VikingRed – Naturally healthy cows

The breeding program for VikingRed has focused on improving udder health and production for many years. Today we can see that this focus has produced great genetic progress for these two traits. Dairy farmers around the world can benefit from the naturally healthy VikingRed cows. 

Mastitis is a challenge for dairy farmers all around the world and it not only has a negative impact on the economy of dairy farms, but also reduces animal welfare and job satisfaction for the farmer, and leads to an increased risk for development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. 
The best way to avoid the cost and the reduced welfare is to focus on breeding a cow with good mastitis resistance. Mastitis resistance has been a part of the breeding goal in Denmark, Sweden and Finland for nearly 40 years. With a high weight of udder health index in the Nordic Total Merit (NTM), breeding for higher NTM will automatically give you fewer mastitis cases and at the same time higher production in your herd. 

The udder health index in NTM is based on the registrations of actual mastitis cases and uses somatic cell count as an indicator trait. In this way you achieve the highest reduction in mastitis cases and at the same time a reduction in the somatic cell count. The large number of registrations by veterinarians and farmers makes it possible to breed directly for better udder health. 

The focus on high production together with good udder health have put the Viking countries on top for production, which is achieved in combination with a low use of antibiotics. In Figure 1 it can be seen that the VikingRed cows have significantly higher production of milk solids compared to other red populations. Figure 2 shows the use of antibiotics in Denmark, Sweden and Finland compared to average level for 31 European countries.      

Figure 1 Average production of fat and protein in kg (305 days) – RDC 
International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR): 2019 – Estonia, Norway, England, 2018 – Canada. Data for USA – US CDCB (2019).  Data for Sweden, Denmark and Finland – NAV (2019) 
Figure 2  Sales in mg/PCU (population correction unit) of veterinary antimicrobial agents marketed for food-producing animals - average for Denmark, Sweden and Finland vs. average for 31 European countries*
Source: Adapted from the report by the European Medicines Agency, European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption, 2019. ‘Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 31 European countries in 2017’ (EMA/294674/2019). 
Is it possible to affect the number of mastitis cases in your herd? 

Yes, it is definitely possible if you choose bulls with a high genetic level for udder health you will achieve a reduction in mastitis cases. In the table below you can see the frequency of mastitis cases in relation to the bull’s index for mastitis resistance. The low values in general demonstrate the great natural health of VikingRed.
 Breeding values for udder health 80 90 100 110 120
 Mastitis %
 11.5% 9.7% 7.9% 6.1% 4.3%

High genetic gain 

Over the last 20 years, VikingRed have seen a large genetic increase in production and udder health. For the bulls, production has increased by 26 units and at the same time udder health has increased by 11 units. An impressive improvement that you also can benefit from by using VikingRed in your herd.    
Figure 3 Genetic trend for Production index and Udder Health index – VikingRed bulls 2000-2018
Sustainable genetic improvement

The graphs below show the genetic level of proven bulls from Denmark, Sweden and Finland (DFS), Norway and New Zealand for the Udder health and Production index. For bulls born in 2013, VikingGenetics is 7.5 units higher in udder health than the second best, and that is in combination with the highest genetic level for production.

Figure 4 Genetic trend for Udder health 
Source: Interbull data on proven bulls born in the period 2000-2013
Figure 5 Genetic trend for Production index 
Source: Interbull data on proven bulls born in the period 2000-2013
Find a full list of available VikingRed bulls here

*The amount of veterinary antimicrobial agents sold in the different countries is a factor linked to the animal demographics in each country. PCU is the term used to estimate animal populations in individual countries. In other words, it is an animal biomass estimate based on the number of animals where 1 PCU equals 1 kg of live animal weight. 

All figures are stated in milligram (mg) of veterinary antimicrobials purchased for every kilogram (kg) of livestock biomass. This enables comparisons of the use of antibiotics in different countries. Sales in mg/PCU are weighted according to the proportion of cattle to all food-producing animals in each country.

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