The red and white dual purpose breed of cattle known as MRI is descended from the Gelders cattle which was predominantly kept in flood plains of the three large rivers Meuse (Maas), Rhine (Rijn) and Issel (IJssel) in the south of Holland from where the breed originates. The poor living conditions along the rivers created a robust breed able to thrive under difficult circumstances.
The Dutch MRI herd book was registered in the Nederlands Rundvee Syndicaat (NRS) in 1874 and was recognised as a breed in 1905. The German herd book exists since 1900, however, the breed was managed within one breeding area across the Dutch-German border until 1914. Between 1920 and 1950, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Denmark founded their own red & white dual purpose breeds, based on the Dutch and German stock. In 1969, the breed was introduced into New Zealand. MRI cattle were first imported into Ireland and the UK in the 1970s. The breed also occurs in small numbers in Australia, the USA and Canada.
It is reported that around 1980, approximately 30% of all Dutch cattle were of the MRI breed, i.e. in the region of 600,000 animals. This had decreased to approximately 250,000 animals by 1990. The reason for this was a lack of unrelated, pure bred sires. Many Dutch MRI breeders had no choice but to start using Red Holstein blood on their females, therewith following the path of the MRI cattle in Germany where they are called Rotbunt DN and can contain as much as 25% Holstein blood. In the late 1990s, the breed was again on the increase in its native country, mainly due to demand by organic farmers looking for low input, high output cattle.
The outbreak of the Foot & Mouth Disease in 2001 however had a catastrophic effect on the reviving breed movement. A much affected area within Holland was the Ijssel Valley, by many considered the birthplace of the MRI breed, where a vast amount of pure MRI bloodlines were wiped out. Local farmers there traditionally have a strong bond with their native breed and started picking up the pieces soon after the disease had abated but sadly, the Ijssel Valley is now home to more black and white cattle than ever before. These unfortunate developments make it even more important for MRI breeders in other countries to try and preserve the pure bred status of their herds as much as possible, thereby keeping the breed alive.