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Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science

Breeds of Livestock - Kholmogory Cattle

Breeds of Livestock - Kholmogory Cattle


kholmogory-web-1.jpgThe Kholmogory breed was formed in Kholmogory and Archangel districts of Archangel region. It is the oldest and one of the best breeds in the country. Even in the 17th century Kholmogory cattle were noted for their fast rate of growth and high milk production. The development of cattle breeding in the alluvial plain of the Severnaya Dvina river was aided by the available flood plain meadows and pastures with legume-grass mixtures. Excellent pastures in the summer and liberal feeding with high quality hay in winter were the bases for developing such valuable characteristics as the large size, harmonious conformation and high productivity. The local residents attached much importance to the correct methods of raising the young stock by hand nursing not by suckling; they used special methods of feeding, management and milking of the cows. The first selection of the animals was performed by the Kholmogory peasants as far back as 250 years ago. A considerable economic outlet for the Russian cattle products (butter, beef, tallow, leather) in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries gave a new impetus to the local peasants to develop dairy and beef cattle breeding.

According to the available historical data the Kholmogory breed had been formed long before foreign cattle were imported into Archangel and the adjacent areas. Kholmogory cattle had been exported beyond the boundaries of their initial habitat in 1693, 1713 and 1728 before they were crossed with foreign breeds. Highly productive Kholmogory cattle were used in various parts of the country for improvement of the local cattle. This intensive export resulted in the decline of the Kholmogory cattle husbandry.

First attempts to improve the local Kholmogory cattle by crossing with the Dutch breed were undertaken in 1725, but there are no data available on the numbers of the imported cattle and their influence on the local cattle breeding.

During 1765-1898 cattle from the Netherlands and from Holstein were imported in small numbers into Archangel province. According to Reznikov during that period 137 head of cattle, including 62 bulls, were imported. Nevertheless, the proportion of imported Dutch cattle was very low: in Kholmogory and Archangel districts the cattle population varied at that period from 19 to 23 000; the percentage of cows varied from 52.3 to 72.3.

It is difficult to define how great the influence of the imported sires on the Kholmogory cattle was. In a monograph entitled "Kholmogory cattle" by A.A. Vityugov (Archangel 1928) and in the work by F.I. Reznikov under the title "New Data on the History of the Kholmogory Cattle" (Archangel 1949) it was stressed that the influence of foreign breeds on Kholmogorys was slight.

Studies of Kholmogory cattle in 1911-12 (A.A. Kalantar) and in 1921-24 (A.A. Vityugov) showed that there are several basic and transitional types within the breed. They differ in conformation and productivity.

In 1913-14 inspecting associations, cooperative dairy plants and mating stations were set up in the breeding zone of the Kholmogory cattle. The National Herdbook of the Kholmogory breed was started in 1927; in 1934 the state breeding station was established. They assisted in the breeding work with Kholmogory cattle by classification and selection of the animals, control of the raising of the replacement young stock, and identification of valuable animals.

In 1936-37 on some farms a single cross with sires of the East Friesian breed was used to improve milk yield and conformation. The butterfat content of the crosses was considerably lower than that of their purebred Kholmogory parents; therefore crossbreeding was halted and the crosses were deported from the principal breeding zones of Kholmogory cattle.

Good acclimatization of the Kholmogory cattle in various parts of the country encouraged their distribution to many republics, areas and regions. At present Kholmogory cattle are bred in 24 regions and republics, mainly in Archangel, Vologda, Kirov, Moscow, Kalinin, Ryazan, Kaluga, Kamchatka regions and in the Komi, Yakut, Tatar and Udmurt ASSRS. Each region or republic has its own specific climatic and feed conditions. The Kholmogory cattle are well adapted in those different geographical areas and show high milk production and such qualities as early maturity, hardiness, strong constitution and resistance to disease. In milk production, among the national cattle breeds the Kholmogory cattle are second after the Black Pied. Kholmogorys are not as productive as the imported breeds but the main reason for this is the low level of feeding and management and insufficiently intense selection and use of sires. In each region where the Kholmogorys are bred there are outstanding animals which are the founders of the lines, related groups and progenies. These animals should be used for pedigree activities on a wide scale.

By the beginning of 1980 the total population of Kholmogory cattle was 2407000.

The constitution of these cattle is strong and conformation is compact. The prevailing color is black-and-white; less frequently it is black, red-and-white or solid red. These cattle are large; the legs of the cows are upstanding and the body is long. The head is refined and of medium size. The neck is thin. The chest is deep but not wide enough, with a small dewlap. The back and loin are level. The rump is wide, slightly raised. The hindquarters are wide. The skeleton is well developed. The legs are correctly set. The udder is medium in size; most cows have an udder with equally developed quarters. The teats are usually cylindrical. The hide is medium thick and elastic. The muscle development is satisfactory.

The basic measurements of mature cows (in cm) are: withers height 133-135, chest depth 70-72, oblique body length 160-162, heart girth 196-198, cannon bone girth 19-20. The defects of the conformation are: narrow chest, sloping and roof-shaped rump, legs incorrectly set. Pedigree Kholmogory cattle are well developed. According to volumes 25 and 26 of the National Herdbook (1982), the average live weight of mature cows is 570-590 kg, varying from 480 to 810 kg; the live weight of mature bulls is 820-950 kg, going up to 1170 kg.

Kholmogory cattle are early maturing and have a high milk yield. The milk yield of 370 mature cows registered in volume 25 of the National Herdbook was 5394 kg and the butterfat content 3.93%. The average milk production of 949 mature cows registered in volume 26 of the National Herdbook was 5259 kg ranging from 3313 to 8901 kg. The butterfat content was 3.70-4.79%. The record holders for milk production are as follows; Khana 19-5th lactation, 8889 kg of milk, 3.93% fat; Khvoinaya 8 - 3rd, 7350 kg, 4.15%; Khartchevnya 30 - 3rd, 7000 kg, 4.57%; Tsavashka 8090 - 6th, 8010 kg, 4.06%.

In 1983 the highest yields were at the educational and experimental farm of the Kazan Veterinary Institute (Tatar ASSR): the average annual milk yield per cow was 4583 kg of milk and 178 kg of fat; at the breeding station of the Zavet Ilyicha collective farm (Moscow region): 4746 kg of milk, 179 kg of fat. The highest production was displayed the same year by cow Gusenichnaya 682 SH-10510 from Kholmogorski state breeding farm in Archangel region: in the 5th lactation she produced 9804 kg of milk with 3.95% fat and 387.2 kg of fat.

Breeding work with this breed is aimed at the intensive exploitation of its genetic potential in adaptivity and productivity.

The study of the genetic characters of the Kholmogory cattle from various ecological zones by the erythrocyte antigens has shown that one antigen was 10 times more frequent in the herd of Polyarny state farm in Krasnoyarsk territory, than in the herd of Lesnye Polyany breeding center in Moscow region. The authors are inclined to explain the genetic differences between the populations by a specific gene profile and by the adaptive purpose of some alleles (but other explanations are possible).

The Pechora Type of the Kholmogory Breed The original Pechora cattle developed in north European Russia (the Komi ASSR) were notable for their adaptability and high milk fat content - 4.0-4.2%. But with these valuable features they had low milk yields. For this reason they were crossed with the Kholmogory breed (1930-47). Later the improved Pechora cattle of desired type of the second and third backcross generations were bred inter se. In 1972 these cattle were given an official status and called the Pechora type of the Kholmogory breed. These cattle produced on the breeding farms of the Komi ASSR are highly productive. For instance, over several years the reproductive state farm Novi Bor produced on average over 4000 kg of milk per cow. Record holders include: Skala 5th lactation, 7343 kg, 4.17% fat; Ajda 4th, 6681 kg, 4.05%; Nauka 5th, 8355 kg. Animals of Pechora type also have good meat characteristics inherited from the original Pechora cattle. On the natural pastures (without supplemental concentrates) young cattle have a daily weight gain of over 1 kg for a consumption of 6.5-7.0 food units.


Dmitriez, N.G. and Ernst, L.K. (1989) Animal Genetic Resources of the USSR. Animal Production and Health Paper Publ. by FAO, Rome, 517 pp.
Dmitriez, N.G. and Ernst, L.K. (1989) Animal Genetic Resources of the USSR. Animal Production and Health Paper Publ. by FAO, Rome, 517 pp.

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