Trade talk: Kyle Henry – Norwegian Red in UK

Time to read: ca 8 min

Norwegian Red continues to show strong demand and maintain resilience growth in its key markets such as the UK, thanks to the longtime partnership with Genus ABS.

Photo of Norwegian Red sire 12197 Haflingerhoff.
Top genomic Norwegian Red sire 12197 NR Haflingerhoff is now available to UK dairy farmers, both conventional and RedX. Photo: Jan Arve Kristiansen

As the markets remain volatile, the dairy industry across the world continues to face headwinds from different directions, from the unprecedented situation with skyrocketing production costs to the market demand for more sustainable products and business practices.

Norwegian Red continues to show strong demand and maintain resilience growth in its key markets such as the UK, thanks to our longtime partnership with Genus ABS. While setting our sights together on product and service excellence, tackling the demands of today’s competitive market remains vital.

We talked to Kyle Henry, Dairy Product Specialist for Genus ABS UK, to learn about his impelling strategies to maintain customer satisfaction and ensure steady growth when supplying the Norwegian Red genetics to the market.

Photo of Kyle Henry
Kyle Henry, Dairy Product Specialist for Genus ABS UK. Photo: Private

About Kyle Henry

Kyle Henry has been working for Genus ABS for almost 6 years. He previously worked for over 10 years as a herd manager on an intensely managed pedigree Holstein herd in Northern Ireland. "My current role at Genus ABS is Dairy product Specialist which has allowed me to expand my knowledge of the dairy industry, understanding that we can use other breeds to complement each other to increase profitability and make farms more sustainable when margins are getting tighter year upon year. I’ve traveled to North America, all over Europe and Australasia, and have witnessed firsthand how dairy systems are adapted to their environment and how breeding plans are created to suit the farming system and support a lifestyle and family circumstances."

How the Norwegian Red fit in Genus ABS strategy

UK dairy farming systems are incredibly diverse in their nature and are a variation of many high and low-input systems. Historically crossbreeding has played a pivotal role in the UK dairy industry. For instance, Holsteins were used primarily to cross on native dairy breeds, which have formed the foundation for many of our herds today. Dairy farmers want "Invisible cows" which are animals that are extremely productive, medium-sized, long-lasting, and fertile.

Kyle Henry believes Norwegian Red genetics fit this business model concept perfectly. Whether your objective is to maintain or increase yields, reduce stature, increase components or improve over health and fertility of the herd Norwegian Red is one of the most versatile breeds. Complementarity is key, combining the breeds that will produce the animal best suited to your system. "At Genus ABS we provide the industry’s most diverse range of Norwegian Red sires in our crossbreeding portfolio, under the umbrella of our HYVIG brand. We want to be able to provide the right genetic solutions for our customers!"

Dairy farmers want “Invisible cows” which are animals that are extremely productive, medium sized, long lasting, and fertile. Norwegian red genetics fit this business model concept perfectly.

Why UK farmers select NR in their breeding strategy 

"Sometimes it’s a question of asking customers where they see themselves in five years, what they want to change, and how we as a company can get them there. Retailers are pressed on issues like sustainability, health, and welfare, and our customers are having to adapt to these changes within the industry."

Functionality is key to driving efficiency. An increasing number of customers are turning to Norwegian Red genetics to improve the overall herd profitability of their businesses. Beyond profitability, He has witnessed first-hand customers that have improved their lifestyle habits as a result of using Norwegian Red genetics in their crossbreeding portfolio. Customers who have switched from all year-round systems to block calving systems using Norwegian Red genetics, have freed up extra time to spend with family. Also, the improvement in health has contributed to lower vet costs, cows that get back in calf easily and are easy care "invisible" cows.

The most important "selling points" of Norwegian Red in the UK market

Norwegian Reds typically have superior health to other breeds. Norwegian red sires are well regarded for having superior health, but it’s an extremely diverse population of genetics backed up by accurate data sets providing customers with the confidence to use NR genetics in their breeding plans.

More recently there has been an increased emphasis on milk quality in the UK national herd. On average, fat and protein content is higher for Norwegian Red than that of a Holstein. Norwegian Reds are also producing higher yields of milk solids over their lifetime.

Kyle Henry has yet to meet a farmer who wants bigger cows. In his perspective, Norwegian red sires will reduce stature and be functional, ideal for customers looking to improve efficiency! Coupled with superb udder health & daughter fertility, to his previous points, fewer vets’ visits and reduced antibiotic uses have a plethora of benefits for the farmer.

A focused strategy for Sexed and "Beef on Dairy"

Kyle Henry explained that their "Winning game plan" strategy, focusing on Sexcel and Beef in focus sires, has contributed massively to 70.5% of UK dairy semen sales now being sold as sexed genetics. "We are delighted to be able to offer Norwegian red sires in REDX™-semen, which uses the same technology as Sexcel. This provides our customers with a great opportunity to increase profitability by using REDX™ on the best and beef on the rest. Results with REDX™ have been exceptional and recent data has shown that REDX™ has a 93% relative conception rate (98% RCR on maiden heifers) when compared to conventional semen!", he added.

Results with REDX™ have been exceptional and recent data has shown that REDX™ has a 93% relative conception rate (98% RCR on maiden heifers) when compared to conventional semen!

Norwegian Reds have another string to their bow, as the value of the beef calf is improved when out of Norwegian Red crossbred cows. Through high-quality, proven Beef InFocus™ sires, farmers can capitalize on the additional "13th milk cheque" when using an entire REDX™ & Beef InFocus™ strategy, increasing farm profitability and adding to overall farm efficiency.

The dairy industry and consumers are demanding more sustainable operations with also less impact on the environment. Tell us how can dairy farmers benefit from genetics to cope with these challenges.

Benefits from genetics to cope with demands for more sustainable operations

Dairy farming is a long-term business with long-term investments passing from one generation to the next. To future-proof their businesses, farmers are looking for alternative ways to produce milk efficiently. Let’s be honest crossbreeding is nothing new it has been adapted by virtually all commercial sectors within agriculture to great success. There are huge opportunities to tap into the genetic diversity that is on offer, producing "more from less".

Norwegian Red genetics have the ability to create productive, fertile, and long-life cows that can reduce carbon emissions. Chances are if a customer is already thinking of crossbreeding it is the right option for them. Taking good advice is critical at this stage “It's important to have a plan!”

The best thing about working as a Dairy Product Specialist for Genus ABS

Kyle Henry believes that to be successful in any industry firstly you need a passion for what you do and a keen willingness to learn. He continues that seeing customers increase their profitability with breeding decisions that he has contributed to is extremely satisfying. "Adapting to new trends and providing support for the UK sales team keeps my finger on the pulse and broadens my depth of knowledge. My role provides me with unique challenges on a daily basis and I wouldn’t change it for anything!”