The 2022 World Brown Swiss Conference continued the third day with its conference meeting sessions. Starting with Martin Rust, Vice Director of Braunvieh Schweiz, the Brown Swiss Association of Switzerland. He encouraged more Brown Swiss Breeders to genomic test. Genomics is no longer only for elite animals. Currently, breeders do genomic test, but more with bulls rather than with dams and young heifer calves. Genomic testing is more prominent among the Holstein breed, but is slowly beginning to gain popularity within the Brown Swiss breed. Advantage of using Genomic testing include improving pedigree accuracy, increasing genetic breeding values, managing risk of hereditary defects, and helping make breeding choices of when to use sexed semen or beef semen.
Speaking next was dairy geneticist David Erf of the United States, a member of the Zoetis Dairy Technical Services team. He went more in-depth about the benefits of genomic testing. Once again, genomic testing can improve genetic progress, improve a herd faster with better breeding decisions, and all of the information can be used throughout the life of the animal. He also talked about the topic of DWP$-Dairy Wellness Profitability Index. All of the animals that genomically test in the top 25% are more profitable and have fewer health problems compared to the animals in the lower 76-100%. The animals in lower percentages have been seen to leave the herd earlier than the ones in the top 25%.
Following was David Kendall of the United States, Director of Genetic Advancement with STgenetics. His topic of discussion was increasing the speed and improvements of the Brown Swiss breed. Kendall encouraged Brown Swiss breeders to become more involved with IVF breeding. He mentioned concern that over the years the Brown Swiss calving interval has increased. Although some may not agree with him, he believes inbreeding is not a problem in the Brown Swiss breed. Comparing Holsteins to Brown Swiss, Brown Swiss have little to no inbreeding to date. Once again, he encourages breeders to start genomic testing young heifers and bulls to find that ‘diamond in the rough’ and expand use of sexed semen within the breed. "There is a need for speed."
Dr. Reiner Emmerling of Germany, Senior Geneticist at the Institute of Animal Breeding, Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture, spoke about the improvement of genetic evaluation systems. The systems he talked about were single-step evaluation and two-step evaluation. In Single-Step evaluation, phenotypes, genotypes, and pedigrees are processed simultaneously. Increasing the number of genotyped females will help give more of a bigger picture of all genetics and genetic possibilities. If they had more females genotyped along with males, the information that can come out of it would help with more understanding of both sires and dams. He also touched on the ideas of intergenomics and how that can be helpful within genotyping.
Speaking with the next panel was Franz Seefried of Switzerland, Senior Geneticist at Qualitas AG. Qualitas AG is the national evaluation center of IT and Quantitative Animal Genetics for Swiss livestock. His focuses were on SWISScow Reserch Project's genomic testing improvements along with in-depth qualities and the Forward and Reverse Genetic Approaches. Forward Approach is when looking Forward at a known variant in phenotype, to genotype, to whole-genome sequencing, to finding the cause. Reverse Approach starts by looking at population-wide validation of a suspected data variant, to candidate variant identification, to whole-genomic sequencing along with genotypic SNP data. Both approaches are important and needed.
Next was Urs Shuler of Switzerland who is also a geneticist with Qualitas AG and is in charge of R&D activities on animal health-related topics and operations of genetic evaluations. He highlighted how they have been trying to reduce ketosis and find resistance. By looking at DMI, year, dates, and zone, they are trying to find hotspots. He also spoke about reducing the mortality rate of calves which is different at different stages of life and may be controlled by different genes.
Rounding out the morning session was João Durr, CEO of CDCB, Vice-President of ICAR. Originally from Brazil, Joao has served in many different positions, one of them being Executive Director of the InterBull Centre in Sweden. Durr highlighted Disease Resistance Evaluations for Brown Swiss. This is research that he and his colleagues have been putting together for a few years now. The different diseases they have been looking into are milk fever, displaced abomasum, ketosis, mastitis, metritis, and retained placenta. These health traits have a 1.9% weight on NM$ and have correlations with higher-weight traits. Durr emphasized the need for gathering phenotypic data as well as genotypic information. Currently, CDCB has 65,000 Brown Swiss genotypes. Different gene pools vary by country.
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Randy Romanski. Secretary Romanski highlighted the different grants that DATCP provides to Wisconsin dairy farmers and producers. He also shared some Wisconsin-specific information. “Agriculture is the largest contributor to the Wisconsin economy. Agriculture and the Dairy industry are our (Wisconsin’s) strengths. 90% of Wisconsin milk is made into cheese, and 90% of that cheese is exported out of the state,” said Secretary Romanski. One of the grants provided by DATCP is the Dairy Processor Grant which has been available since 2014. This program is continuing to grow and makes sure Wisconsin Cheesemakers stay at the top of their game and keep Wisconsin America’s Dairyland.
During lunch, Aurore Cannesson Grave, BGS France and Assistant of the European Brown Swiss Federation secretary, gave a presentation about the development of the More Than Milk logo and promotion being used by the European Brown Swiss associations. The main logo is individualized for each country featuring their national flag.
“As a result of a common desire to become stronger together, for the benefit of the breed and its breeders throughout Europe, this logo is standing for a unique message of the breed. Because from north to south and from east to west, we all breed Brown Swiss with the same passion and same economic and environmental goals.”
The afternoon sessions of the 2022 World Brown Swiss Conference began with Franciska von Fedak of El Vergel Farm in Columbia, A breeder of Brown Swiss in both Columbia and Venezuela, she spoke on the topic of Brown Swiss and crossbreeding in Columbia and Latin America. There is all-year grazing in Latin America. AI is not generally used. Since the climate in Latin America is very different from North America, not all animals can live in that climate and different altitudes. They have tried different breeds, but the one that thrives the best is the Brown Swiss with their strength, strong feet and legs and hooves, and dark pigment. Crossbreeding using Brown Swiss sires improves fertility, milk quality and quantity, functional udders, and hybrid vigor. She also touched on how they are sustainably dairy farming in Latin America using Silvo-Pastoral system to reclaim the land.
Next up, Enrico Santus, Director of ANARB in Italy, is also the President of Synergy, a newborn service association providing technical support to 15 populations of cattle and even horses and buffalos in Italy. He talked about the topic of dairy cows’ resistance to heat. This went hand-in-hand with Franciska von Fedak’s speech. He showed graphs on how Brown Swiss compared to the Holstein cow in withstanding different climates. There are visible and hidden effects of heat stress: production decrease, less quality, less cheese yield, reproductive issues if high THI – Temperature Humidity Index threshold and the difference between temporary and sustained THI threshold beyond several days. Younger cows suffer more heat stress than older cows. Holstein threshold is 72F, they show higher body temperature increase and are affected by sharp decline. Brown Swiss threshold is higher, their body temperature doesn’t increase as much, and when affected have a more gradual decline. Brown Swiss have less value loss vs. Holsteins in the same environment.
Speaking next was Kevin Ziemba of the United States. He is the Eastern Region Manager and part of the Genetic Development Team for STgenetics. Ziemba talked about the strategies to expand the benefits of Brown Swiss genetics through crossbreeding. He spoke about crossing Brown Swiss with Holstein, Angus, and Jersey. He gave examples of how crossbreeding has been done and what has come out of crossbreeding Holsteins and Angus. He also gave an example of crossbreeding Brown Swiss and Holstein which increased mobility and hoof health, optimized productive life, and decreased dry matter intake. Brown Swiss frame size contributes to salvage value. BS have 80% B/B Kappa Casein and 70% A2/A2. Only 2% are A1/A1. What if heterosis isn’t a constant? Look at what each breed brings to the table. BS has an advantage. Not by random crossing, but rather cross using intentional selection to maximize the advantages of the different breeds. The most important aspect of any Crossbreeding Program is to maximize the traits of emphasis within breeds. Choose to cross with genetic progress in mind, longevity and stayability. This adds a huge dynamic to crossbreeding.
The breeder panel was started by Clément Sevin of France. He currently owns an 80-head Brown Swiss herd and has a strong passion for genealogy and animal genetics. On his home farm, they do some crossbreeding along with pure breeding. One-third of his BS herd was obtained through crossbreeding. He uses 70% sexed semen. He also shared how crossbreeding has affected his family and what the benefits he has experienced have been. He appreciates the easy temperament of Brown Swiss.
Tanner Mashek of the United States is a 7th generation farmer on his family farm. Hilltop Acres has 450 head on 1,000 acres of land in Iowa. He talked to the attendees about how his family farm works from the genetic standpoint. He highlighted how they breed, manage the farm, and why they chose the Brown Swiss breed. Their RHA is 28,851m, 4.5%f 3.4%p with 93lbs M daily average per cow. All of their milk is made into cheese. He commented on the longevity, dairy strength, feet and legs, calving ease, high components, and heat resistance of Brown Swiss.
Jonny Lockhead of Scotland is currently milking 100 head on 300 acres at Kedar Brown Swiss. The family farm is completely organic and allows their cows to graze in southern Scotland. The family also bottles and sells their own milk and cheese. He put emphasis on their breeding goal, which is longevity, yield, type, functionality, and marketability. He appreciates that Brown Swiss are good grazers and don’t take a lot of looking after. 90% of their milk goes to a cheese coop, the rest sells as fluid milk.
Joe Loehr of the United States along with his brothe Mark own and operate Loehr Dairy LLC, a 4th-generation family farm in Wisconsin. He and his family are milking 500 head, which is made up of Holsteins and Brown Swiss. He spoke on Brown Swiss’ profitability in a commercial dairy comparing Holsteins, purebred Brown Swiss and crossbred Brown Swiss/Holsteins. He said Brown Swiss make Holsteins better. Where is the BS breed going? We need to breed to keep the strength and profitability of our Brown Swiss breed, profit is more important than show type. All of their milk is made into cheese.
Josef Müller of Germany milks 100 head of Brown Swiss on his family farm. He has also built his business on renewable energies and real estate. He presented how he is financially paying off the farm and how he started out buying it from his family. He sold some land to invest in the herd and then bought land when profits allowed. His herd is now averaging 1000 Euros profit per cow per year. His family lives off of 45% of profits with automatic payment to savings. All of their milk is made into cheese.
Evening Gala - To close out the weekend of farm trips and conference meetings, Dr. Jack Britt of the United States was the keynote speaker at the evening gala. He has recruited and led an international team that is not focused on farming in today’s world, but rather 50 years in the future. Dr. Britt spoke on the ideas of change in population, new ways of income, new ideas and ways of farming, and different research projects. He continues to focus on the fact that the population is increasing over time and how it will affect farming. He also went back to highlight the topic of epigenetics and how heat stress had affected the calf and cow before and after birth. There is no doubt that the world around us is changing, along with the farming industry, but over time we have been growing with the growth of the world.