Pure Holstein cows and Normande/Holstein, Montbeliarde/Holstein, and Scandinavian Red/Holstein crossbred cows were compared for calving difficulty and stillbirth rates. Scandinavian Red was a combination of Norwegian Red and Swedish Red. All cows calved from June 2001 to August 2004 at 7 commercial dairies. Statistical models for analysis included effects of herd-year-season of calving and sex of calf in addition to breed of sire and breed group of dam. Male calves had significantly more calving difficulty and stillbirths than heifer calves. First-calf Holsteins bred to Holstein, Brown Swiss, Montbeliarde, and Scandinavian Red bulls were used to determine effects of breed of sire. Calves sired by Scandinavian Red bulls (5.5%) and Brown Swiss bulls (12.5%) had significantly less calving difficulty than calves sired by Holstein bulls (16.4%) from Holstein first-calf heifers. Also, fewer stillbirths resulted from use of Scandinavian Red bulls (7.7%) compared with use of Holstein bulls (15.1%) for first-calf Holstein heifers. Scandinavian Red-sired calves (2.1%) had significantly less calving difficulty than Holstein-sired calves (8.4%) for multiparous Holstein dams. Non-Holstein breeds of sire had significantly fewer stillbirths than Holstein sires when mated to multiparous Holstein dams. To determine the effects of breed of dam, 676 pure Holsteins, 262 Normande/Holstein, 370 Montbeliarde/Holstein, and 264 Scandinavian Red/Holstein crossbred virgin heifers that had been bred to Brown Swiss, Montbeliarde, and Scandinavian Red bulls were utilized. All groups of crossbred cows had significantly less calving difficulty at first calving than pure Holsteins (3.7 to 11.6% vs. 17.7%). Furthermore, Montbeliarde/Holstein (6.2%) and Scandinavian Red/ Holstein (5.1%) crossbreds had significantly lower stillbirth rates at first calving than pure Holsteins (14.0%).
- Calving difficulty