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NTM – shaping a strong herd at Bockerud Norstugan in Sweden

Björn Hjalmarsson is the fifth generation on Bockerud Norstugan, the farm he has managed for 12 years. Bockerud Norstugan has mainly VikingHolstein cows and has been in the family since the 19th century. Björn makes genomic tests on all the females and uses only sexed semen, X-Vik and Y-Vik.

Björn took over the farm in 2008, and with the switch, he set up milking robots. The generational change was completed two years ago and his father Ingvar still works on the dairy farm.

The farm's 140 cows have a yield of 10,350 kg ECM (Energy Corrected Milk) with 80% VikingHolstein and 20% VikingRed. “We also have a couple of Jerseys cows, and our goal is to have five of those”, Björn says.

Bockerud Norstugan farm operates a conventional milk production facility and has split delivery to the local dairy Wermlandsmejeri, which has 10 suppliers and accounts for a large part of the market for drinking milk in Värmland, in the west-central part of Sweden.

The farm has 110 ha of fields and 160 ha of forest. In total, they work on 300 ha, of which 180 are dedicated to grassland and grazing and the rest to cereals. Moreover, about 10 to 20 ha of field beans cover a large part of the protein feed requirement.

Using breeding tools successfully

Bockerud Norstugan has been using VikingGenetics’ management tools to increase the genetic progress of their herd. They have carried out genomic tests on all their heifers for over five years, most recently with TST pliers (Tissue Sampling Tag).  

Björn explains that they started using a large proportion of X-Vik, sexed semen six years ago, initially on the best half of the herd. Now, the top 25-30% receive X-Vik. “We started with X-Vik to improve the herd by making sure that only the best females provided heifer calves”, he says.

The herd was previously sprawling, and they had used their own bull often, but with the sexed semen strategy they have seen rapid genetic progress and the herd has become more evenly balanced.  “It is more worthwhile choosing which female you get offspring from than trying to find the perfect bull”, he says.

NTM – showing the way forward

Here at Bockerud, the selection of the cows that will receive X-Vik and those which will be inseminated with beef is made mostly exclusively on indexes where NTM (Nordic Total Merit) shows the route to follow.  

“The majority of the replacement animals are born after heifers or young cows. Sometimes, when there is a good old cow that you would like to have heifers after, exceptions can, of course, be made”, he explains.

Björn underlines the reliability of the genomic breeding values. He says those indexes reflect all the valuable information about the bulls and that is one of the reasons why they make the genomic test and just trust to get good results.

“You're one step ahead without spending that much time on it. What the theory says has been consistent with what you see. Those heifers that calve are alike and produce at a relatively high level”, he states. “Of course, it takes time to see, but now the animals that are the result of the intense X-Vik will soon be into their 3rd lactation”, he adds.

The herd has good animal welfare and health with no involuntary dismissal. Bockerud farm enlists the help of a breeding advisor from Växa to assist with the breeding plan made every two months.

They have a goal to lower the replacement rate. They have previously put in four to five new heifers per month and are now down to three but aiming to get down to one or two heifers, at least periodically.

High genetic level

The resilient cows and their high genetic level have also been demonstrated by their being offered a flushing contract by Växa twice in the last year and a half.

Most recently, they chose to decline because it was not a family of cows that they wanted to reproduce. However, in the pasture there is a group of five beautiful heifers that are the result of a successful flushing of VH Romello daughter 414.

They took the opportunity to flush 414 with X-Vik at the same time as the contract flush. The contracted heifer did not give any embryos but 414 did, and all eight embryos were put in fresh.

The five heifers are now six months old and four of them are daughters of VH Burzaco and one of VH Saade. All of them are tested with indices between +19 and +26 NTM.

Beef on dairy is also in sight

Björn Hjalmarsson uses only used sex-sorted semen, X-Vik and Y-Vik (Beef) on his herd. Their experience has shown them how to combine the beef breeds on their dairy cows.

“We use 70-75% beef breed, the advantage of which is that it provides only bull calves because I prefer to have balanced quality”, Björn says. “Then I use Angus because it is important to have a light and lively calf”, he adds.

They have good experiences with Angus and its smoothness. “If you had further reared of the beef calves yourself, you might have considered a heavier beef breed. But since smooth calving is the priority, it’s the milk production which is important”, he underlines.

Facts about Bockerud Norstugan:

Located outside Säffle in Värmland

  • Owner: Björn Hjalmarsson
  • Number of cows: 140 cows – 80% VikingHolstein and 20% VikingRed.
  • Milk production:  10,350 kg ECM
  • Fat: 4.1%
  • Protein: 3.6%
  • Calving interval: 11.8 months


Text and pictures by Sara Wiklert Petersson, Region Breeding Manager - Växa in Sweden. 

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