Comparisons of Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Jersey cows for age at first calving, first calving interval, and true herd-life up to five years in seven regions of the United States
The objectives of this research were to evaluate breed differences for heat-stress resistance using age at first calving and first calving interval, and to assess breed by region interactions for seven regions of the United States for survival-related traits up to five years of age in Brown Swiss, Holstein, and Jersey cows. Age at first calving and first calving interval were studied in farms with two breeds, with Holstein and Brown Swiss or Holstein and Jersey cows. The survival-related traits were analyzed in farms with one or two breeds. Seven regions within the United States were defined: Northeast, Northwest, Central north, Central, Central south, Southwest and Southeast. The fertility traits were also analyzed in seven individual states: Wisconsin, Ohio, Oregon, California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Brown Swiss were older than Holsteins at first calving (833 ± 2.4 d vs. 806 ± 2.0 d in regions, and 830 ± 3.1 d vs. 803 ± 2.4 d in states), but Holsteins and Brown Swiss did not differ for first calving interval. Jerseys were younger than Holsteins at first calving and had shorter first calving intervals (P < 0.01). In data from individual states, Holsteins housed with Brown Swiss were older at first calving than Holsteins housed with Jerseys (800 ± 2.7 d vs. 780 ± 2.5 d). Holsteins housed with Jerseys had slightly shorter first calving intervals than Holsteins housed with Brown Swiss, and the interaction of "type of Holstein: with season of the first calving was highly significant (P < 0.01). Region and season effects were smaller for Jerseys than for Holsteins, thus, Jerseys showed evidence of heat-stress resistance with respect to Holsteins. Management modified age at first calving in Holsteins, depending on the type of herd they were located in. Longer calving intervals might have been partly due to voluntary waiting period to breed the cows. The survival-related traits were evaluated up to five years of age. They consisted of stayability, number of completed lactations, days lived, herd-life, and total days in milk. For herds with one breed, the order for stayability to five years of age, from longer to shorter-lived breed was: Brown Swiss, Jersey and Holstein, but for the ratio of days in milk to herd-life the order was: Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss, and for the ratio of days in milk to days lived, it was: Jersey, and Holstein and Brown Swiss tied. This last ordering was the same for number of lactations completed by five years of age. The results for two-breed herds were similar since Brown Swiss and Jerseys had larger (Chi-square P < 0.01) probabilities of living past five years of age than Holsteins, and for days in milk and number of lactations completed, Jerseys had higher values than Holsteins (P < 0.01), but Holsteins and Brown Swiss tied in some analyses. Breed by region interaction was always significant. If all other conditions were assumed equal, Jerseys would give fastest returns by five years of age. The overall conclusion is that Jerseys performed better for the traits analyzed, all of them highly influenced by environmental conditions.