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Switching to the breed of the future - VikingJersey

Increased profits thanks to top-quality milk with higher solids levels and healthy, feed-efficient cows - these are some of the reasons why Inge and Thomas Frey switched to VikingJersey.

There's something very special about the beautiful light brown, medium-sized Jersey cows from VikingGenetics on Frey GbR farm. They are curious and come close to take a look at visitors. "It was a good decision to switch to VikingJersey," says farm manager Inge Frey.

The last Holstein Friesian cows left the farm just a few weeks ago. They were not part of the switch to the milking robot, as the width was set for the more delicate Jerseys from the get-go. But what were the reasons for switching to VikingJersey?

"With our current technology and the stall dimensions, it was no longer possible to increase production with the Holstein Friesian cows," explains Inge Frey.

The "too small" stall dimensions in the stables built in the mid-1980s for the ever-larger Holstein Friesian cows meant that the service life and frequent problems with limbs were becoming increasingly problematic. It was also impossible to adjust the stall dimensions further, as the barn is not self-supporting, and the existing stall dimension specifies the width for the stall areas.

VIkingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

High-performance, smaller cows wanted

The Freys needed a smaller yet high-performance, healthy cow, and they found the optimal solution in the VikingJersey.

After contacting Catharina Stahl, breeding consultant at VikingGenetics, the Freys met a VikingJersey dairy farmer in the area and became increasingly fascinated with the fawn-brown cows.

Inge visited the farmer's herd to observe milking, and her daughter Amelie got a Jersey calf for her birthday. Inge and Thomas then went on a farm tour of Denmark, and after calculating the costs and benefits of introducing the new breed, they decided to switch to VikingJersey.

VIkingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

An easy switch with Danish cows

"Introducing the first Jersey cows into the Holstein Friesian herd went without issue, and the first 15 heifers rose to the challenge. Jerseys are very curious and bold," says Inge Frey. The pregnant heifers and, later on, the cows were later sourced by the farming couple via VikingLivestock in Denmark. "The advice, handling and transport were all excellent," tells Thomas Frey, "Our selection criteria were always taken into account."

After installing the milking robot, the Freys initially purchased 22 cows in the first and second lactation and added another 20 cows and 10 pregnant heifers in the next delivery. From now on, the herd will be restocked and topped up by animals bred on the farm. "The first heifers raised on-farm will be calving around September 2023," adds Inge Frey happily.

Thanks to their purchase, the Freys started with a healthy herd, which was also one of the goals of the switch. "We now hope for more robust, healthier cows," adds Thomas.

VikingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

Optimising the herd and cutting costs

"Jersey cows are better suited for our barns because they are smaller. We have converted the low stalls to high stalls with mats, making cleaning the stalls much easier and saving on labour," says Inge, summarising one of the breed's biggest benefits.

The Freys are also very satisfied with the performance of their Jerseys so far: The current milk yield is 20.1 kg/cow per day, with 6.0% fat and 4.3% protein. "We started with many young animals", says Inge, explaining the advantages. "The first cows are now entering the third lactation, and our target is 25-30 kg," she adds.

The cows are fed a versatile Total Mix Ration (TMR) containing grass silage, maize silage, rapeseed meal, maize meal, field bean, molasses pulp, straw, water, minerals, carbonated feed lime and cattle salt. There is a maximum of 4 kg of concentrate feed on the robot.

VIkingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

Calf rearing: the basis for great cows

Compared to Holsteins, Jersey calves are smaller, lighter, and born with lower energy reserves, making them more susceptible to diarrhoea and other diseases. But the Freys have an excellent grip on calf management.

Calves receive up to 3 litres of colostrum on the first day and up to 8 litres of transitional milk from the last calved cows until the 10th day. "Jersey calves need Jersey milk, and they should get enough of it," is Inge Frey's motto.

This is why calves receive up to 8 litres of whole milk up to the fifth week. From the sixth week onwards, the quantity is slowly reduced and later sold. Calves are offered calf TMR and water from day one. "As soon as the calf eats about two kilogrammes of the calf TMR, the ration of the milking cows is added," she explains. Fresh hay is offered every day in play balls for the larger calves, which are also used for stimulation.

The calves' health is checked daily, which Inge takes very seriously. A calf blanket protects the young animals from the wind, low temperatures, and rain. The igloos for the newborn calves are also located under a roof shelter to ensure they are well looked after.

"We are happy with the results so far with these measures. We adopted a relatively expensive calf-rearing approach with the whole milk, but we've been rewarded with healthy calves that become high-performing cows," says Inge.

VIkingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

A positive outlook

Even though the switch has worked well so far, there are a few challenges: One of them is reproduction management. "Jersey bull calves are difficult to sell, so targeted use of sexed semen is advisable," explains Inge Frey.

Until now, Frey GbR has only worked with X-Vik sexed Jersey semen and conventional Angus semen. In the future, however, Inge and Thomas Frey would also like to inseminate part of the herd with Y-Vik sexed Angus semen, as male crossbred calves are easier to sell.

Additionally, the ongoing improvement of milk yield and ingredients through targeted breeding and herd management is on the agenda, as well as gaining experience in feeding and the right time for inseminating and drying off VikingJerseys, all tasks in which the Freys are actively advised and supported by Catharina Stahl.

Learn more about VikingJersey
VIkingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

Farm Facts

Shareholders: Thomas Frey, Agricultural Foreman; Inge Frey, qualified banker, but worked in agriculture since 2006

Family members working on the farm: The children Timm (21), Nils (19), Amelie (17) and Josse (10) (combined approx. 30 hours per week)

Employees: two casual workers in cultivation, one casual worker in yard work, two part-time employees in dairy cattle (combined approx. 30 hours per week)

Farm size: 300 ha farmed area in total, of which 235 ha are arable land, and 65 ha are grassland (20 ha marshy, extensively farmed area), 140 ha personal share.

Machine fleet: High share of their own equipment, except for combine harvesters and shredders; due to the intensive conversion measures in the dairy cattle field, plant protection has since been outsourced.

Dairy segment: 115 Holstein-Friesian cows with female breeding by 2021, with a milk yield of 10,500 kg/cow/year, ingredients: 4.17% fat and 3.57% protein, milking in a double 7-fishbone milking parlour.

2021: Switched from Holstein to VikingJersey by selling female breeding cows as pregnant heifers and buying pregnant Jersey heifers from VikingLivestock in Denmark.

2022: Conversion of the stall barn built in 1986 with milking robots and stalls with dimensions to suit the Jersey cows. The last 40 Holstein Friesian cows were sold in March 2023.

2023: Milking has been taking place with two DeLaval V300 milking robots, initially with 80 Jersey cows, currently 105 milking Jerseys (2/3 in the first lactation, 1/3 in the second lactation). The goal is 120-130 milking Jerseys and 150-160 animals in total.

The current milk output is 20.1 kg/cow/day with 6.0% fat and 4.3% protein. The milk is delivered to DMK Deutsches Milchkontor GmbH in Zeven.

VikingJersey Jersey Cows Germany

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