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18 Jun 2020

VikingHolstein – a source of high production and the world’s highest female fertility

The breeding program for VikingHolstein proves that it is possible to breed for high production and at the same time, have high genetic progress in health and reproduction traits.

Interbull numbers prove the superiority of VikingHolstein

A large study, based on around 55,000 bulls with Interbull proofs, investigates the genetic level of daughter proven bulls, containing bulls born between 1995 and 2015, when the latest daughter proven bulls were born.

It consists of data from the major Holstein populations around the world, besides VikingGenetics countries, this includes Germany, Holland, France, USA and Canada. A bull is connected to the specific country under the condition that this bull has the majority of his daughters registered in that country. In Table 1, you can see the number of bulls who have the most daughters registered in each country.


Table 1 Number of daughter proven bulls in the Interbull investigation per country


Nr of bulls with the most daughters registered in that country

VikingGenetics (DFS)




Canada (CAN)


Netherlands (NLD)


France (FRA)


Germany (DEU)


Female fertility

Figure 1 (on right) shows the genetic level of bulls by country and birth year for the female fertility trait “first to last insemination for cows”. This is the most economically important trait in the female fertility index.

The genetic level of the bulls from VikingGenetics clearly shows a very superior level for the trait “first to last insemination for cows”. The superiority is more than 6 EBV units in 2015, which is a huge difference knowing that the heritability of the trait is low and therefore you do not make good progress from one generation to the next. It is also clear that this has been an important trait for several years for VikingGenetics.

VikingHolstein fertility chart


Similar data is shown in Figure 2 (on left), but this time, for production. This is the production trait with the weights that is used in the Nordic system with milk -0.25, fat +0.55 and protein +0.70. It is interesting that the genetic level for Holstein is the same no matter where the genetics originate from.

High production and good female fertility at the same time

It is known that there is a negative correlation between the production trait and the health and reproduction traits, which means that if you breed for production, you will lose genetic levels in traits like female fertility and udder health. However, with good, trustworthy data and a well-balanced total merit index, it is possible to avoid this situation. The breeding program behind the genetics at VikingHolstein makes it possible by breeding for the Nordic Total Merit (NTM).

The correlation between production and female fertility is clearly the most negative with -0.33 and the correlation between the production trait and health traits is also negative with udder health at -0.14 and general health at -0.20. As Table 2 shows, when these traits are combined in NTM, it is possible to get genetic progress in these traits at the same time. The response when selecting on NTM is the highest in production with 0.58 (58% of max. response), second is longevity at 0.52 and finally, female fertility and udder health at 0.45 and 0.39, respectively.

Table 2 Response in genetic progress in specific traits when selecting on NTM (source NAV)


Response in NTM





Female fertility


Udder health


A Holstein cow has the potential for high production, but good economy at farm level also depends on other traits such as female fertility. That is why we are proud to say that VikingHolstein is a source of high production and the world’s highest female fertility.

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