Thursday, 16 February 2017

Colanta Coop to Improve Quality of Milk Making VikingGenetics' Bulls Their Natural Choice.

Colanta began its breeding program in 1980. Currently, Colanta is the third biggest cattle genetics company in Colombia and provides artificial insemination services, embryo transfer, and molecular diagnosis, among others.

Since 2000, Colanta radically changed its breeding objectives due to the low performance of the cheese. They wanted to make the transition from milk producers to dairy producers. At that time they used predominantly  bulls from United States (US), but the percentage of protein was not satisfactory. Facing this challenge, they started to work more often with VikingGenetics and that is something they want to continue with to increase the quality of milk even more.

After a visit to VikingGenetics in Denmark and herd visits in Denmark and Sweden in June 2016, the AI-program coordinator of Colanta, Juan Fernando Vásquez Cano, states that they definitely want to increase its business by working more closely with VikingGenetics.

“We have had increases in milk protein level and today we reach a modest level of protein at 3.2%.

This contrasts with the VikingHolstein cows in Sweden and Denmark that have 3.6-3.8% and there are cows with more than 4.5% protein and over 8,000 kilos of milk per lactation. We definitely have a lot of work to be done”, Vázquez Cano summarizes. Vázquez was also impressed by the dedication and focus that VikingGenetics, the dairy farmers and authori-ties give to the health level in the herd.

“We admire the attention and concern of the government and dairy farmers regarding the cow’s health. We are impressed of the somatic cell counts and genetic selection for udder health, in which VikingGenetics is pioneer, as well as the strict registration protocols of the hoof trimmers,” he states.

He also emphasizes the important role the control in the use of drugs as well as the focus in health played to declare the Nordic countries free from diseases that still concern the Co-lombian farmers, such as the Bovine Virus Diarrhea (BVD) and the Infectious Bovine Rhi-notracheitis (IBR).  “We still  have a lot work to do in this”, he says.

Colanta synonym for success
Colanta is a farmer’s cooperative with approximately 5,000 members. The cooperative takes care of a great part of the value chain. They also deliver semen and a growing part of this is from VikingGenetics.

They have technicians, a dairy and a slaughterhouse as well as chain of grocery stores pro-moting their products. Their products are available in most grocery shops and supermarkets and in addition, they have farmer shops where they sell everything from horse saddles to fertilizers.

There is also a restaurant chain where their aim is to sell food of high quality at an affordable price. Colanta also has a bank targeting cheap loans to their members. The company has a subsidized agreement with the local government to provide a free milk or yogurt product every day to every school-kid at all the schools in the Medellin area.
Colanta is the largest dairy producer in Colombia with a 15% market-share.

Last October, VikingGenetics CEO Rex A. Clausager and the Export Manager for Latin America, Suvi Johansson visited Colanta. The plant they visited, produced milk, yogurts, milk powder and cheese “All living up to very high quality standards. I feel proud that we are working together with this forward-looking farmers’ cooperative in Colombia.” Clausager states.

Facts of Colombia
Colombia has a cattle population of 22.6 million animals.

About Colanta
Colanta is a cooperative that was created in 1964 by 60 farmers. As the time went by, the cooperative became bigger and stronger and an important distributor of VikingGenetics in Latin America.

Today, Colanta is the leading dairy company in Colombia, able to produce 2.5 million liters/milk per day which is about 16% of the national production.

Export Manager Suvi Johansson and CEO Rex A. Clausager visiting the Colanta dairy.

Suvi Johansson, Export Manager for Latin America, VikingGenetics; Juan Manuel Cerón, Chief of Technical Assistance, Colanta; Sara Wiklert Petersson, Head of Sales, VikingGenetics; Juan Vásquez, AI program coordinator of Colanta; and Rex A. Clausager, CEO of VikingGenetics. Colanta staff came to Denmark know more about VikingGenetics.

Juan Vásquez, AI program coordinator of Colanta, during his visit to Danish and Swedish herds in June 2016.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Torpet Farm - reaching goals with a new generation

As a child, Gustav Kämpe never thought he was going to be a farmer. He grew up sur-rounded by cows because his parents were dairy farmers, but seeing them work on the farm was not attractive to him. “I never wanted to do the hard work!” he admits and laughs.

Gustav Kämpe came back to Torpet Farm after more than ten years; it was a long journey, it took many years before he decided to be a dairy farmer, but when he made up his mind, he did it big.

Kämpe’s way back to manage the dairy family business is influenced by his university title as an environmental engineer, as well as by a job in one of the large agricultural companies in Sweden, and also by his wife, who loves farming life.

All these things together were crucial to bringing him back to the place he grew up. This time, he was eager to develop a new and progressive way of management. “I found a new view of how to be a farmer; it came from another perspective”, Kämpe says while mentioning that VikingGenetics is an important part of this new era at Torpet Farm.

He and his wife moved into the property eight years ago. The couple started a company to-gether with Gustav’s father, Kurt Kämpe, to manage the farm. Last summer, they bought the farm; And in one year, they have increased the number of cows from 100 to 200 and built a new barn with three milking robots.

“One of the goals for me and Sofia was to take care of the farm. We wanted to develop it. This has been the goal for the last eight years, and now we are here”, he adds.

A clear, long-term breeding plan
The Torpet farm is located in a flat and open property of 200 hectares land and 60 hectares of natural grass. The property is close to the water and surrounded by large trees.
The Kämpes have a long-term breeding plan that is al- ready positioning them on the map of progressive farms in Sweden.

The Torpet farm has a mixed herd, 60% VikingRed and 40% Holstein; production is 11,100 Energy Corrected Milk (ECM); putting them above the average in Sweden that is 10,452 kg ECM for Holsteins and 9,749 kg ECM for VikingRed.

The genetics from VikingGenetics are behind these exciting numbers; Gustav Kämpe has inseminated the females in the herd with X-Vik to increase the number of cows getting heifers by their own.

When selecting genetics for the next generation, Kämpe says they select traits such as yield and udder traits suitable for robots “We look very carefully at the NTM; this is the way you do a long-term breeding plan”, he states.

He also has a profitable plan for heifers that he is not going to use as mothers for the next generation of milking cows. He explains that since the price of meat is quite high, he insemi-nates them with beef.

Facts of the Torpet Farm
• Milk production: 11,100 kg ECM
• Protein: 3.6%
• Fat: 4.3%
• Three  milking robots
• Two  employees  and  one trainee
• 180 milking cows and goal is to increase to 200

Gustav Kämpe looks carefully at NTM "because this is the best way you do a longrerm breeding plan", he says.

The Torpet farm is located in a flat, open and large property - 200 hectares land and 60 hectares of natural grass.

The Torpet farm has a mixed herd, 60% VikingRed and 40% Holstein.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Improved hoof health - increased profit

By Lea Foustad Harbo, VikingDanmark
Hoof disorders in dairy cattle cause lameness and a lot of pain and leads to large loss in production and early involuntary culling of cows. Lameness is a symptom of a very painful condition and an important welfare problem in modern dairy production.
Nursing, environment and feeding play a central role in the occurrence of hoof disorders, but also genetics are important. Modern high-producing dairy cows have a high risk of hoof disorders – also in good environment.
The most effective way to increase the resistance against hoof disorder through breeding in long term is by using hoof health as a breeding goal. By including hoof health in the Nordic Total Merit Index (NTM), VikingGenetics was the first Artificial Insemination (AI) company in the  world with hoof health in their breeding goal.
The fact that genetic progress in hoof health is possible is mainly due to the access to the world’s largest database for hoof health. Hoof trimmers in Sweden, Denmark and Finland register the data and today we have more than 2 mill. registrations in the database.
In the hoof health index, there are registrations from cows in lactation 1-3. Some disorders have been categorized because they are symptoms of the same or almost the same disorder:
Infectious or hygiene related (digital dermatitis, skin proliferation and heel horn erosion)
Laminitis related disorders (sole haemorrhages, white line dis- ease and sole ulcer) Mal-formation hoofs (cork screw hoof)
Sole ulcer has the highest weight in the hoof health  index  since  this  is the disorder with the highest economic loss and a very painful  disorder for the  cow.

Differences between bulls
VH Clark, one of our proven bulls with NTM +27 has a hoof health in-dex of 128 and for digital dermatitis specifically, he has 143. That means that  VH  Clark  actually  lowers  the risk of getting the disease by 50% on his daughters. This is worth taking into consideration  when selecting bulls to use in the herd.

Hoof health has a strong correlation with longevity. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Nordic health traits suitable for organic farming

Märene farm in Sweden is about to take a big step in its history, to become an organic dairy farm. Märene has already, long time ago, decided to breed for healthy cows, which makes the step easier.

By Verónica Löfgren, VikingGenetics

“From the beginning, farming was in my blood. I always wanted to be a farmer”, Claes Johansson the fourth-generation owner of the Märene farm says surrounded by his working-team around the meeting table.
The Märene Farm in Skara in Sweden is a pure Holstein herd and it’s a place full of life, projects, dreams, and com- promises.
“The coffee meetings are important. Everyone is here and we talk a lot about our goals; we discuss, what do you want? How would you like to have it? And then, we set goals, and you know what to achieve” Claes’ wife, Amanda Jansson, explains.
The next big project they are focused of, is to become an organic farm by taking advantage of the “green” cows as Claes Johansson refers to his VikingHolstein herd. “We have always been a Viking farm. Viking has done a good job all the time, and we like the VikingHolstein because they are healthy”, he states.
Healthy cows with high production along with an increased demand for organic products are keeping the team motivated to make Märene a green farm. “If you have these good-looking, healthy cows producing much on pasture in your herd, then you have gained a lot when you talk to consumers”, Johansson states.
The breeding goal in his farm is efficiency, and the strategy is designed to the smallest detail. The manager, Jakob Nielsen, explains that they make the genomic test on every single heifer when they are born, and 10% of those with the lowest results are sent to slaughter in order to keep a high NTM (Nordic Total Merit) herd level.
They also use X-Vik on their best females to guarantee that they will have heifers from them. “We want a cow that milks 11-12,000 kg – not only 9,000 kg per year. Although this is a good cow, we don’t want to have daughters from her; instead we inseminate with beef”, he    explains.
With 10% of the lowest NTM heifers going to slaughter and 10% inseminated with beef, they can guarantee a healthy and high-producting herd.

Health in focus
With 11,543 kg ECM (Energy Corrected Milk) per year in production average, the Märene farm is producing above the average in Sweden which is 10,452 kg ECM on Holstein. “I think we have the milk so we can look at other things and of course health is the most important”, Nielsen says. "We are looking at individual needs when planning the breeding”, Nielsen adds.

Facts of the Farm
Märene Farm is located in Skara, Sweden.
  Total  cows: 220
  Production:  11,543  kg ECM
  • Fat: 4.3%

  Protein: 3.6%

Thursday, 2 February 2017

"Health traits are creating profit for the dairy farmers"

Interview with Lars Nielsen, Breeding Manager VikingGenetics

By Veronica Löfgren, VikingGenetics

Lars Nielsen is the Breeding Manager at VikingGenetics. It is in his department the breeding strategies are designed, and the guidelines that  lead the work to identify the very best sires, are  made.

Where do you put the weight on the selection criteria to find the best bulls?
First of all, we breed for maximum profitability. We have a balance between production and cost reducing traits. Our selection criteria focus heavily on the health traits. That is our strength in VikingGenetics. Other companies claim to breed for health, but the thing is that we are the ones having the highest weight and highest genetics progress on health and fertility traits. The reason why we are able to have this high weight is not only a political decision, it is because we have a proven, reliable registration system to back up our breeding values.

How different is VG from other AI companies that claim to breed for health?
If another Artificial Insemination (AI) company decides to  put high weight on traits such as mastitis resistance or hoof health, they can probably do so, but the problem is that they are not able to evaluate mastitis resistance in a reliable way. We can put much focus on the health traits because for us it makes sense since we have the registration system that we have.

There is a tendency among other AI companies to say that they breed for health. What do you think about this?
Health traits have been an integrated part of VikingGenetics’ breeding goals since late 80’s. The milk recording system farmers are making in the VikingGenetics countries - Denmark, Sweden and Finland - is highly developed, and 90% of the cows participate in the registra-tion of  health traits. Although other AI companies have understood the importance of following the health breeding concept, it is VikingGenetics who leads it.
The reason many others are not doing this in other countries is that they can’t. They don’t have the data in the computer, just the computer.

Is this registration system unique for the Nordic countries?
There are countries that have started to report to a system, but we are the number one in this. We have had this tradition for almost 40 years now; we have learned a lot, and it is a natural part of our farmers’ work to add all this infor-mation to our cattle database.

What does this weight on health traits mean for the dairy farmer?
With no doubt, the health traits VikingGenetics is breeding for, and I mean all the traits included in the NTM, are creating profitability for the dairy farmer. Viking-Genetics has a highly reliable evaluation system that means that, with the decided economic weights, we can generate significant genetic progress in their herds and in their business.

Can production and health be picked at the same time?
The other good news of selecting by  Nordic  Total  Merit (NTM)  is  that  production is included. Usually, when you select for production, you take one step forward if you go for production, but you will go one step back for mastitis resistance, fertility, and other diseases because they have negative correlation to production. If you gain in production, you will naturally loose in health. But since we take health traits into consideration in NTM, we are able to  gain significantly in production but also in health traits - look at the phenotypical level of our animals.

Is the company now taking genetic progress to a higher level by using more elite heifers?
Yes, we have taken the step to buy fewer bulls and put more focus on females to increase genetic progress. We work more with embryo transfer to let the best females get more calves.

Do you have a favourite Viking breed?
No, I don’t have a favourite. In my childhood, I was working with VikingRed; my family had a VikingRed herd in Denmark and we liked showing them at shows. Then I became responsible for the Holstein breed when I was 28 years old, in Dansire, and then I continued in VikingGenetics when it was formed in 2008. I may have more knowledge of Holstein, but then even though I have not worked that much with Jersey, I can easily see that Jerseys are extremely efficient cows with high components.
Therefore, it is true when I say that I don’t have any favourite because I can see the advantages in all of them. My favourite is the Viking package.

What is the most demanded breed on the international markets?
It is VikingJersey because you have this high environmental focus on efficiency, and I have no doubt that the Jersey cow is the most efficient one. There is a huge demand in the US for example. The forecast is saying that they are going from 10 to 25% Jersey cows, and that is a big population. We have a more efficient product; we have a healthier, stronger animal with high components which produces more than just water. It is good for cheese production too. The same thing is happening in Europe where it is possible to sell more VikingJersey semen.

Breeding Manager Lars Nielsen with VH Soulrun

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

VikingGenetics bulls are green, no matter the colour.

In the latest issue of VikingNews, you can read an article from Claes Johansson, one of the dairy farmers in the Viking area. He explains about the benefits of having genetics from Viking in his cows when he is going organic. That is just another evidence of the ad-vantages you get when selecting for health.

Choosing the green cows means that you can improve the health of your herd regarding mastitis resistance, metabolic disorders, reproductive disorders as well as hoof health. All in one, the selection for health gives you cows with less need to see the vet, fewer treat-   ments, less medicine, and first and foremost less production loss and problems.

Those are key success factors no matter if you are organic or not. It is not just talk – the mastitis frequency is going down, and that is just what you can expect from the remarkable genetic improvement for those traits.

If you look at a bull like VR Umbro, he breeds excellent udder health  his daughters have less than 5% mastitis frequency! The average for the VikingRed breed is 8,3% - what is the average in your herd? There is significant money to be saved – data from the United King- dom show that the cost for clinical mastitis is about € 300 / case. In line with the breeding goal of VikingGenetics where a profitable cow is easy to manage, the colour of the VikingGenetics breeds is green – no matter the coat colour.

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.