NTM (Nordic Total Merit) is the breeding goal of choice for Viking. NTM is a balanced total merit index that combines health, production and a good conformation. The index consists of 80 different traits, grouped into 15 sub-indexes. NTM is calculated by weighing the 15 sub-indexes together, using their economic weigths. Each index contributes to the cows net return and thereby, the farmers profit. It is not only the milk production that has economic importance, also the health and fertility of the cow plays a large role with regards to reducing costs. Therefore, there is a large weight on health and reproduction in the NTM. The distribution between production, health, fertility and conformation is shown in figure 1.
The breeding programme
Viking has a highly efficient breeding programme. All the newest technology and tools are used to ensure maximum genetic progress at the lowest possible price. Since 2013 all bulls have been genomically tested, creating a solid foundation for the breeding programme. With a genomic test it is possible to map the animals DNA, and calculate the individuals breeding value at a very young age.
Viking select bull calves with a high genetic potential in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The bull calves are selected by screening all interesting pregnancies with genetic potential in all three countries. Genomic tests are taken of all the bull calves as soon as possible after birth. The bull calves with the highest NTM are bought from the breeder and moved to a bull station in Denmark or Sweden. In figure 2 the Viking breeding plan is illustrated.
Embryo transfer (ET) is another key technology used in Vikings breeding programme. The cows and hefiers with the highest genetic potential in Denmark. Sweden and Finland are screened. The very best are offered one or more flushing contracts or the possibility to sell the animal to Vikings ET programme – VikingEmbryo.
Viking have collaborations with several countries, allowing them to screen for bull calves with high NTM. If there are any bulls of interest, they are bought by Viking and housed in that country. The bulls are put into production there, and the semen is shipped back to Denmark, Sweden and Finland, so Vikings members get the benefit of the good genetics that Viking locates in other countries.