Organized breeding started 125 years ago
There is a long tradition of German black-and-white breeding. Around 1847, the first cattle breeders association in the North Sea region of East Friesland – an area with good pastures because of the maritime climatic conditions – already organized cattle shows. In 1876, the first official herd book was founded where performance testing and conformation classifications were introduced. Today, many well-known East Frisian cow families, the basis of successful German breeding programs, can be traced back to the start of this herd book.
Europe's largest cattle breeding organization in East Prussia
As well as the North Sea region, many other regions of Germany developed numerous herd book organizations for black-and-white and red-and-white cattle. East Prussia was especially well-known for its black-and-white breeding. The first herd book organization in East Prussia was founded in 1882. With 6,000 members and 350,000 registered cows, it was the largest cattle breeding organization within Europe and at the forefront of the development of modern breeding until its breakup in 1944 during the troubled years of the war.
Uniform breeding goal
In order to protect Germany from foot and mouth disease, the government closed the borders with The Netherlands for the importation of bovine cattle in 1891. As a result of this, the independence of cattle breeding in Germany was significantly promoted. Around 1920, the breeding goal was at last standardized within all regions of Germany. Until then, German Holsteins were bred as dual purpose cattle with an equal balance between milk and beef production, but from then on, milk production was given a higher priority across the entire country. From that time on, a uniform black-and-white Holstein breed joined the international competition.
Development of German Holstein cattle
In 1964, a new breeding goal of 6,000 kg milk with 4 % fat, together with better development of body capacity, was set out for German black-and-whites. This aim was achieved by crossing German black-and-whites with Holstein Friesians from North America. Imported from Europe, the European Holstein Friesians in the U.S. had been exclusively selected for milk production since 1871. Due to the traditionally high meat consumption in the U.S., breeding of particular beef cattle breeds was established very early. As there was, in contrast to the numerous requirements in Europe, no demand for highly productive dual purpose cattle in North America, a pure dairy breed had been rapidly developed there from the European dual purpose cattle. Since 1989, German pedigrees do not show the Holstein Frisian percentage of the animal, as from that time, the Holstein percentage of younger black-and-white generations was almost 100 %. Nowadays, the German Holsteins and German Red Holsteins are aiming for milk production of at least 10,000 kg milk with 4 % fat and 3.5 % protein per lactation.
Successful proof of German Holstein breeding
In 1990, the year of reunification, East German cattle breeding organizations became integrated in the German Holstein Association (DHV). Within a short time, they were re-organized into modern cattle breeding organizations following the Western model. Due to excellent breeding work and reorientation of the breeding goal for German Holsteins, an improvement in production in the East German Holstein population of more than 3,000 kg milk was achieved between 1990 and 2000. This enormous increase in production is even more remarkable as the farms in East Germany often house several hundred dairy cows.