Viking Genetics are responsible for genetic evaluations of dairy breeds in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Because they have very robust methods of recording clinical disease, they have actively been selecting for lower mastitis rates since 1982. As well as having the lowest rates of antibiotic use in the EU (see graph below), these countries also have the highest 305-day yield showing that it is possible to select for yield and health traits.
Viking Genetics use a Nordic Total Merit (NTM) index which is weighted for 30% production, 53% health and fertility and 17% conformation (type trait). This is very similar to our own £PLI (Profitable Lifetime Index; see image below). Scandinavian dairy farmers genomic test all their heifers as calves – they then serve their top 30% to sexed semen to produce just enough heifer replacements and use beef semen on the rest to produce a saleable calf.
Lessons to learn from Scandinavia
- We need to record clinical disease (especially mastitis) much better and in a consistent way – give your clinical case information to your milk recorder
- Use the highest £PLI bulls that you can afford; especially on your heifers.
- Use genomic testing to make sure you make just enough heifers of just the right type – speak to one our vets about Clarifide, the veterinary lead genomic service.