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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Economic consequences of dairy crossbreeding in conventional and organic herds in Sweden

Clasen, J. B.; Fikse, W. F.; Kargo, M.; Rydhmer, L.; Strandberg, E.; Ostergaard, S.


This study simulated the consequences of crossbreeding between Swedish Holstein and Swedish Red on herd dynamics and herd profitability under Swedish conditions. Two base herds were simulated using a stochastic herd simulation model, SimHerd Crossbred. The herds reflected average Swedish conventional and organic herds having purebred Swedish Holstein. For each base herd, 3 breeding strategies were simulated: purebreeding, 2-breed terminal crossbreeding, and 2-breed rotational crossbreeding. The terminal crossbreeding strategy implied having a nucleus of Swedish Holstein and a proportion of F-1 Swedish Red x Swedish Holstein crossbred cows within the same herd. The crossbreds in this herd did not produce replacement heifers but exclusively beef x dairy crass calves. Beef semen was also used in the pure-breeding (10-20% in cows) and the rotational crossbreeding (40% in cows) strategies to retain a limited surplus of replacement heifers. To ensure an adequate number of crossbreds in the terminal crossbreeding strategy, X-sorted sexed semen was used for insemination in all the purebred heifers. The outcome was 67% purebred and 31% F-1 crossbreds in the herd. In addition, 31% heterosis was expressed compared with 67% heterosis expressed using a 2-breed rotational crossbreeding strategy. Compared with the pure-breeding strategy, crossbreeding increased the annual contribution margin per cow by (sic)20 to (sic)59, with the rotational crossbreeding strategy creating the largest profitability. The increased profitability was mainly due to improved functional traits, especially fertility. For the conventional production system, the replacement rate was 39.3% in the pure-breeding strategy and decreased to 35.8 and 30.1% in the terminal and rotational crossbreeding strategy, respectively. Similar changes happened in the organic production system. Additionally, the crossbreeding strategies earned (sic)22 to (sic)42 more annually per cow from selling live calves for slaughter due to the extended use of beef semen. Milk production was similar between pure-breeding and terminal crossbreeding, and only decreased 1 to 2% in rotational crossbreeding. These results show that crossbreeding between Swedish Holstein and Swedish Red can be profitable in both conventional and organic Swedish herds using the strategies we have simulated. However, some aspects remain to be investigated, such as the economically optimal breeding strategy, genetic improvement, and transition strategies.


crossbreeding; herd management; herd profitability

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2020, volume: 103, number: 1, pages: 514-528

Authors' information

Clasen, Julie
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Växa Sverige
Kargo, M.
Aarhus University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Ostergaard, S.
Aarhus University

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

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