History of the European Holstein & Red Holstein Confederation

The European Holstein and Red Holstein Confederation

Up until the early sixties, European Herdbook Societies had no coordinated co-operation. Each organisation administered its herdbook according to its own rules. Even the breeding goal within a country and between countries was different. Some organisations refused to register animals originating from other herdbooks, or admitted them only under certain restrictions. These factors lay behind the idea of improved co-operation through the foundation of a European Scientific Organisation.

The European Confederation was finally founded on July 7, 1966 during the Royal Agricultural Show in Great Britain. The 9 founder countries were followed by 21 others in the course of the following fifty years as follows:

  • 1966
    Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Sweden.
  • Between 1967 and 1970
    Switzerland, Austria, Finland.
  • From 1982 to 1989
    Spain, Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary, Slovenia.
  • Between 1990 and 1999
    Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, Turkey.
  • Between 2000 - 2010
    Greece, Cyprus, Croatia. SwissHerdbook
  • Between 2011 - 2013
    Serbia
  • 2015
    Russia
 

The aim and the goals of the organisation were adopted during the Constitutional General Assembly. Namely:

  1. The mutual exchange of information on all important breeding matters.
  2. The harmonisation and the standardisation of technical and organisational issues related to cattle improvement.
  3. The advancement of cattle breeding and other genetic exchange.
  4. The stimulation of common data processing and the running of an information bank.
  5. The co-operation with other breeding organisations and international representatives.

In order to improve contacts and to ensure a better exchange of information, annual meetings were organised in one of the member countries, to learn the current procedures and to explore harmonisation opportunities. In the early days, mutual recognition was the main topic in the discussions, consultations and attempts to convince one another. It took many years, with different concepts for the breeding goal resulting from varying farming and economic conditions in different member countries, and last but not least, by the introduction of Holsteinisation. In 1996 an agreement was reached on the definition of a dual-purpose dairy cow, and a recommendation was made to start protein recording, but not to neglect body constitution and animal health.

The growth of international trade in breeding animals and semen meant that all importing countries required a standard format pedigree document to replace the current multitude of existing pedigree documents. First of all, this required the harmonisation of data for animal identification, lactations and the lactations of female ancestors, in addition to the breeding values of the sires. The last issue was not so easy to address as the evaluation procedures for dairy production were different from one country to another, and because conversions showed some uncertainties. The agreement on international breeding values came through Interbull and ICAR from experts working with modern scientific knowledge. The breeding value estimation was initially provided directly by the animal’s own lactations. Today genomic SNP's information is the key to the development of the breed. Later on, conformation traits and several other functional traits were considered. The Confederation brought about its proposals through Interbull. An important issue for years was the harmonisation of classification procedures, which finally resulted in an acceptable agreement through the introduction of the linear scoring of 12 traits initially. Head classifiers meet annually to co-ordinate conformation traits, for which harmonisation and objectivity is extremely important, since they must remain a reliable tool in the expanding semen market. They work closely together with their colleagues from all continents through the World Holstein Friesian Federation (WHFF). Today 18 conformation traits have been harmonised internationally.

Common ideas were developed through mutual show visits. For example, the idea of a European Show developed progressively. As competitors, some were initially against, others not. Finally it was decided, as a test, to organise an exhibition (neither a show nor a competition) for four countries, in Paris in 1998, after which it became the intention to develop the exhibition as a biennial event. Following Paris the event was held in Barcelona, Utrecht, Cremona and Brussels, where the show was organised four times. This schedule, interrupted twice due to animal health issues, has continued and resulted in the 10th. European Holstein Championship, 2010, in Cremona, with entries from 13 countries of 44 Red-Holstein and 109 Holstein cows, together with progeny groups. The Sale Auction continues to offer some of the very best of international genetics. New on the programme was the first European Junior Showmanship competition, which clearly demonstrated the continued development of the European event. The 11th European Championship was held in Fribourg, Switzerland, with 163 entries from 13 countries. In addition 15 countries entered competitors in the European Young Adult competitions., The international reputation of the European Championship Show continues to grow with over 12,000 visitors. The next European Championship will be in 2016, in France.

Following previous European Shows, the necessity of developing common rules for showing and judging cattle intensified, as well as the definition of a code of ethics. They have been adopted by the Confederation, while judging will reflect the economical viewpoint of breeders. They have been published in a guide involving all members and are open for further harmonisation. In addition, a panel of highly qualified judges was developed from the large circle of European judges. In Europe Holstein judges are advised to consider four composite traits, namely Dairy Character (10%), Frame (25%), Feet & Legs (25%) and Mammary System (40%) in line with their significance.

Today breed organisations from 28 countries are members of the European Confederation, one from a non-European country that feel related to the continent ( Turkey). The various member countries number about 10.6million registered herdbook cows in 220,000 herds between them. The common breeding opportunities are unique in the world and can be better co-ordinated and exploited. On an annual basis, 3,600 Holstein bull are tested in Europe, however the devoloping science of genomic evaluation will reduce these numbers as selection criteria intensifies and less young bulls become eligable. These figures include the Red-Holstein population. This breed was unified in its own European Confederation. Following the growing Holsteinisation, their gene pool came closer and closer to the Holstein. In most countries, Red Holstein and Holstein associations co-operated or merged progressively and are managed now by the same experts. Therefore the merger of the European Red & White Confederation and the European Holstein Friesian Confederation, at the 2003 European Holstein Conference in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany, was a logical development.

The Holsteins from these two breeding options have been developed in many countries to become the most important breed. Given that fact, harmonisation of procedures and technical and breeding conditions has resulted in a great deal of progress from a breeding and organisational point of view through the European Holstein & Red-Holstein Confederation. This progress can be seen as an achievement of the European Holstein and Red Holstein Confederation.

 

D. Hewitt.
Secretary General 2008-2014
Ing. Mathieu J. A. Meers
Secretary General 1993-2008
Dr. Paul O. Grothe
Secretary General 1966-1993