Monday, 26 September 2016

"The bulls we have in the barns are the best choice for a farmer to optimize his profit"

Rex A. Clausager has been the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of VikingGenetics for one and a half year. He recognizes many advantages in leading a breeding company owned by farmers, that is a pioneer in genetic solutions, and wants to take the business to the next natural level: to increase sales outside the home markets.  

Where is the company at this moment? 
When I joined, it had been quite an impressive record of accomplishment of bringing three countries and companies together. Many things have really been put into place and it was an optimal platform to start looking more dedicated to the global expansion, and I believe that is where we are now. Our vision goes outside, and it is just the next natural step in the development of the company. 

Which department do you think is going to be the engine of the company now? 
The motor is a combination of everything. You cannot pick one thing, and say; Okay, now the laboratory is not that important. Because if the laboratory is not doing the best to ensure quality and efficiency then that piece of the puzzle is missing and the engine will not work.

What are the specific goals?
The main specific goal is to support the home countries and maintain the strong market share that they have. The next step is to increase on export and have an export market at the same size as the home markets in terms of volume. The composition today is 75% home market and 25% export.

What do you think is your managing style? 
I am 100% aware that you will not get one or two people moving a company like this, you need everyone to know what their role is, where do we go, and how can we support the goals of VikingGenetics. We have a culture where people both feel responsible and take responsibility. I have a lot of respect for people in different parts of the company that know much better what is going on than I do.

Why do you think VikingGenetics is the best choice for a farmer in the current situation with low milk prices? 
The dairy production, in general, is under an enormous pressure right now and we want to underline what we at VikingGenetics have done right, and that is to have focused on the economically important traits such as milk production and healthy cows. This is for sure the strongest point for us.

Other companies also claim to have the best health traits. How does VikingGenetics handle this? 
I actually believe that we are too modest compared to other companies that say that they have breakthroughs, and have new technology. These are things that we have done for 30 years; we have all data to support the health traits.

Can you describe VG’s style of approaching their clients?
Our strength is that we are a cooperative, so our members are our customers and our owners. Moreover, that means that they have a long-term interest in making sure every-thing is on the right track. I think that is healthy, compared to private companies that are looking at short-term profits and just making sure that you have the results ready for next year, and not being 100% concerned about the farmer by the end of the day.

How is VG approaching new markets? 
We always show a lot of respect for the local market, and try to understand what the traditions, the values and the conditions are on the local basis. Moreover, one of our strengths is that we are not only offering just one breed; we have an extremely strong combination of three strong breeds. 

What other competitive strengths does VG have? 
It is all about making life easier. If you have the best genetics in your herd, you will also have less problems. I believe that this is the most important factor when you manage a farm, that you should not have extremely sensitive cows that you need to handle extra carefully. Instead, you can use your management time to make sure things work. If you have sustainable, healthy, long-lasting cows, you can use time in planning next steps instead of trying to repair troubles all the time.

How committed is VG in Research and Development? 
We are very dedicated to that. VikingGenetics is probably the first global company to take in genomic selection 100% in the breeding program. 

How does VG listen to, and get feedback from customers? 
We have a close cooperation with the owner companies who meet the customers every day, and we get feedback from them. To make sure that the breeding objectives of the three breeds - and the beef breeds -  are accomplished, we have breeding committees consisting of farmers from each country. When we work abroad, we work closely together with the distributors and put a lot of effort in understanding them and their situation. 

Which markets does VikingGenetics prioritize right now? 
We continue to serve customers in more than 50 countries around the globe. Having said that, we want to have a relevant market share in Australia, where we already have a VikingGenetics office. Then the United States (US) and Britain (UK) are our main focus markets at the moment.

Do you have a special message to employees and stakeholders? 
I came into a company that already had an excellent record of accomplishment, and I am very happy that we can have this strong foundation with skilled colleagues in home market and export markets, especially right now in Australia where we have most people abroad. At VikingGenetics, we have a passion for what we do; everyone knows that what they do is important.

Rex A. Clausager with VR Flame during one of his visits to VikingGenetics' office in Skara, Sweden. When times allow, he likes to see the bulls in the barn.

VikingGenetics CEO, Rex A . Clausager, giving a look to the straws with bull semen ready to meet the global market.

Rex A. Clausager in the barn in Assentoft, Denmark.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Health traits are becoming an international trend

We all know that health traits have been an integrated part of VikingGenetics’ breeding efforts since late 80’s and it is the trademark of VikingGenetics’ breeding program. The secret behind the Nordic farmers’ success is their willingness to register all traits including health. Farmers in the Nordic countries are fully committed to the registration system as they use it for managing and breeding in their herds. 

A strong point in the Nordic countries is that farmers play an important role in the definition of the breeding goal. No other countries in the world have the same tradition as we have and therefore the Nordic health profile is unique.

It is so easy; a healthy cow, with strong feet, can walk easily, eat a lot, and produce a lot of milk. In addition, a healthy cow does not need much attention from the owner. Invisible cows make life much easier for the owner.

Although, the challenge with health is that registrations are difficult to measure objectively like milk yield and conformation. Therefore, much effort has been put into standardizing the definition and recording of diseases, and veterinarians, hoof trimmers and farmers have been well educated.  

The dairy production in the world has understood this, and in March 2016, the privately owned animal health company Zoetis launched Clarified Plus to offer dairy farmers and AI companies a genomic test on health traits to select Holstein females within the herd and bulls for the AI company. The launching of Clarified Plus is a sign of this international interest in health characteristics. Zoetis has developed a genomic prediction for health traits based on production records assembled from farm data from commercial US dairies. There are six traits that Zoetis is evaluating and selling and these are: mastitis, lameness, metritis, retained placenta, displaced abomasum and ketosis. 

The Nordic health profile is far ahead
In the Nordic countries, the trait Mastitis resistance index, has an extensive veterinarian registration of clinical mastitis as the main source. Registrations are done for all cows on all farms and are official. On top of that, we also include data on somatic cell score, for udder attachment and udder depth that we also know affect the mastitis resistance. This is much more information than anyone else offers.

Lameness is one of the most painful diseases for a cow and a most costly disease for a farmer. The Nordic countries present a breeding value for Hoof Health, based on official reports from hoof trim-mers where they classify each individual hoof for eight different disorders. Lameness, as Zoetis is selling, is only the symptom of a hoof disorder. By getting to the direct cause, registration of hoof disorders is needed. 

Since mid-80’s, bulls from Denmark, Finland and Sweden have had a breeding value called Other Diseases, based on official veterinarian treatments classified into four different groups; feet and leg problems, metabolic diseases, early reproductive disorders and late reproductive disorders. 

We can state that there are more diagnoses listed in the health traits we use in VikingGenetics than in the case of Clarified Plus and the knowledge of breeding for health traits is a valuable treasure for the Nordic farmers. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

VikingGenetics is too modest

By Sara Wiklert Petersson, Sales Manager, VikingGenetics

The other day, I once again came across the proof in real life of the importance of our breeding in Vi-kingGenetics. One of the health problems causing most hassle in United States dairy production is the “hairy foot wart” – also known as digital dermatitis. It is a painful disease that not only makes cows suf-fer, but causes a loss in the production and a negative impact on fertility. This is one of the traits that we can take into account when breeding and one of the important traits in our hoof health index.

We have many bulls, for example VH Clark, who reduces the frequency of digital dermatitis to half of the normal! That is a lot of pain saved there! And that’s why I really agree with our CEO, Rex A. Clausager, in the interview on pages 8-9 in this issue of VikingNews, when he mentions that:  “We are too modest compared to other companies that say that they have breakthroughs and have a new technology”. 

Breeding for health traits to guarantee the profit is something that VikingGenetics has done for more than 30 years; we have all data to support the advances in this area, but we have been too modest to communicate this clearly.

I encourage you to take a second look at the hoof health index; it can really cut some costs in your herds!  

In this issue of VikingNews you can also read about herds from around the world enjoying the benefits of the Viking breeding. Read the whole interview with our CEO, Rex A. Clausager, from which I also remark a quote that describes our team. “At VikingGenetics, we have a passion for what we do; every-one knows that what they do is important.” To tie it together, it is fun to actually have one piece of the solution for the dairy farmer – it is possible to breed for healthier cows – and at Viking we know that. We have done it for 30 years and we will continue doing it every day.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Crossbreeding in Canada getting popular

VikingGenetics’ Red bulls are well appreciated in two Canadians herds which run crossbreeding using VikingRed to improve the cattle.

The goal was to get good longevity and easy calving and Corjan and Sandra Doornenbal, who moved from the Netherlands to Ontario, Canada, almost 15 years ago opened for a crossbred herd and today they milk about 180 cows. When they started, they had a pure Holstein herd but Corjan started to use some Swedish Red bulls like Orraryd and A Linné. Now the oldest Swedish cows are in their sixth lactation, and Corjan and Sandra are very happy with them.
“The production level is good, calvings are easy and the cows have good conformation”, Corjan says. At this moment, the best crossbred cows in the herd are Orraryd and A Linné daughters. There are many VR Cigar and Buckarby daughters among heifers and they look very promising. 

Many daughters by Gunnarstorp
Dave and Anneke De Boer milk about 120 cows in Ontario, Canada. Dave started crossbreeding almost ten years ago after his father visited Sweden and saw red cows there. Dave started to use Gunnarstorp in his herd years ago and there are still many daughters on the farm. They have good longevity and look very good. Orraryd daughters have done the same. The best cow in the herd is a Peterslund daughter, in fourth lactation. The cow had twin calves last time but no problems and she is pregnant again. “She is the best cow in the herd and produces more than 50 kg milk per day now.”, says Dave.

Pieter Schuurmans from CRV Canada and Dave De Boer with crossbred heifers.

An A Linné daughter

Thursday, 4 August 2016

From pure Holsteins to mixed herd

David Foot Limited owns three dairy herds in Dorset, southern UK. The family-owned business milks about 900 cows in total. Until 2015 they had only Holsteins, but then they started to think of other possibilities.

When the herd needed more cows, the managers looked for something different that could complement the production, and VikingJersey was the right solution. “We had lot of food for our cows in 2015, so we decided to buy more cows,” laughs Sam Foot, manager of the herd. They went to Denmark and imported 130 milking cows along with some pregnant heifers and younger heifers from three different herds.

Danish imports at D. Foot Ltd.
The installations they had suited perfectly for the Jerseys. “In 2014 we built a new barn for 400 Holsteins, because the old one was too small for our Holstein cows and suit perfect for the Jerseys” explains Sam. Sam and his herd managers, John and Eddie, like both the Holstein and Jersey breeds.

Perfect complement
The plan is to keep both breeds pure in the future. Holsteins give milk volume, Jerseys give components. The business has put lot of weight on health and fertility traits into their Holstein breeding for ten years and the results can be clearly seen; a herd of harmonic, strong cows. As the Jersey cows have Danish pedigrees, they will continue using VikingGenetics. Sexed semen for the best cows and heifers meanwhile the remaining cows will be inseminated with beef.
They are also satisfied with the program VikMate, which guarantees and protects against inbreeding and they use both genomic and daughter proven sires.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Crossbreeding with VikingRed helps Argentine farmers lower production costs

By Elisabeth Avendaño, VikingRed distributor in Argentina

The international over-production of milk and the consequent fall in prices are threatening dairy farmers all over the world. Argentina is of course not an exception, but its farmers are starting to see the advantage of crossbreeding their herd with VikingRed bulls. 

In the last years with a very high international price for soya beans, many dairy farmers in Argentina have chosen to “intensify” production by keeping their cows in pens or even constructing free-stalls (California style) in order to freeing their land for agriculture. This would enable them to export soya beans, but also means a huge increase of use of grain and soya in the diet of their cows. 

This decision results in an important increase in milk production, but farmers find it difficult to get a milk price that covers production costs. In a more intensive system, there are also often increased problems related to cow fertility, udder health, hoof health and so often a decrease in longevity, when cows are kept in pens.

However as in every business when the financial situation is hard, you need to look at the costs. Nowadays, more and more farmers are looking at the costs and realizing that by crossing Holsteins with VikingRed bulls, they are able to reduce “the hidden costs” like poor health. In the current situation all over the world, you cannot avoid to face these problems because it is important for the final profitability of a farm, and farmers in Argentina are now waking up to this fact.

ProCROSS is increasing
There is a growing interest to try the ProCROSS concept in several regions and farmers are thrilled with the productions, the improved fertility, the vigor of the newborns, the strong feet and legs of the cows and the great adaptability to grazing conditions of the offspring of the Montbeliarde as well as the Vi-kingRed bulls. The great advantage is the very easy calvings, transmitted by the VikingRed bulls. 

Elisabeth Avendaño, VikingRed distributor in Argentina, has found that VikingRed gives healthy daughters which are problemfree and long-lived, with excellent production well above average in their pasture-conditions with little grain or concentrates. 

Two daughters by Ladö

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

El Trébol - the success story of Red Dairy Breed in Colombia

Felipe Calderón is the owner of El Trébol and a veterinarian who always wanted to buy a farm with something different from the traditional breeds existing in Colombia by the 70´s. He started to look out of the Colombian borders and found the breed he was looking for in Canada in 1986; the Ayrshire breed. 

In 1996, Calderón participated in the World Ayrshire Congress where he heard about the Swedish Red Breed (SRB). The refreshment of the blood was very important for the Ayrshire breed in Colombia, because the inbreeding was already producing weak animals and the results with SRB are magnificent!

Always go for the best VikingRed bulls
Felipe Calderon chose T Bruno, B Jurist, Peterslund, Torpane and Orraryd and he could see the benefits quickly because the first daughters of these bulls gave much more milk than their mothers and improved feet&legs and strength a lot. They also had a perfect size for moving across the steep mountain pastures and black hooves are very important for the hot lands and the humid tropical areas.

VikingRed are today well-known in the cattle shows in Colombia. Calderon explains that a great satisfaction was to have the Grand Champion for crosses two years ago with his cow Uva Nueva (a crossbred Gyr (a Zebu breed) x VikingRed). She won the milk championship, best udder and Grand Champion titles. In Agroexpo 2015 the Grand Champion was a daughter by A Linné born in El Trébol. 

High production 
There are 55 cows in El Trébol, milking three times a day with an average of more than 9000 kg milk per cow/year, which is above average of the country. VikingRed works really well with high production, high solids, good longevity and good type and udders.  

A good amount of the VikingRed semen sold goes to crossbreeding in Holstein farms and Zebu farms. “And it works really well”, he explains. 

“I have rented a new farm for my heifers, and in order to rent the farm land, I had to buy the Holstein herd residing there. I have decided to continue with the Holstein breed and use VikingHolstein to improve health traits, reduce the size of the cows and improve the solids”, says Felipe who by now is planning to have a show window herd for the VikingHolstein, similar to the VikingRed show window herd in El Trébol.   

Facts of the farm:
El Trébol is located in a small and steep property in a land that has an average quality but generally very rainy. Earlier the average rain fall of the area was 1500 mm per year, but now because of global warming it rains more than 2500 mm per year. 

El Trébol uses V Föske, Pell-Pers, Uudin, Valpas, Tosikko, Turandot and Gunnarstorp and Tuomi. They produce embryos by flushing with sexed semen from Pell-Pers, A Linné, V Föske and R Facet.

The new Holstein herd that Felipe has bought to make a show window herd for VikingHolstein.

Uva Nueva was the ebst crossbred cow in Colombia in 2013. Felipe Calderón (5th from the right) is the owner of the El Trébol farm.