The NTM (Nordic Total Merit) is the primary tool when it comes to selecting the next generation of dairy cows at the VikingRed Nastaviken farm.
“Before the genomic era, we looked for the best bulls and used them a lot, but now, when we do the breeding plan, we look a bit wider than before because now we can genomic test all the females and we take the NTM as our main compass”, Christer say. “Everything works very well with our VikingRed cows. They are strong, very healthy with good maintenance. We have a very low incidence of treatment, they milk very well and besides that, they are red, which is such a nice colour”, Malin says.
Their production numbers confirm what they describe: 12,750 kg ECM with 4.45% fat and 3.55% protein. “We wanted to have cows that eat and produce, and we think our cows are also very cute”, she says. VikingReds are naturally healthy cows with the highest production of milk and solids for red cows in the world.
Successful decision with genomic tests
The Ljungqvist family was part of the first dairy farmers in Sweden which carried out the genomic test of females in 2013. This decision took their herd to a higher level. “The information I have from the genomic test of females is what I use to make the breeding plan, and basically we inseminate the high NTM females with sexed semen. Besides that, we use beef semen for the low NTM”, Christer adds.
With an average of NTM 14 for his VikingRed heifers, Christer also explains that this number gives them the opportunity to market the surplus heifers, and not only those with the highest values on the NTM scale, but not the lowest values either. “Our goal is to sell pregnant heifers. We think it is good to sell them, which we have done often and to different countries”, he says. They have exported heifers to England, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and Russia.
VikingReds are known for their excellent fertility and easy calvings and are consistently amongst the top rankers on local indexes internationally. “With genomics, you don’t get bad cows, you can just have good ones and some of them are extremely good, pushing up the average”, Christer says.