. It is reported that a farmer can earn up to three times more than the price of an average Holstein Friesian upon culling. Fleckvieh cattle tend to be graded with R if not U.
If you make the switch from Holstein Friesians, you would not only be switching breeds but opening up other avenues for profit. Your cows will live longer, their calves will be worth more, as they have minimal fertility issues!
It may mean more time spentin the parlour, but would that be a big deal if it meant more profits?
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