There are distinct benefits to using organic Holstein Jersey heifers for a dairy farm. In the past, cross-breeding of dairy breeds was not looked upon favorably. Today, however, dairy producers are realizing that the use of cross-breeds will increase the economic performance of their operations. This increase can be an encouragement for farmers considering the implementation of organic dairy farming; and more organic farms can only be a benefit to consumers.
In North America there are 11 breeds of dairy cows that are most commonly used:
- Brown Swiss
- Dutch Belted
- Milking Devon
- Milking Shorthorn
- Norwegian Red
Other breeds are also used, but of them all, the Holstein and Jersey are the most popular dairy breeds in the United States.
Holstein Heifer Benefits
Holsteins, also known as Holstein-Friesian, originated in Europe and are easily recognized by their distinctive black and white or red and white markings. Heifers can be bred when they are 15 months old and their gestation is about nine months. On average, Holsteins live around six years.
Of the many reasons that some farmers choose to use Holsteins for their dairy breed, the biggest reason is that Holsteins produce more milk on average than most other breeds. Better udders are another preferred characteristic.
Jersey Heifer Benefits
Jersey cows, among the oldest of the dairy breeds, originated on the island of Jersey, off the coast of France. They are very adaptable, tolerant of hot climates and are excellent grazers.
One of the benefits of Jerseys is that they have an easier time calving. They also offer high milk production.
Organic Holstein Jersey Heifers
The real benefits are seen when these two high-quality breeds are crossed. Crossing the highest-quality stock of each breed will produce offspring with the best qualities of each breed. A few of the qualities that dairy farmers enjoy with organic Holstein Jersey Heifers include a smaller animal that has few calving problems, produces a high quantity of milk and has udders that are easier to milk.
This particular cross is especially appealing for organic dairy farmers, who allow their animals to graze in pasture, as opposed to confinement farmers who may not have as much success with the Holstein Jersey cross. Careful cross-breeding can improve economic performance of the entire herd through better reproduction, higher survival rate and higher milk production.
In fact, studies have shown that a Holstein-sired heifer will produce a higher average of milk per acre that her mother, a pure-bred Jersey. A pure Jersey cow has the genetic potential to produce 16,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime. Her cross-bred daughters have the genetic ability to produce 18,800 to 19,900 pounds of milk in their lives. The organic Holstein Jersey heifer is thought to be the best cross for optimal milk production. All of this results in greater profitability for the organic dairy farmer.
A bonus to raising organic Holstein Jersey heifers is that this cross-breeding can eliminate many of the problems associated with inbreeding. If two highly inbred animals are bred together, undesirable qualities are buried by the more dominant, desirable qualities.
This is known as heterosis, or hybrid vigor. When parent-stock from the best genetic pools are crossed, their offspring performs exceptionally because of the ability of the parents to transmit their genetic abilities. This is more profitable because cull rates are reduced. Overall health and production are greatly improved, and the organic dairy farmer has a better profit.
Benefits to Consumers
This is great for consumers, because when organic farming becomes more profitable, more farmers are encouraged to go organic. When there is an increase in the supply of organic products like milk, meat, fruits and vegetables, they become more affordable for consumers. This results in more people having the ability to experience the benefits of organic foods for themselves.
Consumers can help by buying organic products whenever possible. When the demand grows, more farmers will see the benefits of having an organic farm. More organic farms result in not only healthier people, but also a healthier planet.