VikingHolstein - Master of Udder Health 

By Claus Langdahl, Senior Breeding and Product Manager, VikingGenetics

VikingGenetics has more focus on improving udder health than any other company in the world and is the leader when it comes genetic level for udder health.
Mastitis causes direct financial losses to dairy farmers no matter where in the world you farm. It reduces milk yield, the milk can be contaminated with antibiotics and unable to be sold, plus associated veterinary and antibiotic labour costs, a higher culling rate and occasional fatalities. To avoid extra charges on dairy farms, prevention of mastitis infection is the best approach. By breeding for higher Nordic Total Merit (NTM), you automatically get fewer mastitis cases in your herd. The Udder health index has the third highest economic weighting in NTM; only production and fertility have a higher weighting. 

In the Nordic countries, we use both the direct measure, Mastitis, and the indirect measure, SCC, where the latter is only an indicator of mastitis. Mastitis registrations come from veterinary and farmer records on clinical mastitis. In other countries where Holsteins are more dominant, mastitis cases are usually, and if they are only by farmers, not veterinarians.

Choosing the right bull has a significant effect. In table 1, you can see the number of daughters with mastitis in relation to the bulls index for mastitis resistance.

Table 1: Effect of bulls with different breeding values on an average daughter 

 Breeding value 80 90 100 110120 
 Mastitis %  17.4 14.7 12 9.3 6.6

Sustainable genetic improvement


From 2002 to 2012, the Nordic countries have improved udder health by 13.5 index units. These results mean 3,5 in a 100 cow herd. 

The graph below shows the genetic level of major Holstein populations. VikingGenetics is on average four units higher in udder health than the second best and almost ten units better on average than many of the major European countries.

Figure: Genetic trend Mastitis in most significant in Holstein populations. 
Source: Interbull data 2018 on proven bulls

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