VikingRed is one of the fastest growing breeds for crossbreeding around the world. But why has it become the secret ingredient in successful crossbreeding today?
In this episode, you get to hear from dairy farmer Hayden Ferriman who recently added VikingRed to his herd in New Zealand. We're also joined by two breeding experts who will tell you more about VikingRed and how this breed can help you breed healthy, fertility and long-living cows.
Hayden Ferriman, dairy farmer, Three Leaf Farm, New Zealand
Jakob Lykke Voergaard, Senior Product Manager for VikingRed, VikingGenetics
Jim Bruce, Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, VikingGenetics
Louise Rønn Svane
More and more dairy farmers are adding VikingRed as the third breed to their cross-breeding program. In Australia and New Zealand, the Nordic Red Dairy Cattle has become one of the fastest growing breeds. In the US, the UK and other parts of the world. VikingRed is topping the charts, but what makes the Nordic Red Dairy Cattle so profitable and appealing? Why has it become the secret ingredient in successful crossbreeding? In today's episode, we'll hear from a dairy farmer, Hayden Ferriman, who recently added VikingRed to his herd in New Zealand. We also have product manager for VikingRed, Jakob Lykke Voergaard, join us at the studio alongside Jim Bruce, country manager for Australia and New Zealand. This is the BreedCast produced by VikingGenetics. I'm your host, Louise Roenn Svane. Hello and welcome, Jakob and Jim, and thank you for joining us today. Thank you very much for the possibility to be here. Yeah, thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you. So, Jakob is here at the studio. And Jim, you're calling in from the south east of Australia. So, Jakob, let's start with you. You're the product manager for VikingRed. What is happening with VikingRed around the world? Right now VikingRed have the home market in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland; the Nordic part of Europe. And there we have around 200,000 cows. It's declining a little bit in the home market as we see it now. One of the reasons is that in Denmark and Sweden, dairy farming has become more and more efficient and intensive. And when you have these barns with sand and robots, everything is fully automatic and a very high management of the herd, the Holsteins are doing fantastic. But if you look at other parts of the world, for example in the UK, where they're working a little bit more with the low cost that the cow has to take care of itself, handle itself, be trouble-free, easy-going. The Red is doing well and grow in those areas. And then especially in crossbreeding, where the Red is the secret ingrdient it's just adding the health into the crossbreeding program and make it a very profitable way of managing the breeding for a dairy farmer. And why are we seeing this change, this growth on the international market? We mainly see it because farmers around the world, they want profitability. They want easy cows. They need to be easier to manage. So, by starting crossbreeding, they get the easier calvings, they get better health. They get the same production so they get a trouble-free, easy-going cow and more time to optimize their business when crossing. And what are we looking at in terms of numbers on doses being exported to the export market, etc.? Around half of the doses we are selling are going for the export market. And if we are looking at the export market, roughly around 90% of the doses probably going into crossbreeding there. And if we're looking around the world, we are having US as one big market. And then New Zealand is a very big market for us. Over the last years, it has been growing from nearly nothing to one of our most important and one of the biggest markets we have today. And we see a very big excitement about VikingRed in that area of the world. And due to this exponential growth, that's actually one of the reasons why we invited you, Jim Bruce, to join us today. The VikingRed cow was increasing in popularity in the South Pacific. Why are we seeing that? Well, I think if we look at New Zealand in particular, we're starting in Australia. New Zealand is similar. We are dominated by the Holstein breed, about 80%. Maybe 10% of cows will be Jersey. And then in Australia, I know the numbers are about 5% of the total population are red cows. Similar in New Zealand, but we see New Zealand probably leading the way in crossbreeding and we are crossbreeding as well here quite a lot in Australia, and the red cow fits our climate really well and it became... It's of a significant size as a breed that there's enough material and enough selection pressure that we can really find dynamic genetics to include in our breeding program and particularly in those crossbreeding programs. And that's where a lot of the growth is in New Zealand. And what makes the VikingRed cow, particularly suited for the climate? Because it's quite different, being in Northern Europe compared to the South Pacific? That's a very good question. In our environment, we're more forage based, more grazing systems, both in Australia and New Zealand. The robustness of the red cow and her ability to walk suits our management system very well. They'd have to travel large distances on a daily basis from pasture to milking. And so, it's that robustness of the cow and maintaining high levels of production and fertility along at the same time. And later in the show, we will hear from a New Zealand farmer Hayden Ferriman, who we spoke to earlier this week. So we'll get to learn more about how he's started to include the VikingRed in his herd. Jakob, we do have a question from one of our listeners. This is from Ross in the UK and he wrote us on Facebook. He would like to know what are the qualities of VikingRed and what is its origin? VikingRed is not a breed. It is a breeding program and it's made by joined forces from RDM, the Danish Red Dairy Cattle in Denmark. SRB, the red breed in Sweden and then the Finnish Ayrshire in Finland. They joined close to 12 years ago into a joint breeding program and to work together. Before that, they also worked very much together bu then when they joined, they made the VikingRed breeding program. And when we are working with that, we are not looking where the cows or the bulls are from. We are going for the best genetics, for the best suitable profile for the farmers around the world. So we are not looking at the countries. We are looking at the best genetics. And the best genetic that is where the red is very strong. They are healthy, trouble free, easy-going cows with a high percentage of solids in the milk that make them suitable, especially for the grazing system where they do it very well. And Jakob, how did you end up working with the VikingRed cow? I grew up on a dairy farm. It was a Holstein farm and I very early went into breeding. I was 10 or 12 years old. I took over the breeding on our farm, talking with the breeding advisors. It took a little bit time for the breeding advisor to accept that it was a 12-year old child, he was discussing with and not a grown up farmer. When I went to university, I quickly figured out that it was breeding that I wanted to work with. And then I became a breeding advisor and I had never worked with the red cows. I had worked with the Holsteins, but half of the herds were red and half of them were Holstein. And then I really figured out the benefit of the red cow. I very much like the philosophy that you're making a cow that is self-going. It's taking care of itself. You make a cow that cuts down the costs. You're working on the animal welfare to make it more healthy animals to get more time for yourself. And then, of course, you still have good production, not a top production, but in the economy, it's the same as the other breeds. You just get it in a different way, lower cost, and then also a bit of a lower production.And the most important thing:
lower input for the farmer so you have more time with the cows, hopefully, or to optimize your business depending of what you would like to do. Depending on the priorities. Jim, there is a tradition in Australia and in New Zealand. It's not new to cross. In fact it's been going on for years and decades, especially between Holstein and Jersey. From your perspective, why even add a third breed? Why are farmers doing that down under? I think there's a couple of reasons for that, and the first and foremost is all cross-breeding research will show you that the heterosis is improved with the addition of a third genotype coming into the program. But why VikingRed is the third genotype is new. You try to combine complementary strengths from each of the genotypes that you bring into a crossbreeding program. And it is that robustness, the strong production in these crossbreeding programs. We will look to Holstein for production, we look to the Reds to bolster fertility, to bolster efficiency, and as Jakob has said, they walk, they handle grazing systems very, very well. These are things that they do better than the other breeds that are in those crossbreeding programs. So it gets the breeder the opportunity to combine the best of many worlds. And actually, earlier this week, we spoke with Hayden Ferriman. He's a dairy farmer on the South Island of New Zealand. He milks 700 cows. And he used to do a cross between Holstein and Jersey, a more traditional two-way cross. And about three years ago, he added VikingRed to his herd. Let's hear what Hayden has to say about VikingRed. So I came across VikingRed when I was actually in Denmark working - my wife Line is from Skive. And so I spent a couple of years living and farming in Denmark near Silkeborg and Kjellerup. And yeah, it was farming Friesians, but I had the opportunity to visit some VikingRed herds and also some VikingJersey herds. So the main traits that really caught my attention was the VikingRed breed in particular. It was just the overall health traits. From what I was told by the farmers that were running those cows was that they were very fertile animals, had great feet and legs, which is very important for us here in New Zealand with our cows doing a lot of walking, but also very good in terms of somatic cell count and mastitis, which is also important to us. The other parts, just the ease of management of the VikingRed in terms of their adaptability to milk and overall temperament. So yeah, they basically ticked all of the boxes that I was looking for really. So we're currently calving our first VikingRed bred heifers, as we speak. And so that's really exciting. We're seeing the fruits of our work that we've put in over the last few seasons. And yeah, it is very early days, but we're really pleased with the results that we're seeing so far. The VikingRed first cross heifers are calving down nice and easily and coming into their milk really well with very little issues in regards to mastitis or calving difficulty. And one thing that's really impressed me and also my staff has been their adaptability to the milking. When we milk a herd of 700 cows through a 60-cow carousel rotary dairy shed. And so there's a little bit of learning that has to go on for the cows in terms of how they enter and exit the shed at the milking routine. And the Viking girls have taken to it like all old pros. So they're a real pleasure to deal with. Of our 700-cow herd we chose just to inseminate our pure Friesian cows with the VikingRed semen. So we've ended up with about 80 first cross New Zealand Friesian x VikingRed heifers calving this year and that is the intention with our breeding plan is to carry on with that. So any straight Friesian animals will be bred to the VikingRed bulls and then the resulting offspring will then be mated to the VikingJersey bulls as well to continue on the three-way cross. And thanks to Hayden for coming on the show. And to our listeners out there, if you want to learn more about crossbreeding, there's a separate podcast on that actually featuring you as well, Jakob, one of our BreedCast episodes where we focus particularly on crossbreeding. Thanks for joining the BreedCast today. We've looked at why the VikingRed cow has become so popular around the world, and we've heard from dairy farmer Hayden Ferriman in New Zealand on how the breed has added value as a third breed in his crossbreeding program. If you'd like to learn more, please visit the VikingRed page on our website. I want to thank our guests, Jakob Lykke Voergaard and Jim Bruce for sharing your knowledge and insights with us. And thank you everyone out there for listening. If you have an idea or a topic in mind, you'd like us to focus on in the BreedCast, please visit www.BreedCast.com or reach out to us via the Facebook page like Ross from the UK did. We'd always love to hear from you? My name is Louise Roenn Svane. Please join me for the next BreedCast episode on the latest trends in sustainable cattle breeding.