From 12,000 embryos to 60 young bulls each year. CRV’s European Holstein breeding programme is characterised by transparency, high numbers and strict selection. This allows CRV to maximise the input of genetic progress in the population. And offer farmers a varied range of top-quality bulls that guarantee healthy cows able to realise high lifetime production efficiently and effortlessly.
Series Part 1: Holstein in Europe
CRV operates a professional and progressive breeding programme for different breeds in various regions of the world. These diverse breeding programmes are driven by one clear vision: CRV wants to help dairy farmers progress by offering genetics that are leading in health and efficiency.
It takes a special bull to become a CRV bull
The foundation of CRV’s Holstein breeding programme is the approximately 10 million cows in the Netherlands and Flanders and elsewhere in Europe. ‘Thanks to genome research, our breeding technicians have a clear picture of the genetic predisposition of a large number of these animals’, says Jaap Veldhuisen, head of product development at CRV. ‘This enables us to pinpoint potential bull dams who excel in combining good health and efficient milk production within the vast population,’ he explains.
Some of these bull dams are the result of CRV’s own breeding programme. Within this nucleus programme -which is known as Delta- animals at the absolute pinnacle of genetics are used for breeding. ‘At the same time, farmers also actively engage in breeding, which means that genetically interesting animals are also bred and come to our attention from outside the nucleus. These animals can potentially also join the CRV nucleus’, says Veldhuisen. ‘This means that we regularly purchase animals with an exceptional genetic predisposition from private breeders. We also have agreements in place with farmers about flushing interesting animals for the purposes of the breeding programme.’
More than 12,000 embryos
CRV’s Dairy Breeding Center in Wirdum, Europe’s largest and most innovative breeding centre, is home to 400 young animals from the Delta programme that are used for embryo production. ‘To maintain and ensure sufficient variation in the paternal bloodlines, we use around 40 different black-and-white bulls, and 20 red-and-white animals to sire bulls’, adds Veldhuisen.
After the Delta heifers have been inseminated, they are moved in full pregnancy to one of the ten CRV test farms in the Netherlands and Flanders. Here they can prove their high genetic promise in practice.
The donor heifers in Wirdum and the animals contracted from private breeders by CRV through the Eurodonor programme collectively produce more than 12,000 embryos each year. ‘These embryos are implanted in recipient cows on selected dairy farms’, Veldhuisen explains. ‘Out of these embryos some 3000 males and 3000 female calves are born each year, all of which are genomicly tested. We buy back the animals with the most interesting genetics from the farmers. In addition, we also acquire animals from national and international private breeders’, he says.
From 10 million cows to 60 InSire bulls
CRV’s Holstein breeding programme in the Netherlands and Flanders is characterised by transparency, high numbers and strict selection. The infographic below shows how 60 InSire and 15 daughter proven bulls are eventually selected from 10 million European Holstein cows and become available to farmers around the world.
Wide and varied offer
Each year 125 bull calves make the move to the barns for rearing. Of these, a total of 60 satisfy all the requirements to qualify for semen production from the age of 14 months. These bulls are available for farmers as young InSire bulls. ‘As CRV, in cooperation with Dutch and Flemish farmers, invests in collecting a high volume of reliable data, on production and conformation, but also on health, longevity and feed efficiency, these bulls are assigned a unique set of dozens of breeding values with high reliability’, Veldhuisen explains. ‘This allows CRV to guarantee a wide and varied range so that farmers can select the most suitable bull for their own farm.’
About four years after being used for the first time, an InSire bull receives its first breeding value based on data about his daughters. ‘Since the bulls are often used intensively for thousands of inseminations, many of their daughters start lactating in a short space of time’, says Veldhuisen. ‘Which allows us to continue to support and promote our breeding programme using the proven performance of healthy cows that achieve high lifetime production efficiently and effortlessly.’
CRV’s Dairy Breeding Center in Wirdum is Europe’s largest and most innovative breeding centre