Then & Now – 140 years of German Holstein Breeding

How it all began:

  • 1876: First official blood-line breeding cooperative with the aim of achieving purebreds was founded in Fischbeck, the historic region of Altmark, Germany. Performance testing and conformation scores are introduced
  • 1920: Introduction of milk inspections
  • 1950: Beginning of artificial insemination
  • Mid-1960s: The collaboration between breeding organizations and semen collection centers is expanded. The size of cattle breeding and insemination organizations continues to grow
  • 1965: Start of breeding value estimation for the purpose of information comparability
  • 1970s: Increased cross-breeding of Holstein & Frisian in order to improve milk performance
  • 1991: Introduction of Interbull EBV (estimated breeding value) allowing for comparability on a global scale
  • 1996: A common breeding target for black and red Holsteins was defined
  • 1997: Introduction of total relative breeding values (total merit index). For the first time, key breeding values such as performance, conformation, functional herd life and udder health are summarized and optimally weighted
  • 2010: Introduction of the genomic estimated breeding value using DNA analysis for early and confident determination of all breeding values

Current status:

  • With roundabout 4.2 million cows, Germany has the largest number of milk cows in Europe
  • In Germany, approx. 88% (!) of all cows undergo milk yield performance testing; yet in areas where MASTERRIND is strongly represented, this number increases to 95%
  • The German Holstein breed has evolved into the most significant breed of dairy cattle in Germany (approx. 68%)
  • The number of Holstein cows undergoing milk yield performance testing is approx. 2.4 million
  • Approximately 20,000 breeding operations have more than 1.8 million Herd Book cows. This means that Germany also owns the world’s largest breeding population. More than one third of those are in MASTERRIND regions (approx. 616,000)
  • The most widely used Holstein sires in Germany also regularly come from MASTERRIND stables. In 2015/2016, these included Poppe Snow RF as well as genomic sires Beatstick and Baldur
  • Every year, between 50,000 and 75,000 German Herd Book cattle are exported to more than 40 countries
  • The global demand for both semen from top bulls and embryos from established German cow families remains strong
  • MASTERRIND is not only the largest semen supplier, but also the largest exporter of breeding cattle among German collection centers (exporting to over 50 countries)!


For decades, the breeding programs conducted in Germany according to the latest know-how constitute the foundation for the high performance potential and functional conformation of the German Holstein cow.

Especially MASTERRIND – as Europe’s leading breeding program – has gained essential influence on the further development of breeding values.  The development from pure performance breeding (more milk) to more sustainable breeding with a cow’s lifetime performance gaining center stage represents a crucial step towards the future. Here is where the key to success may be with cross-breeding, to include factors such as performance, conformation, longevity and fitness. MASTERRIND today is using all available information in order to breed cattle that best serve current and future requirements. As part of the nationwide project KuhVision, which MASTERRIND is supplying with the largest share of cow data at 20%, the foundation has been laid for a future establishment of new, economically important traits in the area of fertility and cow health/ vitality.  Moreover, MASTERRIND is the leading pioneer in the breeding of polled livestock within Germany and Europe, with an unrivaled global offer of polled sires, both black and red.

For information on estimated breeding value click here.

Mona (S. Bangard)

Beart daughters group of Mark Benninghoff

Dorie (S. Force)