Homozygous Polled: Some Dairymen’s 4-Leaf Clover

Joan Cooper, Data Analyst and Technical Support Specialist, Geno Global

Polled dairy cattle are increasing in numbers. The Norwegian Red (NRF) breed appears to be the leader in polled dairy genetics since 50% of all Norwegian Red calves born in Norway are polled. Polled beef cattle are much more prevalent than polled dairy cows, but luckily, there are far more polled dairy cattle than the elusive 4-leaf clover* estimated at 1 in 10,000.

Many elite Norwegian Red bulls are polled (½ offspring polled) and some elite bulls are homozygous polled. Since the gene for polled (no horns) is dominant over horned in cattle, a bull or cow that is homozygous polled (2 copies of the polled gene) will have all polled offspring. ABS Global in the U.S. is now distributing semen from three Norwegian Red sires that are homozygous polled to meet the demand of producers who want the guarantee of polled offspring from a mating.



Introducing the Bulls

The three homozygous polled sires distributed by ABS are Nordbo (10553), who has been in the lineup for 2 years, and 2 new bulls, Skjenaust (10558) and Naxbie (10632).

All these sires will transmit excellent production along with outstanding

252NR10553 NORDBO dtr

252NR10553 NORDBO dtr

daughter fertility.

Nordbo and Naxbie should be excellent choices for maiden heifers and will produce daughters with very nice udders. Skjenaust will produce daughters with high udders and will widen out the rear teats a little on cows with close rear teats.

252NR10632 NAXBIE dtr

252NR10632 NAXBIE dtr

Overall these 3 sires compare favorably, especially in daughter fertility, with the other NRF sires offered by ABS in the U.S.

Outstanding Daughter Pregnancy Rates

USDA PTA Daughter Pregnancy Rates (DPR) are outstanding for the three homozygous polled Norwegian Red sires since they average DPR=6.3 and are three of the top four NRF sires for DPR distributed in the U.S. Using the conversion of +1% of DPR = 4 LESS days open, then a DPR of 6.3 = 25.2 LESS days open. Dairy producers’ testimonies are mounting that the Norwegian Red fertility advantage is seen in Norwegian Red crossbred daughters even in the summer.  Improved fertility of the Norwegian Red cows is likely a direct reflection of the long term genetic selection for improved fertility within Norway since the 1970s. In addition, selection in the breed for resistance to disease is reflected in the low incidence of fertility related diseases and reproductive disorders within the NRF population, with mean frequencies of 3.1%, for silent heat, 0.9% for cystic ovaries, 0.5% for metritis and 1.5% for retained placenta (Heringstad, 2010).**

Using CMS® – ABS Crossbreeding Management System®

The Norwegian Red is one of the three breeds promoted in the ABS Crossbreeding Management System® (CMS®) and it’s interesting to think that the goal of having an all polled herd can be accomplished with CMS. Using the three homozygous polled NRF sires in a 3-way rotation with Holsteins and Jerseys, aka CMS, will insure a polled offspring every time NRF comes up in the rotation.  Heterozygous polled (½ offspring polled) Norwegian Red, Holstein and Jersey sires are also available for use in the 3-way rotation.  Horned offspring will result from mating a heterozygous cow to a heterozygous polled bull 25% of the time, but rotating in a homozygous polled NRF sire will again produce a polled calf.

Horns-off in Europe with the Polled Gene

The up-tick of adoption of polled genetics in Europe is featured in an interesting article “Horns removed by polled sires” in the summer 2012 addition of Eurogene’s Holstein magazine “Hotspots.”  This article states the obvious that dehorning calves is an unpleasant job on a dairy farm, costs money, and compromises growth rates and causes trauma to the calf. Also noted is that dehorning has been included in political agendas of animal welfare organizations as “not animal friendly treatment and an artificial intervention.”  The dairy industry in Europe has answered the animal welfare organizations by providing a huge amount of young polled bulls and is complimenting itself that with polled genes they seem to be ahead of a public demand for a change in agricultural practices. Here is a link to the magazine; the article is found on pages 58-60: http://issuu.com/eurogenes/docs/hotspots_summer2012/1

Questions to Ponder

QUESTION 1: Do you want to begin to eliminate the task of dehorning or disbudding for one or more reasons?

QUESTION 2: Did you know that the use of homozygous polled sires across a herd can poll an entire herd beginning with the next calf crop?

ABS Global’s SOLUTION: All offspring of these three homozygous polled Norwegian Red sires, Nordbo, Naxbie and Skjenaust, will be born polled!  “If you want polled, we have it!” No 4-leaf-clover luck or chance involved!

Click on April 2012 Norwegian Red Information on the ABS Global webpage about crossbreeding for more details about the Norwegian Red sires distributed in the U.S.

*Recent research (2010) into the inheritance of the 4-leaf clover points a recessive gene or genes with expression strongly influenced by the environment. Hard to breed for, indeed!

**Heringstad, B. 2010. Genetic analysis of fertility-related diseases and disorders in Norwegian Red cows. J. Dairy Sci. 93: 2751-2756.

3 Responses to Homozygous Polled: Some Dairymen’s 4-Leaf Clover

  1. Author follow-up: Is dehorning becoming a hot issue in the U.S.?. See http://shar.es/s0kuk – June 11, 2012 Dairy Herd Network article: “Teach proper dehorning techniques.” I already received a Tweet on 6/11/12 that said, “Proper protocol would be the end of dehorning. Nobody has time for the proper protocol.” Comments?

    Please read this linked Dairy Herd Network article to see dehorning recommendations from veterinary colleges. Plus keep in mind that there are more and more elite A.I. dairy sires that have 50% or 100% polled offspring (have one or two genes for polled condition). “Let’s dehorn at conception or at a very young age – – both are proper protocol.”

  2. Just bought a couple canes of each of those bulls. I think polled genetics will be becoming more important in coming years as we have calving ease and health traits under control. Look forward to not having to dehorn calves.

  3. Owen says:

    Polled is the way to go! ABS, please make more polled bulls available for dairy!

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