The Italian Brown breed is about 500.000 strong, with 400,000 cows, 104,000 of which are registered in the herdbook (160,000 in total).More than 90% of these are bred artificially.
The 65 Provincial Offices group together about 8,000 breeders which adhere to the Genealogical Register and the selection programs, with a national average of 21 head (14 of these cows) per breeder.
The Italian Brown breed gives outstanding milk production of high quality – with cheese yields certainly above average and particularly fitted for the production of typical cheeses – good meat yields and high environmental adaptability.
Not only in Italy, but also in the other European countries, the Brown Race is extremely adaptable to the most varying agricultural and climatic conditions – both in the mountaines and on the plain – and it’s particularly important in safeguarding the environment in difficult areas: milk zootechnics can in fact solve the socio-economic problems even in marginal areas, where the presence of man to protect the environment is of primary importance.
The average national production of the 104,000 controlled cows was 6,954 kg (for 10 years there has been a steady increase of 100 kg/year) with 3.50% protein and 3.96% fat. The 20 best herds have an average production of around 10,607 kg with 3.69% average protein.
This data shows the measure of the genetic potential of the Bruna italiana; the best breeders are able to produce more milk and more protein. In fact, the genetic potential for protein percentages is very high and those who are able to make the most of environmental conditions, feeds, health status, and so on, may have herds that reach very high levels. Many herds with high production levels have intcoduced animals from the Bruna Italiana in order to improve the protein percentage in the bulk tank, and reach the minimum required today by EEC and Italian regulations on fluid milk.
Today more than ever only economical and profitable breeds are surviving and the Bruna Italiana is one of these.
Concerning its genetic improvement, the Bruna Italiana has reached a leading role which has gained her the interest not only of the other EEC partners, but also of the eastern European and southern Mediterranean countries. Even the USA, the country from which the improvement of the whole European Brown breed had started, and which has reached a very high genetic level, is interested in the results achieved by the Italian selection.
The Bruna italiana is today able to merchandise bull semen and embryos in competition with other European and North American countries.

The Bruna italiana selection goals are reached by means of a genetic improvement program carried out by the Italian Bruna Breeders’ Association (Anarb), by:

  • Performance Test: – The Genetic Centre of Bruna Italiana (a very modern project completed in 1991) is considered as the structure that will host the future of the genetic selection of the Bruna breed in Italy. It is the gathering point of all animals born – often as the result of a programmed mating- on national territory from the best sires and dams. The young sires will express all their genetic potential during the progeny tests they will undertake, and this will mean more high quality milk yields, guaranteed by the high percentages of protein and by the high frequency of the k BB casein variance, typical of the Bruna breed and present within its genetic patrimony.
  • Genetic Indexes: – This helpful instrument for selection allows the breeders to choose the young bulls to use in A.I. For each animal, both male and female, registered in the Herd Book, three times a year is given a genetic report that includes its predicted genetic values for over 20 production and type traits.
  • Type evaluation: – Type evaluation are meant to evaluate both the conformation of the animals – in relation to the purpose for which they are bred – and their functionality. Typewise, there has been a deep evolution in the Bruna breed in the last years and there have been improvements in many aspects: particularly strength and adaptability, udder conformation and dairy characters. All these things have contributed to sensible yield increases. The Bruna cows have a record of 3.53 lactation/cow, one of the highest of all breeds in the world. Longevity is one of the many qualities that makes the Bruna breed competitive on the market. It depends on the strong type that results in an excellent ratio between its ability to produce milk and to be easily managed.
  • Corrective matings: – The calculation of genetic indexes for such a high number of traits poses the question not only on which bulls to select for AI, but also on the appropriate number of doses for each herd. To make it easier for the dairy farmer, the National Association (ANARB) offers an individual corrective matings service for cows and heifers.
  • Search for genotypes: – The young bulls that are progeny tested are carefully selected for their “pedigree index”, on the basis of his parents. Since January 1993 Anarb has activated an automatic procedure to search genotypes that allows – thanks to a number of personal computers linked to the National Data Bank – the identification of: 1) the best cows and heifers to breed; 2) the cows that will shortly calve a progeny with interesting genotypes.
  • Milk quality: – The National Association has always rated milk quality in its selection criteria . The plans foresee: a) for all bulls entering the progeny test, a compulsory test for K-Casein and Beta- lactoglobuline on DNA extracted from blood; b) for the potential bull dams, the detemination of the protein status of their milk, that is the amount of K-casein, Beta-lactoglobuline, Beta-casein, aSl casein, through the electrophorectic analyses of milk. A very satisfactory result has been achieved with “quality within quality”, that is the incidence (64%) of the genotype variance k-casein BB (the best for checse making) in the already good percentage of proteins, one of the highest among the Italian dairy breeds.
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