Top 10 Facts About Norwegian Red Cattle Breed

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The Norwegian Red Cattle Breed is considered as second best milk-producing cattle breed among the top milk-producing cattle breeds. Though this cattle breed is also farmed as beef production cattle. In this case, people call it a dual-purpose cattle breed that is raised for both milk and meat production. This legendary livestock breed developed in Norway in the 1970s.

Norwegian Red Cattle is mainly a dairy cattle breed that has been selected for a broad breeding objective, with an increasing emphasis on functional traits like health and fertility. Male cattle of these breeds are used as beef production cattle.

Norwegian Red Cattle Breed

The Norwegian Red cattle breed is renowned for its exceptional qualities in both milk and meat production. Originating from Norway, these cattle are highly sought after globally for their superior genetics, robust health, and efficient feed conversion. Their adaptability to various climates, disease resistance, and high fertility rates make them a valuable asset in sustainable and profitable dairy and beef operations worldwide.

Norwegian Red Cattle Breed
Norwegian Red Cattle Breed: Image: wikipedia

1. Origin

Norwegian Red Cattle originated in 1961 during the Norwegian Red-and-White, Red Trondheim, and the Red Polled Østland. After two years the Døle was also assimilated into the denomination and in 1968 South and West Norwegians were added. Other breeds that have been said to contribute to the gene pool include Ayshires, Swedish Red-and-Whites, Friesians, and Holsteins. By the early 1980s, more than 95% of the Norwegian national herd belonged to this designation, though the Norwegian Red cannot be considered a breed in classical definition. It is a uniting to develop a better strain of dual-purpose cattle.

2. Most Dominant Breed

The Norwegian Red cattle became the main dominant breed in its native area, comprising 98% of the total cattle population. Seed or embryo of this breed is also frequently exported to North America for crossbreeding with Holstein cattle in the United States dairy industry.

Today the breed is available in more than 20 countries throughout the world, including Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, and the United States. Currently, it is a popular Continental European breed.

3. Physical Characteristics

Norwegian Red cattle are medium to large-sized animals with beautiful coloration. They never express the extraneous uniformity seen in the actual breed, though they are red or red-pied for the most part.

They are commonly red and white, or black and white in coloration which looks them unique and most attractive also. The animals were originally horned. But through selective breeding, the majority of the Norwegian Red cattle are now generally polled.

The average height of the Norwegian Red cattle breed is about 135 to 140 cm at the withers and about 140 to 150 cm for the male breed. The cows on average weigh about 600 kg. The bulls are much larger than the cows. And average live body weight of the bulls is about 1300 kg.

4. Milk Production

Norwegian Red Cattle Breed is considered as one of the best milk-producing cattle breeds, though male cattle breeds are also considered as a beef-producing breed. These cattle usually produce the milk of more than 10, 000 kg (22,045 lbs), sometimes the best performing cows milking more than 16,000 kg (35,275 lbs). According to the Total Merit Index (TMI) currently, the average percentages of 4.2% fat and 3.4% protein are across the entire population of cows of all lactations.

5. Health Status

Health traits have been included in the Total Merit Index (TMI has been used to identify the best Norwegian Red bulls to become elite, daughter-proven sires used throughout Norway) since 1978. Included in the breeding goal is immunity to inflammation and other sicknesses, particularly ketosis

These attributes have much lower heritability than production traits. Therefore the genetic development can only be possible if the breeding goal gives these attributes a sufficient weight. Low heritability traits need a large number of daughters in order to calculate accurate breeding values through the progeny testing system.

6. Fertility

Norwegian Red cattle Breeds fertility has been included in the TMI since 1971. The index for fertility is based on a non-return rate of heifers and first lactation cows. These cattle are likely the most fertile breed of dairy cattle in the world for the last 40 years. It will never disappoint you as a most sustained breed among dairy cattle.  

The genetic trend for fertility is positive in the Norwegian Red breed with an average 56-day non-return rate of 72.4% (2014) which is normally better than any other cattle breeds for milk production. According to TMI, the overall fertility of these breeds is 13.87%.

7. Calving Ease

Calving ease has been included in the selection program (TMI) since 1978. The Norwegian Red is characterized as a breed with a low frequency of calving difficulties.  According to TMI calving ease index is 5.40%. Rump angle is another important trait related to calving difficulties. However, the calving ease index is different in the case of male and female calves.    

8. Longevity

These cattle are well-known as good production capabilities and mostly problem-free cows.  There were clear trends for the Norwegian Red cows to possess improved fertility compared to Holstein cows as well as other dairy cattle breeds.  During the trial, 28.5% of Holstein-Friesian cows and 11.8% of Norwegian-Red cows were culled as infertile. 

The Norwegian Red cows had improved longevity, with 27.2% of Norwegian Red cows and 16.3% of Holstein-Friesian cows surviving until the top of the fifth lactation.  When extrapolated to offer life-time survival, on average Holstein-Friesian cows completed 3.5 lactations while Norwegian Red cows completed 4.2 lactations.

9. Beef Production

The Norwegian Red cattle breeds are considered as the second-best milk-producing cattle, but the male Norwegian Red is also famous for beef-producing also. Cattle fattening, to produce beef the Norwegian cattle breed is famous also. According to TMI average weight of this cow (male) is about 550 to 600 kg which is 1213 to 1433 lbs. and it is an important economic trait for the farmer, in addition to securing a robust cow with good health, animal welfare, and feed efficiency. This breed is comparatively easy for fattening.

10. Economic Importance

Calving ease, with shorter gestation lengths, fewer stillbirths, and more live progeny, High fertility, producing reduced semen, vet and AI costs, High fat and protein milk, Higher Mastitis resistance, Choice of Polled or Horned, Hardy hooves, and other qualities make this breed as a unique breed to the milk producers.  

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