AUSTRIA - Sustainability and globalisation are two pressing issues besetting the dairy industry, which the Fleckvieh breed is well set to address, according to Austrian geneticists.
Emerging markets and the necessity to diversify farm income mean growing opportunities are to present themselves for cows that can produce high component milk and muscular calves.
By combining high butter fat and protein with 85 per cent of bulls grading U/E for carcass, Fleckvieh represent a high yielding, dual purpose option, say experts at Genetic Austria.
The recent Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum report from the UK and EU beef production data shows the importance of the dairy sector in beef production. World Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data shows that 80 per cent of beef produced in Europe is from dairy bred animals.
Globally, this is 57 per cent, explains Edward Talbot, an agri-business student at Genetic Austria.
He told TheDairySite that Austria’s upland regions and farming traditions require a versatile, robust breed which can optimise farm income through milk cheques, high cull cow income and beef sales.
“Over seven per cent of Fleckvieh cows in Austria are on mountain grazing – this requires a hardy animal capable of withstanding extreme conditions and efficiently converting forage into milk and beef.”
This means Fleckvieh are bred for feet and leg strength, with fitness at 38 per cent of the breeding target.
Consequently, an average Fleckvieh lasts for 4.8 lactations, added Mr Talbot.
He said that Fleckvieh success can be seen in its Austrian dominance, accounting for over three quarters of the country’s cattle – 1.5 million.
However, Genetic Austria has reported increasing popularity elsewhere, with 38,000 in-calf heifers being exported to over 20 countries as purebreds.
Mr Talbot said milk buyers are beginning to adjust to the possibilities of a post-quota EU market.
“The increasing importance of milk constituents to dairy processors is already becoming apparent in the lead up to quota removal in 2015," said Mr Talbot.
“EU dairy company Arla, has stated that the pricing systems for Arla Foods Milk Partnership (AFMP) members is set to change to a focus on milk constituents – butterfat and protein.”
Opportunities do not just lie in developing markets, but also stem from within the breed, he added.
“In the last 10 years great gains have been made in the milk productiveness of the Fleckvieh – many Austrian herds are achieving more than 10,000 kg milk per lactation. This genetic improvement in milk performance has been achieved, whilst maintaining the fitness and beef performance the breed is renowned for.”