University of Minnesota
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
Go to the U of M home page

Department of Animal Science

Home > Extension & Outreach > W.E. Petersen Symposium > 4th W.E. Petersen Symposium

4th W.E. Petersen Symposium

"Crossbreeding of Dairy Cattle: The Science and the Impact "

Presented by the Department of Animal Science, April 2, 2007

The 4th W.E. Petersen Symposium addressed the science and impact of crossbreeding of dairy cattle. Crossbreeding is the hottest topic at this time in dairy genetics, and the University of Minnesota has taken a lead in conducting new research. Furthermore, the University of Minnesota has provided international leadership in educating dairy producers on implementation of crossbreeding systems.

Internationally renowned researchers, as well as dairy producers from Minnesota and California, discussed their perspectives on crossbreeding of dairy cattle.


Mechanisms of Inbreeding Depression and Heterosis for Profitable Dairying (pdf)
– Bennet Cassell, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

Impact of an Old Technology on Profitable Dairying in the 21st Century (pdf)
– Brad Heins, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

Experience with Crossbreeding–From Headaches to Happiness (pdf)
– Kevin Prins, Dairy Producer, Modesto, CA

Genetic Evaluation Using Combined Data from All Breeds and Crossbred Cows (pdf)
– Paul VanRaden, USDA, Beltsville, MD

Crossbreeding–An Important Part of Sustainable Breeding in Dairy Cattle and Possibilities for Implementation (pdf)
– Morten Kargo Sørensen, Danish Agricultural Institute, Foulum, and Danish Cattle Federation, Aarhus

View the Entire Proceedings:

Proceedings of the 4th W. E. Petersen Symposium (pdf)


Dr. Bennet Cassell was raised on a SW Virginia farm unique from today’s commercial agriculture – 18 dairy cows, a 60-head cow-calf beef operation, and 90 commercial ewes. Most were crossbred to some degree. Dr. Cassell obtained BS and MS degrees from Virginia Tech, and a PhD in Animal Breeding from North Carolina State. He has been Extension Dairy Scientist-Genetics and Management at Virginia Tech since 1982. In 2002, Dr. Cassell implemented a joint Virginia Tech/U of Kentucky/North Carolina State crossbreeding project utilizing pure Holsteins and Jerseys, and reciprocal crosses of the two breeds.

Mr. Brad Heins, a native of Lake City, MN, received his MS in dairy cattle genetics from the U of Minnesota, and is working on a PhD with Dr. Les Hansen. Mr. Heins is researching the effects of crossbreeding on production, fertility, and longevity using data from 7 California dairies. He is also studying the effects of crossbreeding in U of Minnesota herds.

Mr. Kevin Prins operates a 560-cow dairy near Modesto, CA. Cows are grazed on 130 acres for 7 months and are confinement fed the remainder of the year. The Prins have been crossbreeding their cows for 7 years. Their dairy currently has a replacement heifer for every cow in the herd. Kevin indicates crossbreeding has resulted in them having "cows coming out of our ears".

Dr. Paul VanRaden grew up on an Illinois dairy and became interested in genetics while working as a DHI supervisor. He completed a BS at the U of Illinois and a PhD at Iowa State. Dr. VanRaden joined USDA’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory at Beltsville, MD, in 1988. He introduced genetic evaluations for Productive Life and Daughter Pregnancy Rate, and has combined all available traits into the Net Merit index published since 1994. He currently conducts research on international evaluations, genetic markers, inbreeding, and cross-breeding.

Dr. Morten Kargo Sørensen grew up on a dairy farm in SW Denmark and completed an MS at the Danish Agricultural University in 1992. He worked as a dairy breeding adviser for 3 years before returning for a PhD. Dr. Sørensen is jointly employed by the Danish Agricultural Institute, Foulum, and the Danish Cattle Federation, Aarhus. His research emphasizes inbreeding, cross-breeding, and sustainable breeding goals for dairy cattle, and he works closely with the dairy breeding industry in Denmark and throughout Europe. His efforts are focused on implementing optimum crossbreeding systems for Danish dairy producers. 

2007 Event Organizers:

Dr. Les Hansen
Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

Dr. Dennis Johnson
Professor, West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN

Mr. Jim Dickrell
Editor, Dairy Today

Dr. Dana Allen
Dairy Producer, Eyota, MN

Mr. Joe Molitor
Dairy Producer, St. Cloud, MN

Animal Science Extension Websites

Beef Cattle Extension

Dairy Cattle Extension

Poultry U

Meat Science/Meat Sales

Animal Science Extension & Outreach Programs

Minnesota Nutrition Conference

W.E. Petersen Symposium

Youth Programs

Animal Facility Tours

University of Minnesota Extension Websites

University of Minnesota Extension

Beef Extension

Dairy Extension

Horse Extension

Meat Science Extension

Poultry Production & Health

Sheep & Goats

Small Farms

Swine Extension