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20 Jul 2020 - By Peter Larson, Senior Breeding and Product Manager, VikingGenetics

VikingJersey – international master of udder health

VikingGenetics has more focus on improving udder health than any other company in the world and is the global leader when it comes to the genetic level for udder health.

Mastitis causes direct financial losses to dairy farmers no matter where in the world you farm. Mastitis reduces milk yield in current and future lactations, can eventually lead to a higher culling rate, incurs veterinary and medicine expenses plus extra labor costs. To avoid extra charges on the dairy farm, prevention of mastitis infection is the best approach. By breeding for higher Nordic Total Merit (NTM), you automatically get fewer mastitis cases in your herd. The udder health index has the second highest economic weighting in NTM; only production has a higher weighting. 

In the Nordic countries, we use both the direct measure, clinical mastitis, and the indirect measures like conformation traits and SCC, where the latter is only an indicator of mastitis. Mastitis registrations come from veterinary and farmer records on clinical mastitis. The conformation trait information comes from the two traits fore udder attachment and udder depth, both being negatively correlated to udder health.

Choosing the right bull has a significant effect. In table 1, you can see the number of daughters with mastitis in relation to the bull’s index for mastitis resistance.

Table 1: Effect of bulls with different breeding values on an average daughter 

 Breeding value






 Mastitis %






Sustainable genetic improvement

From 2000 to 2015, the Nordic countries have improved udder health by 8 index units. On average this has resulted in 12 mastitis cases in a 100 cow herd.

The graph below shows the genetic level of leading Jersey populations. VikingJersey bulls are on average six units higher in udder health than the bulls in Australia & New Zealand and more than 13 units better than US Jersey bulls, on average. The limited number of bulls supplying data to Interbull is the reason for the incomplete curve on Canadian bulls.

Sustainable genetics is part of the VikingJersey Profitability image

Production and health traits like mastitis are negatively correlated. Even so, VikingJersey has managed to increase the genetic levels for both by giving them highest priority in the Nordic Total Merit (NTM).

The increase in production has been 11.5 kg F+P (25.2 lbs.) per year over the last 20 years in the VikingJersey population. Currently the annual production is 7564 kg milk (16,676 lbs.) with 5.99% fat and 4.27% protein. Annual production of milk solids (fat + protein) is 776 kg (1,711 lbs.). The VikingJersey population has reached the 1,000 lbs. milestone in annual butter fat production!  

Genetic levels for butter fat production in leading Jersey populations is shown below.

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