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25 Nov 2019

Three reasons why VikingGenetics breeding programme is innovative

As our new branding campaign notes, the dairy industry is going to play a key role in meeting the rising demands of sustainable food production. This will put the spotlight on dairy farmers who, to accomplish this must ensure their farms are sustainable and their herds efficient. 

At VikingGenetics, we have a broad understanding of this challenge and possess the knowledge required to achieve this with sustainable and innovative solutions. Our new Genetic Development Manager, Lars-Peter Sørensen, has extensive experience of breeding value selection in the Nordic Total Merit (NTM) Index. He points to three strengths of VikingGenetics that empower users of our genetics as efficiency becomes increasingly important. 

A complete breeding programme

“We have a very comprehensive breeding programme in which everything we do is based on calculations, simulations and optimisation. This scientific approach to designing our breeding programme is, as far as I am aware, unique,” Lars-Peter says. The VikingGenetics breeding programme for the three breeds takes a financial approach based on the balance between health and production. 

The breeding department at VikingGenetics works very hard to control inbreeding rates in the three Viking breeds. “Whereas other countries have seen a big increase in inbreeding rates after the introduction of genomic selection, VikingGenetics calculations are healthier. Because we are aware of the risk of inbreeding when we select breeding stock for future generation, we use a quite a lot of variety in unrelated animals and so have avoided any such increase,” he says.

The Nordic countries utilise a programme called EVA to select animals. EVA makes suggestions as to how we should mate the animals and how to minimise the rate of inbreeding. What you need to know is how fast the inbreeding percentage is increasing annually. The actual level of inbreeding is not relevant as this will depend on when you start counting (which generation).

Unique registration system

Millions of cow performance data registered give VikingGenetics an exclusive source of information to improve the breeding programme. In the Nordic countries, farmers are willing to share data on their cows at no charge. Over 40 years ago, dairy and beef farmers understood the importance of having a unique registration system to determine how to design an efficient cow. 

Such a long-term approach requires documented data to generate value for the farmer. By adopting a scientific approach to everything we do, VikingGenetics can drive developments to bring concrete solutions to dairy farmers. 

Reliable health indices

Sustainability and Innovation go hand in hand at VikingGenetics. We understand farmers are now facing a key time in terms of climate change where milk production is a big contributor to greenhouses gas emissions. Cows produce methane gas naturally, and these emissions along with other factors in the dairy industry puts dairyman in the spotlight. However, the world needs to understand that dairy farmers are a part of the solution to cope with future challenges.

“Health indices such as Hoof Health and YSS are unique and very reliable – our competitors are trying to catch up, some can calculate their breeding values, but we need to bear in mind that we are improving all the time and able to stay ahead of the rest of the pack,” he says. 

Read more about NTM and our health traits