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.