Historical breeding program
Until February 2016, the Norwegian Red breeding program was based on progeny testing of sires. Since then genomic selection has been implemented in the current breeding scheme.
Geno had an early focus on health and fertility traits. In 1971, the first Norwegian Red bulls were tested for fertility traits (of sires and of daughters of sires), and in 1978 health traits were included in the total merit index (TMI). Although these are low heritability traits, progeny testing based on a high number of daughters on a long-term basis provides high accuracy of selection for these important traits.
Every year 145 Norwegian Red bull calves from elite sires and dams were selected for performance testing. Approximately 115 of these bull calves were further selected as test sires and progeny tested based on 140-350 daughters each. Of these, 12-16 were selected as elite sires based on their TMI and average relationship with the population (to minimize inbreeding). In the progeny testing scheme 40% of the cows were bred by test sires and 60% of the cows were bred by elite sires.
Genetic evaluation of Norwegian Red sires was based on large progeny groups for each sire. To obtain reliable breeding values for traits with low heritability, such as health and fertility traits, large progeny groups were necessary.
The progeny test of Norwegian Red sires included genetic evaluation of 40 different traits. Breeding values for traits in the breeding objective were given weights in order to calculate a TMI which was used for sire selection.
All data used for genetic evaluation historically and presently comes from the Norwegian Dairy Herd Recording System, where all information, including health records and insemination reports, are stored in one national database.
All cows in Norway have individual health cards where information on all veterinary treatments is recorded. The health card system is an integrated part of the milk recording system and this information from the daughters was used in genetic evaluation of sires. The information from the health cards are now utilized in our genomic selection scheme.
Norwegian Red dairy cows
More than 90% of the dairy cows in Norway are Norwegian Reds. The population consists of approximately 200,000 cows of which 99% participate in the Norwegian Dairy Herd Recording System.
All herds participating in the Norwegian Dairy Herd Recording System are active in the breeding program and the best cows in these herds are elite cows and potential bull dams.
About 90% of calves born in Norway are sired by Norwegian Red AI (artificial insemination) sires.
Tailored breeding plans
Technicians and veterinarians are trained and contracted to Geno to provide insemination and fertility services to farmers throughout Norway. Each herd is incorporated into Geno's breeding program and tailored breeding plans are set up by certified advisors. Farmers in turn report data on production, fertility and health traits to Geno through the Norwegian Dairy Herd Recording System.