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Frieswal project: Present status and expectations for the future

The project
Bull rearing unit and semen freezing laboratory
Future plans

V.D. Mudgal and C.L Arora

The authors' address is: Project Directorate on Cattle, India Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), G- 123, Shastri Nagar, Meerut, 250005 (UP), India.

In order to provide more milk for the people of India, a massive cross-breeding programme has been initiated there. Initially four and later two more military farms were involved in this project that will utilize Friesian-Sahiwal cross-breeds as a base for the evolution of a new milch strain - "Frieswal" - through interbreeding, selection and progeny testing of bulls. During the eighth Five-Year Plan (1993-1998), it is proposed to include five more military farms in this programme.

The Project Directorate on Cattle was established by the India Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, India, in the seventh Five-Year Plan. It was introduced 3 November 1987 at the Military Farm School and Research Centre in Meerut, with the objective of studying the genetic aspects of Holstein x Sahiwal crossbreeds and those of important indigenous cattle breeds for their improvement through selection. Another objective was to record field performance data for large-scale progeny testing of bulls, using private herds.

There are 42 "organized" cattle farms throughout India. During 1991/92, the military farms produced 2833.3 million litres of milk. The average national production cost of milk for the same period was Rs5.95 per litre.

The military dairy farms are the largest source of crossbred animals in India. Not only have they played an important role in providing quality milk for defence forces, but they have also set a standard for dairy animal management. As well, they are a rich source of data for the study of dairy animal improvement through the introduction of superior exotic inheritance.

Military farms began using European breeds as early as 1891. The breeds used were Friesian, Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire and Shorthorn, and the zebu breeds were Sahiwal, Hariana, Tharparker, Sindhi and Girl Since 1928, emphasis has been on cross-breeding Friesian with Sahiwal, through cries-cross breeding, to achieve 3/8 to 5/8 Friesian inheritance (Singh and Mudgal, 1991).

The collaborative national project has six data-recording centres at the military farms of Meerut, Ambala, Jallandhar, Lucknow, Bareilly and Dehradun The numbers of crossbred cows at the Meerut military farm under the Frieswal project are given in Table 1.

1 Cross-bred females of different age groups at the military farm at Meerut (31 March 1992)

Femelles croisées de différents groupes d'âge à la terme militaire de Meerut (31 mars 1992)

Hembras mestizas de distintos grupos de edades en la granja militar de Meerut (31 de marzo de 1992)



Heifers at 9 years

Heifers at 1 year



Higher crosses






Lower crosses












Straight 5/8


















Young 5/8 bull (Sahiwal x Holstein-Friesian) - Jeune taureau 5/8 (Sahiwal x Holstein Frisonne) - Toro joven de 5/8 (Sahiwal x Holstein frisón)

5/8 Frieswal bulls being groomed at the Bull Rearing Unit of the military farm at Meerut - Taureaux Frieswal 5/8 élevés dans l'unité spéciale de la ferme militaire de Meerut - Toros Frieswal de 5/8 en la dependencia de cría de toros de la granja militar de Meerut

Frieswal cows being milked - Vaches Frieswal à la traite - Ordeño de vacas Frieswal

Diagrammatic depiction of the breeding policy - Représentation schématique de la politique de sélection - Política de reproducción: representación esquemática

The project

The main aim of the project is to evolve a new national breed of dairy cow called Frieswal by utilizing the crossbred herds available at the military farms. This proposed new breed will have around 62 percent exotic and 38 percent indigenous blood and is expected to yield approximately 4000 kg of milk, with 4 percent butterfat, in a lactation period of 300 days under good management.

Project objectives

The first objective is to study the genetic and phenotypic variances of cross-breeds (3/8 to 5/8) and associated milk characteristics related to growth, reproduction and survival, as well as the covariances among all these characteristics, with a view to developing suitable criteria for improving milk production.

The second objective is to undertake progeny testing of about 100 bulls, select the best based on genetic merit and then use these on the military farms and in other crossbreeding programmes.

Breeding policy

The initial breeding policy followed by the military farms was cross-breeding, mainly to maintain 3/8 to 5/8 Friesian inheritance. Revised in 1980, the present policy is alternative breeding, that is, forward-crossing with exotic bulls and back-crossing with Sahiwal bulls (see Figure). Most of the blood groups are between 3/8 and 5/8, with a major proportion of 5/8, although cows of other levels of exotic inheritance are also available. The results gathered so far in cross-breeding work have indicated no special advantage beyond 5/8 Bos taurus inheritance for any economic or fitness trait (Mudgal, 1992).

Implementation of the technical breeding programme

In the beginning, the cross-bred stock with 50 percent or more exotic inheritance (higher cross) was mated with available half-bred Friesian x Sahiwal bull semen. The lower crosses (cows with less than 50 percent exotic inheritance) were mated with imported Friesian semen to raise the exotic inheritance of their progeny to over 50 percent. All animals in successive generations are being bred with 5/8 bulls raised from 3/8 dams, yielding over 3000 kg of milk in a lactation period of 300 days, and mated with imported proven Holstein-Friesian semen. Proving and ranking of 5/8 bulls is based on their daughters' performance.

Intense selection based on the standards set out is being carried out to stabilize the breed. The project is extended in the following phases to be introduced at the appropriate time.

Phase I. Military farm at Meerut, with approximately 1000 head of cattle, where breeding commenced on 4 September 1984.

Phase II. Military farms at Jalandhar, Bareilly, Dehradun, Ambala and Lucknow, with approximately 4000 head of cattle. First lactation yields successfully completed in Phase are evaluated.

Phase III. All other military farms (about 10000 to 15000 cattle). First lactations successfully completed in Phase II are evaluated, by which time the second and third lactations and future progeny results of the military farm in Meerut will also be known.

Cross-bred 5/8 Friesian x Sahiwal bulls will be reared at the various farms. The 5/8 bulls from good internal lines will be reared for simultaneous breeding, and upon reaching the age of six months and after approval by competent authorities they will be transferred to the Bull Rearing Unit at Meerut.

One thousand doses of semen of selected 5/8 bulls will be used in the herd and another 9000 doses will be frozen. The frozen semen will only be used after progeny test results are available. Selected bulls thereafter will be put to natural service at small farms where artificial-insemination facilities are not available under the same breeding plan.

Once the breed is stabilized at the 5/8 grade level and a herd of 12000 to 15000 adults is created, then approximately 1000 surplus calves will be spared every year to disseminate this strain along with bulls/semen throughout the country. It is expected to take at least seven generations, or about 18-to 20 years, to establish a purebred herd in India, that is, by about 2004.

Present status

To date, 798 Frieswal females have been produced. Of these, 280 have completed the first lactation, 125 the second, 42 the third and 2 the fourth. The performance of Frieswal animals has already been analysed.

The number of females in the herd at the military farm in Meerut as on 31 March 1992 is presented in Table 1.

Production and reproduction performance of cross-brads

Data on the different traits generated over a period of 14 years (1978-1991) for higher and lower crosses and for six years (1986-1991) for Frieswal and straight 5/8 crosses at the military farm in Meerut were collected. The data were subjected to a least squares analysis. The least squares means, along with the corresponding standard error for the mean of the effect-of each factor in all four genetic groups, are presented in Tables 2 and 3.

2 Least squares means for some production and reproduction parameters of cross-brads at the military farm at Meerut - Moyenne des moindres carrés pour certains paramètres de production et de reproduction des races croisées à la ferme militaire de Meerut - Medias estimadas por mínimos cuadrados pare algunas características de producción y reproducción en cruzamientos de la granja militar de Meerut

SE = standard error.
Note: Means with common superscript are not significantly different at the 5 percent level.

3 Lactation performance of Frieswal and straight 518 cross-brads - Performance de lactation des Frieswal et des 518 - Rendimiento de la lactación de vacas Frieswal y razas normales de 518

SE = standard error.

A significant difference was observed in the yield at 300 days, which ranged from 2922 kg for lower crosses to 3531 kg for higher crosses (Table 2). As far as the comparison between Frieswal and straight 5/8 cross-brads was concerned, the difference between 3171 kg and 3136 kg was not significant, nor was the difference between the total yields of the two groups. The lactation lengths for Frieswal and straight 5/8 cross-brads were higher than those of the lower and higher crosses, but the differences were marginal.

The peak yield was as high as 16.9 kg for higher crosses and as low as 14.6 kg for lower crosses, whereas for Frieswal and 5/8 crosses it was 15.2 kg and 15.5 kg, respectively. The difference in service period was not significant between the various genetic groups, ranging from 157 to 172 days, nor was the difference in calving intervals within the genetic groups, varying from 410 to 438 days.

Efficiency of reproduction

The efficiency of reproduction with respect to weight at first calving, lactation length, calving interval, age at first calving and service period was studied and analysed using a least squares model that included year of calving and genetic group as fixed effects.

It was observed that the lower crosses had a minimum efficiency for all traits. The reproduction efficiency rates of Frieswal and straight 5/8 cross-brads with respect to all of the traits under consideration were again similar.

Performance of the progeny of 5/8 bulls

The progeny performance of four 5/8 bulls, one of which had been used more frequently than the others, was examined. The performance of the progeny of each of these bulls varied widely in their first lactation. The progeny of the bull most used gave 3141 kg of milk in 343 days. The performances of the progeny of two of the other bulls were 2936 kg in 337 days and 2798 kg in 336 days. That of the fourth bull tested had the lowest performance at 2449 kg in 335 days. The ranking of these sires is currently in progress using appropriate statistical methodology.

Bull rearing unit and semen freezing laboratory

The Bull Rearing Unit operates under the management system used on the military farms. So far, over 100 bulls have been reared, and 33 of these have been transferred to different agencies/commands. The semen of some of these bulls had already been used for the generation of Frieswal females at the military farm in Meerut as well as at other farms.

In early 1992, 4000 doses of semen were purchased from the French company SERSIA to upgrade 3/8 non-élite cows. Earlier, semen received from California had been used on 3/8 élite cows for the production of 5/8 bulls. Up until now, more than 40000 doses have been frozen and 21000 doses distributed.

Nutrition efficiency as affected by genetic variation and feeding levels of female calves

Three groups of 12 growing female calves - Holstein x Sahiwal 5/8 crosses, Sahiwal and Frieswal control - were studied. An analysis of the data collected revealed that the 5/8 heifers consumed more dry mattes (2.41 kg/100 kg bulk weight) than the Frieswal control group (1.99 kg/100 kg bulk weight), followed by the Sahiwal heifers (2.04 kg/100 kg bulk weight). The average daily weight gains were 478, 440 and 511 g per day, respectively, for 5/8, Sahiwal and Frieswal control animals. The data analysed so far indicates the superiority of Frieswal heifers over the other genetic groups. Further analyses are currently under way.

Future plans

Future plans include stabilizing the Frieswal breed, freezing 10000 doses of semen from each of 20 bulls and improving the feed efficiency and nutritional requirements for growth, maintenance and production of Frieswal cattle.

A pilot trial will be conducted on élite 5/8 cows under an open nucleus breeding system to enhance the genetic progress of the herd. The bulls will be tested on sibling performance. To support the programme, Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET) technology will be adopted.

Surplus semen doses should be made available to government agencies and artificial-insemination centres, while surplus cows and bulls should be made available to farmers throughout the country.


Mudgal, V.D. 1992. Development of Frieswal cattle for higher milk production in India. In Proc. 6th AAAP Animal Science Congress, Vol. I, p. 161-169. Animal Husbandry Association of Thailand, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand.

National Research Council. 1978. Nutrient requirements of dairy cattle. Washington, DC, National Academy of Sciences.

Singh, H.K. & Mudgal, V.D. 1991. Military farms in the service of the nation. Military Farm School and Research Centre, Meerut Cantt, UP, India.

Singh, R.N., Singhal, R.A., Verma, B.S. & Mudgal, V.D. 1990. Frieswal cattle to enhance milk production in India. In Proc. XXIII Int. Dairy Congress, 8-12 October 1990, Montreal, Canada. Brussels, Belgium, International Dairy Federation.

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