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Everything works well with VikingRed

Christer and Malin Ljungqvist own Nastaviken farm in Sweden with 140 VikingRed cows with a remarkable production of 12,750 kg ECM, 4.45% and 3.55% protein.  Christer and Malin met for the first time at the Agricultural school in Halmstad in 1992, and the first thing they talked about was red cows.

It has been 30 years since that first encounter, and they are now proud about the passionate breeding family they have built with their five children, and of the high-quality VikingRed farm they run in the south of Sweden. The farm was owned by Malin's parents. Her father used Holstein and SRB cows (the Swedish red breed that is now part of the VikingRed programme), but in 1993, Malin increased the number of reds in the herd.

“I have always liked the red cows since I was a child”, Malin says. In 1998, Christer and Malin had 60 red cows together with her parents. By 2007, Christer and Malin took over the farm and they decided to breed exclusively VikingRed.   

VikingRed selection guided by the NTM

The NTM (Nordic Total Merit) is the primary tool when it comes to selecting the next generation of dairy cows at the VikingRed Nastaviken farm.

“Before the genomic era, we looked for the best bulls and used them a lot, but now, when we do the breeding plan, we look a bit wider than before because now we can genomic test all the females and we take the NTM as our main compass”, Christer say. “Everything works very well with our VikingRed cows. They are strong, very healthy with good maintenance. We have a very low incidence of treatment, they milk very well and besides that, they are red, which is such a nice colour”, Malin says. 

Their production numbers confirm what they describe: 12,750 kg ECM with 4.45% fat and 3.55% protein. “We wanted to have cows that eat and produce, and we think our cows are also very cute”, she says. VikingReds are naturally healthy cows with the highest production of milk and solids for red cows in the world.

Successful decision with genomic tests

The Ljungqvist family was part of the first dairy farmers in Sweden which carried out the genomic test of females in 2013. This decision took their herd to a higher level.  “The information I have from the genomic test of females is what I use to make the breeding plan, and basically we inseminate the high NTM females with sexed semen. Besides that, we use beef semen for the low NTM”, Christer adds.

With an average of NTM 14 for his VikingRed heifers, Christer also explains that this number gives them the opportunity to market the surplus heifers, and not only those with the highest values on the NTM scale, but not the lowest values either. “Our goal is to sell pregnant heifers. We think it is good to sell them, which we have done often and to different countries”, he says. They have exported heifers to England, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and Russia.

VikingReds are known for their excellent fertility and easy calvings and are consistently amongst the top rankers on local indexes internationally. “With genomics, you don’t get bad cows, you can just have good ones and some of them are extremely good, pushing up the average”, Christer says.

A “combo” to form a workable herd

“Malin and I are a good ‘combo’. We are very careful, and we know how to combine the traits to get the best heifers out of the bulls we choose”, Christer says proudly. “She has a good eye for cows; she can see a cow and know if there is something wrong with it. I am better at knowing what kind of food that cow should have”, he laughs.  

Saying they have breeding in their genetics, Malin explains that all the members of the family have a big or small role on the dairy farm and all of them love their VikingRed cows. Their children, Calle, Maja, Annie, Olle and Ture are between 13 and 23 years old, and they have found their own “niche” in the multiple tasks of the dairy farm.

 

Increased interest in feed efficiency

The Ljungqvists are convinced of the benefits they will get from the Saved Feed index that was recently included in the NTM. “We trust in studies, and we are aware of the importance of the results of the research and investigations VikingGenetics is doing”, Christer says. 

“Regarding feed efficiency, it is very exciting to know that fewer cows can produce more, and also to know more about the feed, which is around more than half of the money we invest in the farm. Healthy and feed efficient cows are very important”, he remarks. 

Facts about the farm

  • 1 employee besides the family members
  • 2 robots
  • Calving interval is around 12 months
  • 140 VikingRed cows
  • Area: 140 Ha.