Fleckvieh: progressively profiting from the European population

Category: About CRV
Fleckvieh cows
Fleckvieh cows

With professional breeding programmes in Germany and the Czech Republic and intensive cooperation with colleagues in Austria, CRV can profit from access to the upper segment of Fleckvieh bulls in the European population. CRV applies a progressive breeding strategy for milk and beef production, longevity, persistency and late maturity, fertility and udder health. This approach guarantees a leading position in health and efficiency for CRV's Fleckvieh genetic products.

Series part 2: Fleckvieh

CRV operates professional breeding programmes for different breeds in various regions of the world. These diverse breeding programmes are driven by one clear vision: CRV want to help dairy farmers progress by offering genetics that are leading in health and efficiency.

Dual purpose breed

Numbering a population of about 1.1 million registered cows in Europe alone, Fleckvieh is the most commonly farmed dual-purpose breed in the world. And Fleckvieh comes in second to Holstein as a dairy breed. The homelands of Fleckvieh breeding are the south of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. CRV promotes a professional and progressive breeding programme in these countries. CRV also enjoys access to the Fleckvieh populations in France, Italy and Croatia, for example.

‘This breeding programme has resulted in a wide range of bulls from the highest ranked genomic young bulls and daughter proven breeding bulls. This portfolio - which is extremely competitive on an international level - is offered to farmers around the world via CRV's distribution network’, says Tobias Lerner, global product manager Fleckvieh at CRV Germany. ‘Fleckvieh genetics from CRV guarantee rapid genetic progress in purebred breeding programmes. However, the popularity of Fleckvieh bulls as a cross is also on the rise in many countries. Fleckvieh is currently the most widely used breed for cross-breeding’, Lerner explains.

Fleckvieh breeding programmes

CRV's own Fleckvieh breeding programmes are based in the German federal state of Bavaria and in the Czech Republic. Intensive cooperation is an integral part of these programmes. CRV Germany also works with the Austrian AI organisation Genostar. Many of the animals are jointly owned and bulls from both organisations feature in their respective range of bulls. This approach means the entire top flight of the European population is available to farmers who use CRV's Fleckvieh bulls.

‘All the breeding programmes apply one and the same system of estimating the breeding values for Fleckvieh. This allows direct comparison of the breeding values of animals from different countries’, says Johannes Wolf. He is the breeding technician specialised in Fleckvieh at CRV Germany. ‘In addition, the basis is adapted each time the breeding values are estimated, so these figures always give an up-to-date impression of the added value of a bull for the population’, he adds.

‘Genomic breeding values have been used in Fleckvieh breeding for more than a decade now,’ the breeding technician continues. ‘Over the years, a database (reference population) has been created comprising the data of more than 100,000 animals. This means the breeding values for young bulls can already be calculated with considerably high reliability. For example, for production traits, this reliability is already often more than 80%. This is higher than young Holstein bulls’, he remarks.

Contracted heifers

CRV makes grateful use of these genomic breeding values in the Fleckvieh breeding programme. Traditionally, AI organisations acquire their bulls at an age of around 10 to 14 months from the breeders at cattle auctions. An increasing number of bulls used by CRV Germany and CRV Czech Republic are the progeny of heifers from reputable cow families with a proven performance record.

Based on the high breeding values, these promising animals are contracted directly from top breeders by the breeding technicians. The highest scoring heifers are flushed several times. Their calves are also marker tested. Only the very best bulls with the highest scores are promoted to the AI stations. ‘CRV was the first AI organisation to apply genomic selection in this way in the breeding programme. This has given genetic progress an immense boost’, Wolf indicates. This progress is available to farmers around the world in the shape of the Fleckvieh genetics offered by CRV.

CRV Fleckvieh bulls – leading in health and efficiency

‘Fleckvieh cows are healthy, robust dual-purpose animals that guarantee problem-free, efficient dairy and beef production, says Tobias Lerner, global product manager Fleckvieh at CRV. Far more than in the programmes of fellow organisations, the focal point of CRV's breeding programme is on enhancing the traits that determine healthy and efficient milk and beef production. These traits are combined in the CRV Health and CRV Efficiency indexes.

45 young bulls from the top of the European population

CRV's breeding programmes leverages the genetic progress in the entire European Fleckvieh population of some 1.1 million pedigree cows. There are two approaches. The traditional approach is acquiring the very best bulls offered by breeders at elite cattle auctions. Some of these bulls are purchased together with the Austrian AI organisation Genostar.

The modern approach ‒ which is gaining in importance ‒ is selecting young animals with high genomic breeding values from proven cow families. Contracts are agreed with the breeders of these animals about mating with the highest ranking bulls. The bull calves that result from these selections are denoted a genomic breeding value.

The bulls with the highest breeding values are then transferred to the barns at CRV. Around 45 young bulls become available every year, including the bulls purchased at auctions. As well as semen from young bulls, CRV also offers semen from daughter proven bulls with an established performance record. In this way CRV can offer every Fleckvieh farmer in the world a suitable bull.