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Spreading the word of Nordic breeding

Helping Dutch farmers breed more profitable, sustainable dairy cows suited to modern dairy production is the goal of Walter Liebregts, VikingGenetics’ distributor in The Netherlands.

With over 1.6 million cows and over €7 billion generated each year, the dairy industry in The Netherlands is vital for the country’s economy. It’s a highly advanced sector, especially in technology, animal welfare, and breeding, and has a significantly positive influence on cow longevity and production.

Animal genetics company K&L (Koole & Liebregts), based at Heino, in the province of Overijssel, has served Dutch farmers with top-quality bull semen since 1993.

The company, owned by directors Walter Liebregts and Boudewijn Koole, offers an excellent selection of the top VikingGenetics bulls, including many used for the ProCROSS crossbreeding concept.  

Walter Liebregts K&L VikingGenetics

Cows suited to Dutch conditions

Walter and his team market VikingGenetics doses all over the Netherlands and reach into the Flanders region of Belgium. 

“We started the company in 1993, as it seemed like a good idea with plenty of opportunities. We have never had any moment of regret in all that time,” recalls Walter. “We service around 2,000 farmers with the genetics, many of whom have been good customers for years and have developed some very efficient herds with excellent cows,” he adds.

The company puts a high emphasis on two VikingGenetics breeding concepts, VikingJersey and ProCROSS. 

VikingJersey are healthy, high-performing Jersey cows producing the world’s highest milk solids levels. On the other hand, ProCROSS is a 3-breed rotational crossbreeding system combining VikingHolstein, VikingRed, and Coopex Montbéliarde.

Each of the three ProCROSS breeds compensates each other, bringing their own set of benefits to the table. VikingHolstein brings high production of milk and solids and excellent udder shape; Montbéliarde adds strength and fertility, and VikingRed improves health, longevity, and calving ease.

ProCROSS is widely used across The Netherlands to breed cows that suit the Dutch production landscape and the environment. These crossbreds maintain high production levels while eating less and lasting longer than purebred Holsteins.

In the picture: Walter Liebregts and VikingJersey Senior Breeding Manager Peter Larson during a visit to the herd of Maike Oegema.

Walter Liebregts K&L VikingGenetics

Profitable, sustainable Jerseys

Today’s modern dairy farming places an increased emphasis on sustainability as a way to secure the future of milk production. 

In order to boost sustainability, farms need to take control of all their production methods and make them more efficient. And that includes starting with their breeding programmes.

Breeding more feed-efficient cows will undoubtedly score high on the sustainability goal chart, and one of the more effective methods of doing that is including VikingJersey in the bull mix.

Smaller breeds produce less emissions and have become more profitable as time goes on, something which Walter firmly believes in. “There is no better breed for improving feed efficiency than the VikingJersey. These cows grow old graciously and easily fit into any dairy production system,” he says.

“VikingJersey cows can produce 20 to 30% more kilograms of fat and protein. As a consequence of cows lasting longer, less youngstock will be needed, which also increases the herd's and the farm's efficiency,” adds Walter.

Discover VikingJersey
Walter Liebregts K&L VikingGenetics

Crossbreeding makes the difference

Walter is also an advocate of the benefits of crossbreeding. Research shows that crossbred cows are also more sustainable than purebred Holsteins, with improved feed efficiency, vitality, fertility, health, and longevity traits – all thanks to the free benefits of heterosis. 

Heterosis is the increase of favourable characteristics of a hybrid organism over those of its parents. It is the opposite of inbreeding and happens when two unrelated breeds are crossed. 

“The ProCROSS system has two dominant success issues, which are heterosis and the use of three of the highest-producing dairy breeds,” explains Walter. “In terms of sustainability, the ProCROSS cows are 8% more feed efficient,” he adds. 

Walter has some good advice for farmers in The Netherlands and worldwide who might be considering a switch to the ProCROSS system. “Firstly, we audit the dairy farm to get better advice on what path to follow,” he explains. 

“The choice is not only influenced by financial reasons; the farmer should also feel attracted to these concepts. Without VikingGenetics these concepts are impossible to use, and we know hundreds of farmers who every day demonstrate their farms are better and the cows are happier by using our genetics,” he says proudly.

“Some areas in the EU focus on challenging farmers to have a more sustainable production system. Our concepts are better for the environment and for the income of farmers. I foresee excellent growth in the market shares of both ProCROSS and VikingJersey over the next few years,” he ends. 

Story by Chris McCullough

Walter Liebregts K&L VikingGenetics

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