Brun ko med kalv
Image: Anna Rehnberg, NIBIO

Native name: Dølafe
Weight: 350-500kg (cows)
Height: 120-130cm (cows)
Description: Varying colours and markings. Most of them have horns, but about 20% is polled.
Type: Dual purpose breed (milk and meat)
Number of cows in Norway, 2020: 305


Not at Risk Vulnerable Enangered Critically Endangered  Extinct


Background:

The Dola cattle originates from Gudbrandsdalen, Østerdalen and Hedmarken, areas north of Oslo. In these areas there were large areas for nutrient-rich grazing, but it was too far to larger cities for the sale of dairy products. Therefore, the Dola cattle was traditionally used for meat production. In the 1880s, principal Hirsch began to breed Dola cattle at Jønsberg Agricultural School, Norway’s oldest agricultural school, founded in 1847, and at this time one of the most respected schools in Norway.

Cattle grazing by the water
Image: Anna Rehnberg, NIBIO

They wanted to get a more uniform expression for the breed. The target for the breed was black cows with horns a brown stripe along the back. The Jønsberg type had a very good reputation and was therefore of great importance in the further development of the Dola cattle. Today, there is still Dola cattle on Jønsberg. After World War II, the Dola cattle experienced a major decline. This happened with the introduction of Norwegian red cattle. Today, most of the Dola cattle originate from a herd in Fåvang in Gudbrandsdalen.

Conservation work:

En rödrun ko med horn i skogslandskap
Image: Anna Rehnberg, NIBIO

During the 1980s, interest in the Dola cattle increased again. This meant that the Dola cattle Association was formed. The Dola Cattle Association (https://dolafe.no/) works to secure and increase the population size. They convey Dola cattle for sale/purchase and publish a membership magazine. In addition, they collaborate with the Norwegian Genetic Resource Center, which has the overall responsibility for the conservation and sustainable management of the native livestock breeds in Norway, as well as Geno when it comes to bulls to be used for artificial insemination. At the beginning of the 1990s, there were only 25 individuals left. Based on reports to the European Registration System Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS), this had increased to 96 cows in 1996. The number increased to 170 in 2002 but had fallen to 121 in 2011. These fluctuations may have affected the population in some degree. It should be noted, however, that there is some uncertainty about these figures. It must therefore be possible to conclude that the conservation work so far has resulted in an increase in the population size of the Dola cattle. It should also be noted that the heaviest cows around the year 1900 weighed approx. 350kg. There is therefore a certain difference between the original Dola cattle and the current one. Fortunately, the population trend for Dola cattle is rising. In 2020, for the first time since the registration began in the 90s, more than 300 mother animals (cows) were registered, which means that the breed can now change category from “critically endangered” to “endangered”.

Image: Anna Rehnberg, NIBIO

Characterization:

Brown horned cow by the water
Bild: Anna Rehnberg, NIBIO

Researchers are working to characterize the characteristics of the Dola cattle, so that we have a better chance to preserve the breed. Characterization is an important part of conservation in order to assess whether the breeds’ unique characteristics can be used to ensure future food production. Until 2019, 15 easily accessible characterization studies that include Dola cattle have been carried out. These are collected in a review article of 85 different Nordic national livestock breeds, published in 2020 in Acta Scandinavia – Section A. The majority of the studies deal with molecular genetic diversity. Only one study deals with socio-economic aspects. The study examines co-evolution between milk protein and human lactase. In 2021, a new study was published that looked at the composition of oligosaccharides in milk for various Nordic cattle breeds. Oligosaccharides are sugars in milk that should be good for health and it can be especially beneficial, for example in a breast milk substitute. In the study, the Dola cattle emerged as one of the breeds with the highest level of the favorable oligosaccharides. But it is still not known, for example, how this can be used to turn into specialized products that can be beneficial for a Dola cattle farmer. Therefore, there is still a great need to characterize the properties of the Dola cattle.

Production Yield in 2018:

Milk yield: 2720kg
Fat percentage: 4,13%
Protein percentage: 3,39%
Date published: November 10, 2021

References:

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Holene, A. 2020. Norsk genressurssenter, personlig kommunikasjon

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