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Fleckvieh Impressions

                 

Until recently,Fleckvieh was virtually unheard in Kenya , which is quite astonishing if you consider the fact that they are the second most numerous breed in the world, outnumbered only by Holsteins. “Fleckvieh” is a German word literally meaning “spotted cattle”.

What makes them absolutely unique is the fact that the breed is equally selected for milking and growing ability and therefore can be used for both dairy and beef purposes. This is very evident in their home country, where presently many dairy farmers (due to ever stagnating or dropping milk prices) have turned their Fleckvieh milking herd out onto pasture, with their calves at their side and being left to suckle and all calves being raised for beef. And these are the very same cows that only one or two years back were being milked like any other dairy cow! In Europe raising calves for beef presently makes more economic sense than milking their dams, which is reflected in calf prices at livestock auctions: Bull calves fetch about KShs 50.000/- whereas heifer calves are worth only about half that price!

Thanks to Fleckvieh Genetics EA LTD Fleckvieh semen is now readily available in most parts of Kenya or can be obtained directly from them. There are only very few purebred Fleckvieh animals around so if you are interested in this breed, crossbreeding Fleckvieh with your existing cows is the easiest option. Unless of course, you have the means to directly import purebred animals from abroad, that is….

You don’t need to be a professional to succeed with Fleckvieh, but keep in mind that if your present cows are small, frail and weak due to inadequate feeding, disease and general poor management, using Fleckvieh semen is no magic cure and the resulting Fleckvieh cross cows will probably even look worse due to their enormous size and correlating feed and management requirements.

To start with, you can use Fleckvieh semen on almost any breed of cow. She should be of sufficient size and shouldn’t have had previous difficult calvings. In my personal opinion I would never use Fleckvieh semen on a heifer, though. When using Fleckvieh semen you should always keep in mind that:

  • Fleckvieh is a very large breed, with purebred cows outweighing most of our bulls around.
  • They are also quite late maturing and start coming into heat much later than most of the traditional dairy breeds. In their home country many will not be served before reaching about two years of age and weighing over 600kg. “Calving ease” of individual sires is determined by their semen being used on these huge heifers and cannot be readily converted into calving ease under local conditions.
  • Duration of pregnancy usually is a couple of days extra compared to other dairy breeds of cattle  (except Brown Swiss), giving the unborn calf extra time to grow and bull calves weighing 50kg at birth are no exception.

Fleckvieh are an excellent choice for use in any crossbreeding  program. Being a dual purpose breed,  they are not related too closely to all the major dairy breeds. In particular all the lowland breeds as Holsteins, Jerseys and Guernseys are ideal to exploit  hybrid vigour . Additionally Fleckvieh are also the number 1 choice for crossbreeding to enhance beef production.

Here are some examples of what you can expect after this first use of Fleckvieh semen, your F1 generation might also look like this:

 

BFG Inzaghi daughter

Born November 2010

46% Fleckvieh

25% Jersey

15% Holstein

 

 

BFG Zeitlos daughter

Born November 2010

50% Fleckvieh

27% Sahiwal

8% Ayrshire

 

 

BFG Zeitlos daughter

Born April 2010

50% Fleckvieh

32% Brown Swiss

12% Sahiwal

 

 

BFG Zeitlos daughter

Born November 2010

50% Fleckvieh

28% Sahiwal

12% Jersey

 

 

If you continue using Fleckvieh semen on each new generation (which is called backcrossing) you can increase their genetic proportion as following:

  • 1st generation is 50% Fleckvieh
  • 2nd generation is 75% Fleckvieh…

and thereby surpassing 99% of Fleckvieh genetic makeup when reaching the 7th generation. Commonly 4th to 5th generation animals can already be considered as purebred.

Wishing all interested readers happy and prosperous Fleckvieh breeding!

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