Swiss College of Agriculture, Zollikofen

Genetic aspects of the trial animals in the project “Pasture based milk production”

The Swiss College of Agriculture (SCA) in Zollikofen is searching for the ideal cattle type well adapted for a pasture-based milk production scheme. In 2007, the SCA launched a project together with the “KTI” (Swiss Confederation’s innovation promotion agency), the IG Weidemilch (Federation of farmers interested in pasture-based milk production), Swissgenetics (major Swiss AI company) and other partners. In this project, Holstein cows with New Zealand fathers and maternal grandfathers were imported from Ireland and compared – in terms of their suitability for pasture-based milk production – to the three main Swiss dairy cattle breeds: Brown Swiss, Fleckvieh and Holstein. This paper describes the studied animals in regard to their pedigree, their breeding values, and their genetic ranking within their population of origin, and finally, a series of conformation traits. The selection criteria and the high frequency of occurrence of the fathers and grandfathers in the imported animals indicate that this group is a selected, not a random sample. Moreover, the Irish total breeding value of the imported animals is considerably above the average of the Irish herdbook population. As a result of this selective choice, conclusions on the total Irish or even New Zealand herdbook population are not valid.

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