Cow wellbeing and profitability of your dairy farm go hand in hand. The demand for animal health and welfare continues to grow across the dairy industry. This has been reflected in the development of total merit indexes available in different countries.
2 Sep 2022
Global shift in Total Merit Indexes
Today the group of traits for Health, Reproduction and Longevity is given a significantly higher weighting in the formula of all the major total merit indexes compared to 25 years ago.
In the Nordic Total Merit Index (NTM), this group of traits has the combined weight of 49%, the highest among the main total merit indexes for the Holstein breed.
Traits beyond production and conformation are becoming more important to cattle breeders. To ensure profitable milk production breeding for improved health, reproduction and efficiency will be the way of the future.
VikingGenetics will support you in building a profitable and sustainable business while coping with current issues around sustainability and animal welfare.
With science-based genetics, we help you meet the increasing demands from milk and meat processors, retailers, authorities and consumers on how milk and meat is produced.
Image: Development in the major total merit indexes - Holstein, 1996-2021
Nordic Total Merit Index - a powerful tool for dairy farmers
At VikingGenetics, we care about natural, healthy animals and feel a responsibility towards sustainable dairy production with people, animals and the environment in focus.
VikingGenetics has always been a pioneer in cattle breeding. We have always put health in a balanced focus with production traits in our breeding programmes for all our breeds. We have known that breeding for health is possible since the 1980s. Our breeding is based on extensive, real-life data from Nordic dairy farmers.
Before 1980, the Nordic countries had a Production Index, Calving Index, Daughter Fertility Index, Udder Index and Milkability Index. By 1982, the Nordic Total Merit (NTM) included a Mastitis Resistance index.
In 1987, a General Health Index that referred to metabolic and reproductive diseases was included in the NTM. By 2005, a Longevity Index and stillbirths were included in the calving index increasing the accuracy of this index.
In 2011, the first Hoof Health index was launched based on data registrations from hoof trimmers for 10 different hoof disorders. A unique index for young stock survival was launched in 2016, and in 2019 we introduced Saved Feed Index.
Saved feed index is based on data from the Cattle Feed Intake System (CFIT), a state-of-the-art system where 3D cameras monitor and measure the individual cow’s feed intake at every meal 24/7/365. The data is collected throughout lactation on cows from commercial herds – without disturbing the daily routines and cows’ natural behaviour.
Big Data - basis of everything
The secret behind being successful in breeding for improved health and efficiency is our big data. Nordic dairy farmers are committed to providing information on their herds to be used for the benefit of all dairy farmers in creating reliable breeding values.
In addition to dairy farmers, data are collated by veterinarians, milk labs, A.I. technicians, hoof trimmers, slaughterhouses, classifiers, etc. All data are sent to the same database.
A high proportion of cows contribute to the data. Over 90% of cows in Denmark, Sweden and Finland are registered for health traits. The data are available from different production systems at all management levels rather than specifically selected herds. That ensures high reliability of breeding values.
We turn big data into accurate and reliable breeding programmes. By choosing VikingGenetics as your genetics partner, you benefit from decades of research and our latest innovations.