In the end of 2020, 45 years of Holstein breeding was celebrated.

In the beginning of the 60s, Germany and The Netherlands started to use Holstein sires from USA and Canada. France and Italy followed them quickly.

The Netherlands are known as the pioneer of black and white cattle, all B&W breeds originate from there. The sailors took the first B&W cattle from The Netherlands to North America already in 1605.

The first Holstein bulls were imported to Estonia in 1975 and they reached Estonia on the 31st of December. These bulls were Grandboy EHF 3299 and Major EHF 3300. Grandboy is the founder of Estonian Holstein type. The other very important bull was Gabriel EHF 3460. He transmitted very good and outstanding type. His daughters were cows with strong skeleton and deep body. In 1986, the first 4 bulls from Canada were imported. One of them – Elastre EHF 4478 – had enormous impact to Estonian Holstein breeding.

During 1975-1994, 181 B&W bulls were imported, 108 of them Holsteins. 4029 pregnant heifers (2684 purebred Holsteins) were bought at the same time. After that till 1997 cattle was not imported, the only exception was in 1994 when 11 Holstein bulls were purchased, 3 of them were leased.
Since 1997, breeding cattle has been imported regularly from Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden Finland, Great Britain. In addition to live cattle, semen from leading bulls worldwide and embryos have been brought to Estonia.

The average milk production and population of Holstein cows has been increasing.

First time Estonian Holstein milked 4000 kg in average in 1984; 5000 kg in 1998; 6000 kg in 2004; 7000 kg in 2006, 8000 kg in 2012 and 9000 kg was exceeded in 2015.

In 2015, 213 herds produced more than 8000 kg of milk, 49 farms of them over 10000 kg and 74 herds over 9000 kg in average. In 2020, the average milk production of Holstein cows was nearly 11000 kg.

November 11, 1976 – Estonian B&W breed was renamed Holstein breed and the abbreviation is EHF.

Estonian Red cattle breed can be described as a calm and friendly. Usually animals are healthy and stay longer in the herds compared to Holsteins but it depends on the breeding components. Females have easy calving and the rate of stillborn is low.

The breeding of Estonian Red cattle is based on the usage of breeding components. It is recommended:
1) keep different components in the range of 50-75%
2) choose the component most suitable for the herd and continue up to 100% (except RH)
The head of the Red cow is relatively tall, not very heavy, neck length is average, chest is wide and deep, topline straight, ramp straight or a little bit sloaped (which guarantees easy calving). The udder is capacious with good rear and fore attachment. Strong feet and legs, usually with dark hoofs, sometimes toe-out.

Red cattle is mainly red but it can vary from red, red and white to brown, depending on used components (both light and dark tones are allowed). Black colour is not recommended. In case AP is used, black is accepted. If AP gives black colour then there should be specific features (red hair inside ears, light circle around nose or light outline on the back). Black and white is not recommended. But in case using AP and R&W components (RH, SRB, AY etc.) is acceptable and the accuracy of the pedigree has to be evaluated individually.

All other variations are not in accordance to the bred specification and such animals are not suitable for the herdbook. If the animal is registered in herdbook section A but is not visually acceptable the genetic expertise has to be done.

The future Red cow should have good udder, strong feet and legs, fertile and healthy with high longevity. Therefore it is necessary to use domestic and worldwide top bulls, following the results of genetic evaluation and selecting the traits which have to be improved in the concrete herds and use the new breeding technologies (ET, sexed semen, genome selection). Farmers have to make a plan what kind of a cow he needs and which traits must be improved (which cow is economically effective, more milk, better udder, stronger feet and legs?).

Estonian Native breed is in danger. In 2015, there were 484 cows (389 of them registered in herdbook). The average milk production was 4573 kg of milk with 4,59% of fat and 3,43% of protein.

Estonian Native cattle is typically whitish-red but there also red animals.
To avoid inbreeding, 1956-1967 Jersey breed and in the end of 1980s Red Holstein, American Swiss, Finnish Ayrshire were used on Native cattle and it has had influence the exterior, there are some not polled, dark brown and R&W animals. The breeding goal is whitish-red.

The typical Native cattle is polled, with relatively long and heavy head. Neck length, chest width and depth are medium. The ramp is narrow, straight or slightly sloaped which guarantees easy calving. The goal is to achieve straight and strong ramp. Udder is mostly short, sometimes pendent. The goal is to breed long glandular udder.

Feet and legs are medium long, sometimes hock-in, the aim is to breed higher feet and legs and avoid hock-in.

The average weight of the Native cow was 489 kg in 2009, but the variety was big. Recommended weight of the adult cow is 450-550 kg.

The height of sacrum and chest depth have increased with years. Ramp width varies. Usage of Jersey breed during 1988-1999, resulted in decreasing of chest perimeter and weight.

In 2010, Estonian native cow had sacrum height 132 cm, chest depth 71 cm, weight 489.

Read more: www.maakari.ee