Fleckvieh cows: An alternative for cross breeding?

For the first time at the National Ploughing Championships, a new dairy-cross will be on display – incorporating the two leading cattle breeds of the world, Holstein Friesian and Fleckvieh.

Fleckvieh are relatively new to Ireland, but are reportedly the “number one” dairy and dual-purpose breed in Central Europe, and the “number two” dairy breed worldwide, according to Celtic Sires.

The new cross will be on display on the Celtic Sires stand (Block 1, Row 14, Stand 305), alongside pure-bred Fleckvieh animals.

Fleckvieh cattle are native to Austria, Switzerland and southern Germany, and are also very popular in Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and other central European countries. Over the last 10 years the breed’s popularity has grown in the Netherlands and Fleckvieh is now the number one dairy cross used there, Celtic Sires says.

Since being first displayed at the ‘Ploughing’ last year, there has been “huge interest” in the breed – with sales of semen and bulls “rising significantly”. The breed’s appearance for the first time on a recent ICBF list of dairy semen usage is evidence of same, the company adds.

Fleckvieh – a dairy Simmental – is separate from beef Simmentals in a similar manner to the distinctions between Holstein and British Friesians.

Austria is at the centre of Fleckvieh’s domination in Europe, with 85% of its dairy herd being pure Fleckvieh.

Their popularity is down to the all-round robustness of the breed – they are noted for their “exceptional” fertility, and are also said to be “very strong” on all other health traits, particularly hooves and legs, as well as udder health.

The Fleckviehs are most noted for their dual–purpose characteristics, “high value” bull calves and high cull cow values, both “contributing significantly” to a balanced farm income, especially in years of low milk price, Celtic Sires stresses.

Part of their growing popularity in Ireland is among the many farmers with fragmented farms, and who traditionally keep some beef followers on this land. They are also finding favour with some larger dairy farmers who see them as a “trouble-free alternative” to the Jersey cross, offering the potential to produce more milk and beef from the same number of cows.

Celtic Sires is the exclusive agent in Ireland for Austrian semen, as well as supplying Fleckvieh bulls and heifers from Austria. The Celtic Sires ‘Ploughing’ exhibit includes two cows in milk and two pedigree Fleckvieh calves.