Strong belief in NTM is bringing results

Bengt and Kristina Samuelsson in Rättvik, Sweden run a top performing VikingRed and VikingHolstein herd in the centre of Sweden. The Samuelssons use the Nordic Total Merit index (NTM) as their breeding goal, and as their primary guideline to pick the bulls to use in their herd. 
 
The farm has been in their possession for many generations; Bengt’s grandfather had five cows and then Bengt’s father and his two brothers started to develop the farm. They brought the herd up to around 100 cows. 
 
Bengt and Kristina have expanded the farm too, and they now have 420 dairy cows in two different locations: 300 cows in Botans Farm and 120 in Österfors, a farm they bought in 2012 that is 50 km from the main farm, Botans. One half of their herd is VikingRed and the other half is VikingHolstein, but they also have a small percentage (around 6%) of crossbred cows.  

Breeding strategy - NTM is the guide
 
“We breed using NTM, we test all purebred heifers. On some of our top heifers we use sires of sons to breed the next generation top bulls. For the remaining top heifers, we use X-Vik sexed semen doses (around 80% of inseminations). On the heifers we don’t want replacements from, we inseminate them with Angus beef semen,” Kristina explains about their breeding strategy using NTM.
 
“On our cows we use about 30 % beef semen doses. The rest we inseminate with conventional semen,” she adds.
 
Bengt and Kristina’s daughter, Josefin is also engaged in the farm’s breeding goal. “We believe in NTM because we see that our animals are getting better and better, and this is shown in studies as well,” she says. 
 
“If you group the cows in our herd based on their NTM, you can see major differences. The high NTM cows have better economy than the lower NTM cows. It might be hard to see this on an individual level, but we see it in the overall performance of the herd,” Josefin says. 
 
High producing cows in focus 
 
Besides high NTM values, the Samuelssons look for increases in production. “VikingGenetics combines many different characteristics and traits in the NTM. We pay extra attention to the Milk index on the bulls we use. High production is one of our most important breeding goals, and this applies to both VikingRed and VikingHolstein,” Bengt says. 
 
For VikingRed, they look high yield and good hoof health. This is where they see they need to make more progress. The Samuelssons state: “We use bulls with a good Hoof health index, so that we improve hoof health in the next generation”.

”Our hearts are with the red cow because it is known that the red breed has a slightly lower production than Holstein. However, they have a better health, fertility and vitality than Holstein, they defend their place”, Kristina says.  “A cow with these characteristics has the same economy as a Holstein at the end”, Bengt agrees. 

For VikingHolstein, they want to make progress in overall health and are interested in medium-sized cows. “We pay attention to the size because we don´t want cows that are too large as they don’t fit in our system,” Kristina explains. “We want uniform cattle with our two breeds,” Bengt adds.
 

“We believe in NTM because we see that our animals are getting better and better, and this is shown in studies as well”.


Calf 2686 gNTM +34 is from an embryo. Sired by VR Fitbit and MGS is VR Vimpula.
Health is a prerequisite
 
Kristina explains that they can see that health and high production don’t have to be exclusive of one other. “If we look in Signaler Djurvälfärd (a system to compare animal welfare and economy among dairy farmers in Sweden) we are among the top 10%. Right now, we have a cost of less than a Euro cent per kg of milk in both our herds. We have a low animal health cost per kg of milk in both herds”, she says proudly.
 
“The best thing about our cows is that we have such low animal health costs. The cows produce a lot and at the same time stay healthy. It goes hand in hand,” Josefine highlights. 
 
Embryo strategy at the heart of the farm 
 
Their breeding strategy organises and classifies their animals according to their NTM level. Classification using NTM has made the herd more manageable in terms of using embryos. They are a recipient herd and they implant 10 to 12 embryos per month. It is important for them to know which heifers to use to carry the embryos. 
 
This competitive family is passionate about breeding, and the results of this passion are evident. Recently, they sold a VikingHolstein bull to VikingGenetics called VH Botan and a few years ago a bull named VR Salix. The most famous bulls from Botans farm are late VikingRed sires B Jurist and Botans
 
Over the years, VikingGenetics have purchased about 20 young bulls from the Botans farm. They have sold heifers both to Finland and Sweden and every month about four bulls are genomically tested to see if they could be placed on the VikingGenetics breeding programmes. 
 
In recent years they have done VikingGenetics contract flushes for VikingEmbryo and transferred those embryos to their own animals. They started the embryo transfers 10-15 years ago by buying embryos from VikingGenetics. There are many good cows in herd descending from those bought embryos. 
Calf 2686 and Mikaela, daughter of Bengt and Kristina.
Facts: 

  • Herd: 420 dairy cows in the two farms: Botans and Österfors.
  • Farm: Botans 160 ha & Österfors 250 ha.
  • Milking: Carousel with 22 seats in Botans, and a parallel stable with 18 milking places in Österfors.
  • Personnel: 10 full-time employees.
  • Production Botans: 13,202 Kg ECM with fat 4.1% and Protein 3.6%.
  • Production Österfors: 13,041 Kg ECM with fat 4.3% and Protein 3.6%.

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