Clear breeding strategy - the key to managing market fluctuations 

By Mikko Säynäjärvi, FABA
 
Nina and Hannu Hokkanen have adapted to the lower milk prices. They don’t use external labour anymore and have minimised machinery and other investments. Their efforts in the breeding plan have been the secret behind their high-yielding herd’s daily life.
The Hokkanens are the sole carers of the farm. Four years ago, Nina, 45, worked as a paediatrician, but the fall in milk prices led to a career change. “Our employees were leaving at that time, so the timing for Nina's full-time employment at the farm was just right," Hannu says.

Hannu, 50, has been a member of dairy company advisory boards for 20 years and became a member in the Valio Supervisory Board in April 2018.
Breeding specialist Helena Korkee has worked with the Hokkanen family for many years. Previously, Hannu was more involved in breeding planning, but now Nina has taken over the responsibility. “Helena does the planning, but with some input from me. All in all, improving the milk solids, health, and udder conformation are clear goals for us,” says Nina.

The herd has been involved in the GenVik project for a long time. “Genomic testing of females is a great tool. We’ve been able to achieve rapid genomic progress with it,” says Nina. As evidence of this achievement, Nina shows print outs of genetic progress in the herd.

Embryos and inseminations

The Hokkanen farm uses professionals for AI services. Seminologists take care of all inseminations. The share of beef semen has gradually increased to 25%, and the mainly use conventional and sexed Blonde semen. 

They have had good experience with embryo flushing and embryo transfers. Nina and Hannu sold a heifer called Nelli gNTM +35 (VH Liftoff x Lastyear) to VikingGenetics’ VikingEmbryo programme. Nelli was the best Holstein female in 2017 in Finland. Unfortunately, her embryo transfers didn’t result in any calves for the Hokkanen home herd.

Luckily, other farms who acquired embryos from Nelli had a better luck. Nelli has daughters in other herds and there was a bull calf born too, VH Pikachu, gNTM ​​+31.
Even though there was no luck with Nelli’s embryos, the Hokkanen farm continues with VikingEmbryo embryo flushing on their own farm. In December, they flushed two VikingHolstein heifers and got 15 viable embryos from those. 

Hannu and Nina have also bought a lot of embryos. “With embryos you can’t be too sure how it will work out, but at least for us it has worked really well,” Nina says. They have had some really good replacements born out of embryo transfers such as a heifer called Pööna gNTM +26 (VH Nordman x VH Bolus).

Communal machinery

The situation is currently quite stable. Production levels have risen after a difficult summer and autumn, due to extreme weather conditions in the Nordic countries. Thanks to the farm’s large fields, they have been able to produce feed for sale purposes too. Investments in machinery are not urgent at the moment. “We have a lot of communal machinery with our neighbours,” Nina says.

In addition to common custody of farming equipment, the farming neighbours do a lot activities together. “We have a really nice group and we travel together in Finland and abroad,” says Nina. Advisory board duties take up a lot of Hannu’s time, but he always makes time to go hunting with their two sons and their dog Sulo. 

Farm facts:

Location: Ala-Rantala, Kangasniemi, Finland

Family: Hannu and Nina Hokkanen and sons Tuomas 15 and Juho 14

Built in 2001 and free stall barn renovated and heifer barn built in 2012

Herd: 60 milking (40 VikingHolstein and 20 VikingRed)

Production: 12,000 kg ECM

Are a part of the GenVik project (VikingGenetics supported genomic test of females)

Acreage: 136 ha, (half grass and half grain)

Forest: 45 ha

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