There are many pivotal moments on the way to cattle breeding success. Niels Erik Haahr is clear about his personal ones, “I was born with the virus to be a breeder.” His father was interested in horse breeding and cattle breeding but the next big impetus came when Niels Erik was thirteen. “I invested in my first Holstein calf and she was successful.” There is no inoculation that can cure that fever but it burned even hotter after Niels Erik visited Glen and Vanda McNeil when he was 18. “I went to Heather Holme farm in Canada and, from that moment, it was clear in my mind that my mission was to create a top Holstein herd.” (Read more: Glen McNeil: Communication, Common Sense and Respect for the Speed Bumps Delivers Holstein Leadership)
It Isn’t Lonely for Anderstrup at the Top
Located in Denmark, Niels Erik Haahr of Anderstrup Holsteins in some respects has a somewhat unique dairy resume. “Today I farm together with my brother. We have an operation of 300 milking cows, 500 heifers, and 100 bulls. We milk 3 X. The herd average is 14,350 Kg 3.7 % F 3.3 P somatic cell last 12 months 103,000.” So having noticed the 100 bulls, the details on this herd continue to catch our attention. “The average score is VG 86.5.” The logistics are also interesting. “We handle 350 hectares of land with grass and corn. We make 175-200 ET calves every year.” For this dairy breeder, the main market is Scandinavia (NTM), Germany (RZG), and Holland (NVI). But the outstanding piece of information is that this single herd has produced four of the top 10 bulls on their AI list. And an outstanding further addition is that “In the last 12 months 32 bulls from Anderstrup Holstien have been accepted into A.I.!”
Anderstrup Aims High
Not everybody can build such a resounding success story. Niels Erik gives credit to his parents influence. “My mother and father always taught us that if you work hard and you have a little bit of talent, in the end you will succeed at whatever you are working with. To make good results in breeding you need to be hard working the year around. With the genomic world you need to try to be up front every day to make the next high one. If you slow a little bit down you can very fast be out of the game of selling bulls to Al.”
What Makes the Difference?
The Bullvine always encourages breeders to pinpoint the differences. Niels Erik starts with obvious national ones. “I think the difference is getting smaller and smaller – but no doubt our cost per kg of milk produced is higher in Denmark than in the US. We have more debt per cow because of high prices of buying land and quota for the production and the salary level – for staff- is also higher than in the US.”
Those would appear to be hurdles rather than easy steps. Haahr continues. “My passion has always been to breed great cows. When I was young I did focus mostly on breeding great show cows – but with the years it changed. Now I go for total breeding with high production, with good secondary traits combined with great type. But we still want to make some top show cows so we have a small part of the herd that is bred to top type bulls. So today the herd is split in 3 groups 1 – Cows/heifers with high genomic potential 2 Type cattle 3 Recipients”
Carine Means Success — Pure and Simple
Of course, the Anderstrup method is working well. “My best home bred is Anderstrup Didrik Carine EX 92. She managed to be a show cow together with making 365 D 18,255 kg 4.5 F 3.5 P in her 2 lactations. In her 2nd lactation, she was flushed to Man O Man. The result was the number 1 bull in Scandinavia Viking Mandel and the Number 1 cow in Scandinavia Anderstrup Man O Man Carine VG 89 2 Y. This Man O Man is also testing well in the US with a gTPI of 2292. She is the dam of number 1 and 2 Bookem and the number 1 and 2 Levi in Europe.” Those are astounding benchmarks to be set by a single herd.
At the Top with Anderstrup
The success story continues to build. Anderstrup is working with several high cows and heifers including
- Anderstrup Man O Man Carine and daughters by Bookem, Levi and Massey
- Anderstrup Snowman Heaven (Snowman x Boliver VG 87) is the Number 1 gTPI Snowman in Europe and the highest RZG heifer in Germany at 159. At the moment there are 25 pregnancies coming from her.
- Tirsvad Big Time Noma (Big Time x VG 87 Stol Joc x VG 87 Oman, owned with Tirsvad Holsteins). She is the dam of Tir An Uno Nyala gTPI 2525 RZG 155. She sold in the Eurogenes summer sale at 84.000 Euro. Noma is also the dam of several heifers above gTPI 2400 and over 150 in RZG. Her 2 Lexor sons are numbers 2 and 3 of all European bulls tested in Germany both at RZG 161. Noma has 2 full sisters and in total there are 25 heifers from the 3 sisters. One of them is the number 1 heifer in Scandinavia sired by the German bull Maximum. Niels Erik reports that the 3 sisters will soon be fresh and they look promising.
- Anderstrup G-Force Malin (G Force x VG 89 Bismark x VG 87 Baxter) is the number 2 heifer in Denmark and the number 5 in Germany at RZG 158.
- Calbrett Supersire Barb RC (Supersire x Rainyridge Super Beth VG 86 x Talent Barbara EX 95) gTPI 2527. Number 1 gTPI RC in the world. She is owned with Diamond Genetics and Drakkar Holsteins. Recently topped the Cormdale Summer Sale at $265,000. (Read more: Cormdale Summer Sale 2013 Results)
Investing in the Top End is The Key to Exceptional Dairy Breeding.
Niels Erik says: “Invest in the genetics from the top end.” Currently at Anderstrup they are using the following bulls:
Genomic : Mandel (DK), Miracle (DK), Boss (DE), Big Point (DE), Balisto (US), P.Aiko (Tjekk), Seargeant (US), Shottglass (US), Aikman (US),Model (US), Predstine (US), Chevrolet (NL), Picanto (DE)
Type: Gold Sun (US), Goldwyn (CA), Attwood (US), Bradnick (US), Fever (CA), Lauthority (CA), and Meridian (US).
Anderstrup Gets Genomics and Gets the Calls!
Once again, we learn how important it is to get name recognition. ““We do a little bit of advertising in different magazines. We try to get our best cows’ pictured so we have them ready for the catalog and future Ads but the only thing that really works is to have your cattle high on the genomic list. That is what makes people start calling.” He goes on to describe why genomics is a big part of the Anderstrup program. “For us genomics has been great. It has been a big challenge to get the Al to travel the long way to come to Denmark. With the genomic test it makes it so much easier to catch the attention of customers around the world. It has not changed the dairies in Denmark but we have picked up genetic speed. Hopefully the results will mean there are more profitable cows for the commercial farmers.”
Where Do you Go When You’re Already at the Top?
Having already inputted an amazing 40% of the top 10 bulls on the Scandinavian AI list, you might assume that Erik Niels would have rested on his laurels for awhile. You would be wrong to do so! This committed dairy over-achiever still had very definite targets that he aimed for and achieved. He shares them. “In the Index world to breed the number 1 bull, Mandel (Man-O-Man), and 2 bull, Miracle (Miracle) in Scandinavia and the number 1 and 2 female in the same year 2013.” The herd has 6 females in the top 10 females in Scandinavia. He already had set his sights on the show world and was the Premier Breeder and Exhibitor for the last 8 National shows they have been at in Denmark. And the icing on the dairy breeding cake for this gentleman who started judging at 16 came when he judged the European Red and White Show in 2013. No doubt with such focus even more aspirations will become achievements.
Don’t Overlook the Challenges
With such commitment and enthusiasm also comes an awareness of the challenges. Niels Erik confirms his concerns. “I am nervous that the Al companies only focus on making the next top bull and forget our bigger and bigger inbreeding problem in the Holstein breed, we are all focused on making the new leader – and in that battle we all forget to make enough outcross combinations because that what the breed really needs. I am also nervous that in the future the laboratory breeding will more or less take over the influence that breeders have today. If we see what has happened in the last 5 years in the labs I am really concerned that in the future it is more important that Al companies work with the best labs and then they work with the best breeders”.
Better Management = Better Performance. Better information = Better Decisions.
For those who can only dream about such a high level of achievement, Niels Erik has clear advice. “Start with putting your management of the herd at the highest level. Visit top farms. Get inspired and try to copy all the things that can bring your herd to a top management herd. If you have a top management herd, the chances for success in breeding are much higher.” Along with high management levels, Haahr feels that there has to be equally high information. “Be updated at all times about what is going on in the breeding world. Ask leaders in the breeding world that you trust to advise you. You need to be a 100 % updated to be up front.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line – Dairy Passion: Catch it. Breed It. Live it.
“Work hard and be focused on what your goal is.” Niels Erik Haahr knows that actually doing that can sometimes be easier said than done. He encourages dairy breeders. “Don’t lose your focus if the results are not coming. We are working with spreading of Mendel in the genetic world so you also need luck – but – in the end, you will succeed if you keep your focus on your goals and work hard to reach them” Good advice from someone who caught the dairy passion and lives it at the highest level.