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%

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