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Pioneers in breeding for health

VikingGenetics has always been a pioneer in cattle breeding. We have always put health in a balanced focus with production traits in our breeding programmes for all our breeds. We have known that breeding for health is possible since the 1980s, long before it became more common knowledge. Our breeding is based on extensive, real-life data from Nordic dairy farmers.

Thanks to our unique registration system, we are able to provide dairymen around the world with the most accurate science-based breeding values. This pioneering spirit continues to characterise our work in modern cattle breeding with a firm focus on health traits and sustainability.

Cattle breeding has very strong roots in the Nordic countries. Our farmers appreciate their animals. They are not treated as purely numbers, but as important 'co-workers' of farmers there. Our farmers are very proud of breeding the best cows in the world. For decades, dairy farmers in the Nordic countries have had a strong commitment to registering the performance of their cows. This has enabled us to create a unique registration system combining all data from Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Today, there are over 800,000 animal health and production records in our big data.

Before the year 1980, the Nordic countries had a Production Index, Calving Index, Daughter fertility Index, Udder Index and Milkability Index. By 1982, the Nordic Total Merit (NTM) included a Mastitis Resistance index. In 1987, a General Health index that referred to metabolic and reproductive diseases was included in the NTM. By 2005, a Longevity Index and stillbirths were included in the calving index increasing the accuracy of this index. In 2011, the first Hoof Health index was launched based on over six million data registrations from hoof trimmers. A unique index for young stock survival was launched in 2016, and in 2019 we are introducing the most reliable Saved Feed index in the world.

It takes innovation to turn big data into real-life solutions.

Big Data - basis of everything

The secret behind being successful in breeding for health is our big data. Nordic dairy farmers are committed to providing information on their herds to be used for the benefit of all dairy farmers in creating the most trustworthy breeding values in the world.

One unique database

In the Nordic countries, we have a mindset of “One for all, and all for one” in our data collecting. Our dairy farmers have understood that providing data and information to one big database offers benefits to all. In addition to dairy farmers, data are collated by veterinarians, milk labs, A.I. technicians, hoof trimmers, slaughter houses, classifiers, etc. All data are sent to the same database.

When it comes to breeding for better health, the Nordic countries are unique, as we can rely on our reliable registration system. We have very strict veterinary rules, and all treatments and use of antibiotics or other drugs need to be managed and registered by a veterinarian. By choosing VikingGenetics, you can benefit from the best and most reliable documentation for health traits.

It is possible to breed directly for health traits. With a large volume of high quality and reliable data for actual disease cases, you can measure and keep track of health traits. A high proportion of cows contribute with data. Over 90% of cows in Denmark, Sweden and Finland are registered for health traits - that is almost as high as the proportion of cows with data for milk production (95%) and fertility (100%). The data are available from different production systems at all management levels rather than certain selected herds. That ensures high reliability of breeding values.

High quality data

We have put a lot of effort into creating and improving the data collection system. This is only made possible with the standardisation of disease recording, educating farmers, veterinarians and hoof trimmers, and collating all the information into the same database. The organisation, Nordic Cattle Genetic Evaluation (NAV) always strives to ensure the high reliability and quality of data. Only records from herds complying with strict rules are used in genetic evaluations.

Systematic data collection for health traits started in the early 1980s in Sweden and Finland and in 1990 in Denmark, the first countries in the world to do this. After 2006, registration was started on a smaller scale in other countries including Canada, France, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States. A huge amount of data has been accumulated over the last 40 years. For example, there are over 13 million cows registered for diseases other than mastitis for Holstein in the period from 1990 to 2017. Such a comprehensive data collection system makes VikingGenetics the pioneers in breeding for health traits.