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19 Apr 2022

Crossbreeding is an effective tool to improve fertility

How much does it cost when a cow fails to become pregnant in your dairy herd? What if you could increase the conception rate, boost lifetime production and reduce the costs and amount of work per cow?

One of the solutions for achieving better reproduction performance in your herd is to implement structured crossbreeding. Crossbred cows stay longer in your herd with an increased lifetime production.


Rely on crossbreeding to boost reproduction performance

There are two aspects that explain the improvements in fertility achieved when you start crossbreeding.

Firstly, heterosis — the increase of favourable characteristics of a hybrid organism over those characteristics of its parents. Heterosis happens when you cross two unrelated breeds. Research has found that fertility is one of the key traits improved by heterosis.

Heterosis gives you natural resistance against the effects of inbreeding. By using the three-way cross, you can achieve a steady heterosis of 86% compared to 67% with a two-way cross.

Secondly, the improvements in fertility due to the desirable characteristics of the breeds used in the crossbreeding concept. The breeds utilised in the crossbreeding complement each other well.

Crossbreeding is growing in popularity around the world. An increasing number of dairy farmers are experiencing the benefits of three-way crossbreeding.

A number of scientific studies conducted by universities and research centres in different countries have shown the benefits of crossbreeding, including an improvement in the fertility performance of crossbred cows.

No matter which production system you use, you can find a suitable crossbreeding concept to boost reproduction levels and improve the overall performance of your dairy herd.


Profitable crossbreeding for intensive production

ProCROSS is a 3-breed rotational crossbreeding system combining VikingHolstein, VikingRed and Coopex Montbéliarde, which is suitable for herds adopting intensive production.

The benefits of the ProCROSS system have been proven in the 10-year ProCROSS study led by the University of Minnesota, USA, the results of which were published in 2019. The study is the most important scientific trial into crossbreeding dairy cattle undertaken to date.

The trial was conducted on seven dairy herds in Minnesota, USA. 3,550 Holstein cows were committed for the foundation.

One of the conclusions from the Minnesota study was improved fertility. The study showed that ProCROSS cows have +10pts in their Conception Rate compared to Holstein cows.

In the second and third lactations, the conception rate to first service was 35% for Holstein cows compared to 45% for ProCROSS cows. This means that Holsteins had to be bred 2.4 times compared to 1.9 times for ProCROSS cows.

The proportion of cows that calved again within 14 months was significantly higher for ProCROSS cows than for Holstein for all parities.





Conc. rate at 1st AI. (2nd & 3rd Lact)



+10 %-points

Open days (2nd & 3rd Lact)

134 days

114 days

-20 days

1st Lact. calved again within 14 months (%)



+7 %-points

2nd Lact. calved again within 14 months (%)



+17 %-points

3rd Lact. calved again within 14 months (%)



+25 %-points

Fertility results in the 10-year Minnesota study

Read more about ProCROSS

Efficient crossbreeding for seasonal calving

VikingGoldenCross is a 3-breed rotational crossbreeding programme combining VikingHolstein, VikingRed and VikingJersey, which is especially suitable for seasonal calving herds.

A study conducted by Dairy Australia compared different crossbreds to purebred herds on a pasture-based system. The researchers analysed data from more than 23 million lactation records from almost 900,000 cows on 18,207 farms collated over a 14-year period.

The study concluded that a crossbred cow is more fertile, she lives longer and depreciates less:

  • the conception rate to first service was 39% for Holstein cows compared to 49% for crossbred cows
  • the percentage of cows pregnant by week 6 was significantly higher for crossbred cows, 66% compared to 46% for Holsteins
  • the percentage of cows not pregnant by week 12 was reduced two-fold: only 8% of crossbred cows were empty compared to 16% Holstein cows.






Conception rate (1st service)




Pregnant by week 6




% not pregnant by week 12




Fertility results in the crossbreeding study by Dairy Australia


Another study by Dairy Australia compared the performance of two-breed and three-breed crossbred herds.

Using data from nearly 7,000 cows with over 25,000 lactations on pasture-based farms, they found that, compared to the two-way cross, the Holstein/Jersey/Red cross showed a significantly higher lifespan and better fertility:

  • +4 %-points in conception rate (1st service)
  • +8 %-points in six-week in-calf rate

Researchers from SEGES in Denmark have found that three-way cross cows have better fertility when compared to Holstein cows. The study results show that the calving interval is 15 days shorter for three-way crossbreeding cows and the period from first to last insemination is reduced by 8 days.

Learn more about VikingGoldenCross

Read customer cases about crossbreeding