Genetically hornless: The practice is divided in Germany

Poor fertility, excessive hoof growth, inbreeding and low milk yield-breeding for the genetic hornless also present challenges to the inherent advantages. These are the experiences of farmers.

Troublesome dehorning and dangers from horned animals in the herd are eliminated when breeding for hornlessness. Also, at the market and at auctions, genetic hornless is a trend that is not short-lived. Breeding for genetic hornless is also of increasing interest in view of the 28-day rule in calf transportation and the discussion of whether rearers or fatteners will do the dehorning.

Farmers report on genetic hornlessness

After the statement of Prof. Dr. Brade, who sees horned breeds like INRA 95 on the brink of extinction, farmers now report which experiences they have made with this breeding focus and in which direction they orient their herd in terms of breeding.

It still takes time

Barbara Kurz: “I only use hornless animals to a limited extent, because the young cows still have too little milk for me. I have also had hornless animals, but with extreme claw growth etc…. I think this needs a few more years of breeding.”

Missing horn, missing brain

Linda Reiss: “My experience says, “The more horn missing, the more brain missing.” We use hornless a lot, simply because of labor economics, but especially the homozygous calves are usually not only hornless, but brainless.”

Hard to sell at auctions

Friederike Wellhausen: “The trend is definitely not going past hornless, at auctions horned animals are now difficult or impossible to sell. However, there is also frequent criticism that the original “type” (Charolais) is being lost. We therefore rely on a combination of hornless and horned. From a labor-economy point of view, however, it’s good that dehorning is no longer necessary, and breeding is now much further along in terms of the quality of the bulls.”

Cow families ruined

Carsten Rethmeier: “We were there at the beginning, and that ruined a lot of cow families. We are now starting again slowly, taking genomic numbers into account.”

Hornless not the main reason

Nico Willauer: “Depends on the breed. With Holstein, especially Rotbunt, there are very good bulls. But of course, the bull must always fit and hornless must not be the main reason.”

Hornless is the future – the wolf could change it

Alexandra Strümpf: “With Fleckvieh, I use hornless every now and then, although the hornless bulls unfortunately cannot yet keep up with the others. This means that you have to be even more precise in selecting which bull can be used for which cow. In the meantime, I have some older hornless cows in my barn that are really good. My wish would be to have only genetically hornless cows at some point. Currently I inseminate about 20-25% of the cows genetically hornless, but with more the breeding progress suffers. I also believe that hornless is the future. The only exception would be: should the wolf problem get worse in the region and there really would be wolf attacks on cattle, I would prefer to have dairy cows and young cattle with horns in my pastures.”

Inbreeding becomes a problem

Sarah Pöhlmann: “We’ve been relying on horned cows for a little over 10 years, and we have a few hornless ones running around as well. There are no problems with this within the herd, as we only have a small herd of 40 dairy milkers in the free stall. Personally, the genetic diversity of the pure hornless sires is still too little for me. You have to be careful not to engage in inbreeding. Especially since many hornless bulls have Mahango in them and the bulls of the alternative bloodlines are sometimes not suitable for the cow to be inseminated. That’s why I will probably stay with the horned cows in the future, because it works for us without any problems. In the end, every farm has to decide for itself how to handle itself with the hornless cows.”

Milk yield remains stable

Jan-Hendrik Puckhaber: “You won’t achieve great genomic numbers with this, but with us everything has been hornless for more than 10 years. The entire herd is now over 95% hornless. Every now and then, some come from embryo transfer. The biggest problem is to get up to dehorning when a cow does have horns. It doesn’t really seem to affect performance: We are currently milking 41 liters.