Data from 113 Dutch organic farms were analysed to determine the effect of cross-breeding on production and functional traits. In total, data on 33 788 lactations between January 2003 and February 2009 from 15 015 cows were available. Holstein–Friesian pure-bred cows produced most kg of milk in 305 days, but with the lowest percentages of fat and protein of all pure-bred cows in the data set. Cross-breeding Holstein dairy cows with other breeds (Brown Swiss, Dutch Friesian, Groningen White Headed, Jersey, Meuse Rhine Yssel, Montbéliarde or Fleckvieh) decreased milk production, but improved fertility and udder health in most cross-bred animals. In most breeds, heterosis had a significant effect (P < 0.05) on milk (kg in 305 days), fat and protein-corrected milk production (kg in 305 days) and calving interval (CI) in the favourable direction (i.e. more milk, shorter CI), but unfavourably for somatic cell count (higher cell count). Recombination was unfavourable for the milk production traits, but favourable for the functional traits (fertility and udder health). Farm characteristics, like soil type or housing system, affected the regression coefficients on breed components significantly. The effect of the Holstein breed on milk yield was twice as large in cubicle housing as in other housing systems. Jerseys had a negative effect on fertility only on farms on sandy soils. Hence, breed effects differ across farming systems in the organic farming and farmers can use such information to dovetail their farming system with the type of cow they use.