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“I really love the Scandinavian way of breeding”

Claudio Mariani, Sales Manager and Partner of Genesi Project - VikingGenetics’ distributor in Italy has witnessed the development of Nordic genetics in his country.

Claudio Mariani was born and raised in the North of Italy, in Monza, a city northeast of Milan. Monza is also known for the Autodromo Nazionale, a Formula One racetrack, where Claudio’s grandfather used to take him when he was a child.

Mariani lives in Monza with his wife Christina and their 17-year-old daughter, Carlotta. He explains that 70% of the dairy cows are in the North of Italy, but in Monza the focus is on industry, and so his passion for cattle was not a natural option.

As a young boy, Claudio Mariani already clearly knew that he wanted to work outdoors. “I wanted to see the seasons change, to be outside. I didn´t like the idea of waking up in the morning and going from one closed place to another closed place”, he recalls.

He found the perfect solution in a career that guarantee him work full of nature and fresh air. “I decided to study animal science and my passion arose in genetics; so when I was studying genetics, and statistical application to genetics, I really enjoyed that”.

After obtaining his degree in Animal Science at the University of Milan, he stayed a couple of years as a researcher and as a teaching assistant. Then he decided to specialize in genetics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and at the same time worked with the Canadian Dairy Network, the office responsible for genetic evaluation.

Knocking on farmers’ doors

When he came back to Italy, Mariani started to sell semen from what he calls ground level: “knocking on door to door where you can receive all kinds of responses”, he says. “In the area where I started, the company was not known and I was not known; it was a fantastic experience”, he laughs. 

This experience helped Claudio to understand farmers and to put himself in the situation of a dairy farmer. “For years I have been dealing with selection and genetics for dairy cows. I learned a lot from all the breeders I met all over the world and I still have a lot to learn from them”, he says.

In his years as sale representative, Claudio met Dr. Corrado Caroli, founder of the Genesi Project. During this time, he had his first contact with Nordic genetics through Svensk Avel, which became VikingGenetics when it merged with Denmark in 2008 and with Finland in 2010.

“In 2005, I jumped on board and start to work 100% on Genesi Project: at that time, VikingGenetics was not even in place, so we were distributors of the Swedish AI (Artificial Insemination) company, Svensk Avel. We were importing mainly the Swedish red and a few Holstein bulls”.

He explains that it took a while before Genesi Project could make the contacts with Dansire, the Danish AI company, and therefore be their Holstein distributors. The Holstein market in Italy, at that time, was completely dominated by American genetics.

Currently, Genesi Project is distributing VikingHolstein, VikingRed and VikingJersey as well as ProCROSS in Italy.

A witness to ProCROSS benefits

Claudio Mariani has been a direct witness to the improvements a dairy farmer can achieve using the three-way crossbreeding system, ProCROSS. He has participated in many conferences about ProCROSS, and has been in California, USA, where the ProCROSS system started over 10 years ago.

“I would say that there is nothing more revolutionary than changing the cow”. He adds: “All the parameter changes when we are talking about ProCROSS: the production, the way the cow gives milk, the fertility changes, and then we are all set; that makes a huge difference”.

VikingJersey is one of his other passions. “I think Jersey will have a bright future because they are smaller, they eat less and have a lower carbon impact.  We need more components and Jersey is much more efficient at converting forage into solids”, he says.

“Bravo” for the Scandinavian breeding selection

“I really love the Scandinavian way of breeding. I like the big emphasis that has been placed on health traits much more, and much earlier, than anybody else”, he says.

Claudio has been predicting for a long time that at some point other AI companies would also claim to have advantages in health traits when their focus has not been there the entire time.    

“It wasn't like that from the beginning. I remember when I first was advertising VikingHolstein, many people were laughing saying those traits are just rubbish or not as important as milk, protein or conformation”, Mariani recalls.

The Nordic countries have recorded the health and performance of VikingHolstein, VikingRed and VikingJersey for more than 40 years.

“It is important to me to know that my job will have a positive impact on the world we’ll leave to future generations: we can’t just keep doing the same old things and hope everything will be fine. We have to do something, and promoting VikingGenetics is my contribution”, he adds. 

“For me, it is important to say that we are still different from others”, says Claudio Mariani who, apart from travelling, in his free time loves to read and “can’t leave a bookstore without at least one book!”.