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Norwegian Red (NRF) x Holstein crossbred calf. Photo: Elly Geverink
Norwegian Red (NRF) x Holstein crossbred calf. Photo: Elly Geverink

Canadian Research: Better calf survival with Norwegian Red (NRF) crossbreds

Dairy crossbreeding research at University of Guelph, Canada show that Norwegian Red (NRF) crossbred calves have significantly greater survival compared to purebred Holstein calves.


Dairy crossbreeding is an effective and relatively easy way to improve health in dairy animals by introducing favorable genes and alleviating inbreeding depression. A number of studies have shown that crossbreeding in dairy cattle is associated with decreased disease occurrence and enhanced antibody response.


Specifically one study looking at crosses between Holstein (HO) and Normande, Montbeliarde and Scandinavian Red compared to purebred HO found that all crosses had significantly greater survival to 305 day in milk compared to purebred HO (Heins et al., 2006), which could be related to increased host defence in crossbreds.


Immune response and survival in calves

The objectives of this research at the University of Guelph were to evaluate antibody-mediated immune response (AMIR), cell-mediated immune responders (CMIR) and survival between purebred Holstein and crossbred Norwegian Red x Holstein calves and first calf heifers. Purebred Holstein and Crossbred Norwegian Red (NRF) x Holstein 2-6 month old calves from 26 different commercial dairy farms in south western Ontario were evaluated.


Better disease resistance and survival in crossbred animals

Overall results showed that crossbred calves had significantly greater primary antibody response and in general greater survival compared to purebred calves. It was also observed that crossbred first calf heifers in general had greater AMIR and CMIR as well as survival compared to purebred heifers.


These results indicate that crossbred animals compared to purebred have enhanced host defence, which could be related to increased resistance to disease and survival in crossbred animals.


For full research report:

Immune Response and Survival between Purebred Holstein and Crossbred Norwegian Red x Holstein Calves and First Calf Heifers: A Summary
1S. L. Cartwright, 2L. R. Schaeffer, 3E. B. Burnside, 1 B. A. Mallard
1Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph.


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