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11 Jan 2021

Focusing on polled genetics led to success

The results of a breeding selection that prioritized polled genetics are evident when looking at VR Fuzzy P, bred at Bent Skovgård’s farm in Denmark.

Bent has worked for many years choosing polled genetics for his dairy herd, and today he is one among a handful of people in the world with the highest number of polled VikingRed animals with high Nordic Total Merit (NTM).

 If you want to define polledness and VikingRed, it is nearly impossible without mentioning the breeder of VR Fuzzy P, Bent Skovgård from Denmark.

The car is bumping down the private road to the Skovgård farm, owned by Karin and Bent Skovgård. They have owned a dairy farm for many years now and although Bent is 70, he has no intention to stop farming.

In 2011 he built a new barn with three milking robots and with capacity up to 200 cows. Not only did he build another stable, he also filled up with another breed in it. “I started to inseminate all the cows with VikingRed”, Bent says while explaining that most of the cows are VikingRed and he has also some crossbreeding cows.

Important part of the future

 While the topic has become increasingly popular in many countries, Bent has been working with polled genetics for a long time. “I had no doubt that one day it will be a demand from consumers’ side or from politicians that we no longer dehorn our animals”, he says.

In the beginning, Bent thought it was fun to get polled animals and used a bit more of the semen after polled bulls, always watching their overall performance in the NTM (Nordic Total Merit) index. Today, they have more than 65 polled VikingRed animals with many different pedigrees. 

“I use a polled bull on a horned cow and vice versa - a horned bull on a polled cow. In this way, I keep the diversity in my polled genetic. If we use to many polled bulls on the polled females, we will lose the diversity,” Bent explains.

A very important part of the breeding work on the farm are the small notebooks with information about the polled animals. “For many years, I have registered the polled animals when we dehorn, and if we are not sure if the heifer is polled, we push her for the next round of dehorning,” says Bent. 

The story of a polled heifer

One of Bent’s females, a VR Lazer heifer obtained a good genomic test some years ago. The ancestors to the polled gene were four generations back in the pedigree, so the heifer was not closely related to the other polled animals.

VR Lazer daughter was flushed three times as a heifer and the bulls VR Vigil P and VR Azer also come from her. There are some other polled females that have got flush contracts with VikingGenetics.

In her first lactation, the VR Lazer daughter still had a high NTM and she was flushed one more time with VR Fanof P to try to make a homozygotic bull - an animal that have the polled gen from the dam and the sire and its offspring will be all polled.

Bent didn't get a PP bull instead he had two fantastic bulls: VR Fuzzy P gNTM +36 (in the picture) and VR Facit P gNTM +33. In addition, he got a ­homozygotic polled heifer with +35 in NTM. 

Right now, Bent has flush contracts on six polled females and many of them have had more than one contract. “I hope the good results keep on coming. At the start of the summer we made three flush and got 41 embryos in total. Even having 200 cows, 41 embryos are a lot,” Bengt laughs.  


The polled gene (P)

The polled gene (P) is dominant to the horned gene (p). If an animal has two polled genes (PP – it is homozygous), or one polled and one horned gene (Pp – it is heterozygous), it will be polled. However, if it is heterozygous polled (Pp), it may pass either the polled or the horned gene on to its offspring.


Text by Jakob Lykke Voergaard
Senior VikingRed Breeding Manager VikingGenetics