La Biñuñela

Change of dairy cattle breed

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La Biñuñela

Case Study Contents

About Farm

Farm Name

Livestock Farm La Biñuñela
Moraga Moraga Brothers CB

Year of foundation

1979

Location

Andújar, Jaén

Farm area/size of the organisation:

22 ha (15 pastures and 6 facilities and stables).

Number of workers:

3 permanent workers and part-time family

Farm main activity:

Livestock

Climate and soil characteristics

Located in Andújar, Andalusia, in one of the warmest regions of Spain, with mild winters, low rainfall and extremely hot summers (up to 40°C), where the reduced thermal variability makes it difficult to rest and generates great stress for the animals.

Measure Information

Description of the measure

A dairy farm in which the productive breed was changed from the milk-producing Holstein to the Alpine Bruna breed, as a dual use for milk and meat.

The aim of this measure was to better adapt to the climate of the region. In addition, a market-oriented genetic selection was carried out to produce milk with A2A2 beta casein closer to human milk and BB kappa casein more suitable for cheese production.

Objective of the measure

Heat not only affects the quantity and quality of milk, but it also affects the health status, the frequency and intensity of oestrus, fertility. Therefore, costs increase and income is reduced.

The aim of this measure was to minimise the impact of heat stress on the animals and its economic effects for the farm, as well as to look for market opportunities.

Justification of the choice

High temperatures lead to higher water consumption by the cow, which reduced the daily nutrient intake, resulting in lower daily production (-20%) and lower quality associated with lower nutrient content (-10% in price).

These effects on production, for 4-5 months of the year, impacted on the sustainability of the farm.

Description of the situation before the measure implementation

Previously they had the Friesian or Holstein breed, a great producer of milk, but due to their poor adaptation to warm climate, milk production and quality dropped. This made it necessary to adapt the facilities to improve their comfort and welfare, trying to mitigate the effect of the heat, although the costs derived from these investments and their maintenance increased.

Stakeholders

Stakeholders involved

  • High genetics centre in Italy and Germany.
  • German bovine cooperative.
  • Veterinarians and geneticists.

Description of stakeholders’ role

These centres provided highly selected cattle with the advice of Italian geneticists and veterinarians.

Through this genetic study they reduced years of on-farm selection to achieve high standards in milk quality, morphology, life expectancy, productive capacity, etc.

Implementation phase

Description of the survey done for the implementation

They identified the breeds that could be adapted to the region, some of which were discarded due to import difficulties, morphology, lack of selection and lack of quality.

In order to make the final decision, they visited farms in Austria, Italy, France and Germany, analysing their productivity and their potential adaptation to the high temperatures of Andalusia.

Materials used

  • 330 pregnant cows
  • 2 high selection bulls

Costs for the implementation

330 pregnant cows and 2 bulls at a cost of €2,000 per animal. To this must be added the whole research and breeding process.

To finance this, the Holstein cows were withdrawn, which made it possible to finance 60% of the investment cost of the changeover.

Implementation / building

Initially, they brought 330 6-month pregnant cows and 2 bulls from high genetic farms in Italy and Germany, whose genome guaranteed production with A2A2 beta casein and BB kappa casein.

The transfer was sequential, 3 trips were planned according to the time of gestation, with the aim of guaranteeing staggered births to ensure homogeneity of milk production throughout the year, with stable workloads.

Required maintenance operations

The Holstein is a breed derived from very complex historical selection processes, which makes it very productive, but very sensitive from a health point of view.

The Bruna, on the other hand, is a more rustic breed, less selected, and therefore much more robust and healthier. With the change, health requirements, antibiotics and veterinary care have been reduced.

Recommended knowledge / skills / training / courses / education desired before starting the measure implementation:

To undertake a varietal change, a certain amount of genetic knowledge is needed to achieve the objectives of the change (climate, animal health, market, etc.) and financial knowledge to ensure economic sustainability. It is also necessary to have a certain planning capacity, e.g. for the gradual crossing with the new variety in successive generations (3-4 years).

Impacts

  • The Bruna is not as productive as the Friesian (-15% quantity) but the higher quality of the milk compensates for its lower productivity (+15% price).
  • If we add the meat utility of the calves, the stability of its milk production in the summer period, the lower sanitary needs, we get a higher economic profitability than the Holstein breed.
  • Bruna needs a very natural feed as they do not need to force concentrate their nutrition to achieve good milk production, as is the case with Holsteins.
  • The higher fibre content compared to grain, compared to Friesian feed, could lead to a lower environmental impact and lower emission levels.
  • Productions have stabilised thanks to the planning carried out during the change of breed, which has not led to an increased demand for labour.
  • The Bruna breed is less competitive, calmer and more docile than the Friesian breed. This makes the animals easier to work with and handle, which results in better working conditions for the workers.
One of the major difficulties of the Bruna, as with many meat breeds, is the weaning and bottle feeding of calves. This requires the staff in charge of these tasks to be patient and dedicated almost exclusively to these tasks, and only for this reason, it is a breed that is more oriented towards family businesses.

Innovation

Innovation elements

This company maintains a very innovative vision based on managing the farm as a business. It has therefore focused on aspects such as genomic selection, which allows it to differentiate its product by seeking A2A2 milk, and to target a growing market of people with lactose and milk protein intolerance.
The ability to plan during the varietal change has allowed it to homogenise production throughout the year.

Key element for success

Previous experience with dairy cows was crucial, as there are no experts who can facilitate the transition between varieties.

They were clear about which breed they wanted and why they wanted it, as well as which genome they wanted to select. Yet they were open to the possibility of success or failure. And above all, they have maintained an ability to learn and adapt to the management needs of this breed.

Constraints

Physical constraints

The digestive system of the two breeds is different, so it is necessary to learn how to manage nutrition, health control and adapt management.

Technological constraints

Lack of experts and technicians who can advise on breeds not introduced in the region, which requires continuous learning by trial and error.

Acceptance constraints

Although the family was clear about the need for the change of breed, as well as which breed would be selected, the change to a less productive breed may raise doubts.

Proposed solutions to above constraints

A change of this nature requires a very important prior research process. The lack of experts who can advise on these processes requires a thorough study, involving other experts from different fields (breeders, geneticists, veterinarians, technicians, etc.).

Lesson learned

Farmers’ experiences

The farmer’s experience has been outstanding, with almost all aspects of the changeover proving beneficial. Only the management of calves after weaning is a difficulty that discourages a switch to Bruna for large farms.

Measure sustainability

Environmental sustainability

The Bruna is a less selected breed and therefore less sensitive from a health point of view, which facilitates health management with less use of drugs and antibiotics, thus minimising the possibility of transmission to the marketed milk.

The farm has initiated a process of biological control to combat the presence of flies by introducing a species of flies to fight the existing ones.

Economical sustainability

Although milk production is in a very delicate situation due to its low price, this farm has started a conversion process that has improved its financial situation thanks to the change from Holstein to Bruna.

The stabilisation of production, the price premium for higher quality, the income from calf meat, the lower health requirements and the change in nutritional needs have made it possible to improve the farm’s profitability.

Transfer of the measure

Replicability conditions required

  • There must be some technical factor (climate, health, market, etc.) that justifies the breed change.
  • Bruna limited to family farms.
  • Make gradual and planned transitions.

Additional Required Conditions for spreading the measure

  • It is advisable to maintain a market orientation, looking for varieties with an attractive potential market.
  • To change to Bruna, there must be a team that can take care of feeding the calves, which is a limiting factor in the management of this breed.
  • The acquisition of new cows must be planned to spread calving over the whole year, so that production and tasks are homogenised.
  • In the case of crossbreeding, it is important to be aware that the first generations may be less productive when competing with a more competitive breed.

Conclusion remarks

In this case, the breed change has been a success, to which the planning, the genetic orientation, the search for a differentiated market, the previous experience and the family consensus have all contributed.

For all these reasons, the change from Holstein to Bruna has been possible, which has led to greater production stability, higher quality, and an improvement in the farm’s economic and financial situation.

Future plans

This farm has its own commercial brand called “Tierra de Brunas” which produces cheeses and dairy products with A2A2 beta casein and lactose-free, obtained naturally without the addition of lactase.

The market potential for lactose and milk protein intolerant people is very important and the opportunity for this company is great.

Open problems

If the varietal change is produced by crossbreeding with a new breed, patience is required, the Bruna is less competitive than the Holstein and its production may be reduced in the first generations.

Breed change requires adaptability as the behaviour and management required by each breed is often different.

Advice/recommendations

“Today you have to be an entrepreneur before you are a farmer and a farmer before you are a cowherd”.

“The sustainability of a livestock enterprise is difficult, you have to keep abreast of trends, have good management, technify and optimise to increase profitability”.

ES06_05

AGRIWATER project has been funded with the support from the European Commission, with the reference number 2020-1-CZ01-KA204-078212. The content of this website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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