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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finnish livestock barns

Our last machinery lecture from Juhani reviewed the different types of livestock barns along with the technology used in each of them.   Juhani included in this discussion the importance of structural design, proper nutrition and feed amounts, hygiene, manure management and how barn size influences organization.  After working on our various farms we had a better understanding of the different parts of livestock management allowing us to draw on experience, share a little with the class and relate to the lecture material.

Juhani started with the most common type of barn in Finland; the dairy cow house.  Cows, heifers, calves and bulls may be kept in tied or free stalls.  Depending on the number of animals there might be small bucket pumps on small, less developed farms, milking parlors on medium to large farms or automatic milking robots on large, high production farms.  Automatic milking robots were developed in the Netherlands in 1992 and came to Finland 10 years later.  They have become more popular in places like Finland where skilled parlor workers are in short supply.  Silage, hay and straw feed may be delivered manually, by feed cars on a suspended rail, feed wagon dispensers or delivered to troughs with a small tractor. Manure may be moved by a hydraulic scraper, small scraping robots or by hand. Like most other types of livestock, manure is stored in a separate location for use on the crop fields.

Piggeries have separate areas for boars, piglets, dry sows and farrowing sows.  The feed is different for these simple stomached animals, which are used for meat instead of dairy production, but feed delivery is similar to cow house systems.  Ventilation in pig houses is more closely managed because piglets can get cold in the winter. Manure is scraped from the floors onto a hydraulic rail that takes it to the storage area (‘Dung Hill’ is the technical term).

There are not as many poultry houses in Finland as other types of livestock but it is still an important part of meat production.  Chain feeders and water lines run into barns while conveyer belts take droppings to manure storage. In January 2012, the EU outlawed caged chicken production and 250 Finnish hen houses had to shut down because they couldn’t afford to change to the new system. Only 300-350 houses remain and they received some government funding to help convert their barns.  This year during Easter there was a shortage of eggs in Finland due to the new legislation.  This reminded the California students of Prop 2, passed in 2008, which required veal calves, pregnant pigs and egg laying hens have enough room to sit, stand, extend their limbs and turn around in their cages. This is nothing compared to switching cage barns to free roaming enclosures with separate nesting, feeding and water areas. After Prop 2 passed in California many farms moved to other states and we now import more eggs from Mexico.

Animal welfare and hygiene in food production are highly valued in Finland. Blueprints for animal houses are submitted for approval by the Ministry of Agriculture before they can be built.  Rural Affairs offices in region capitals monitor environmental laws based on plans and production data sent in by the farmer. It’s interesting to me that there is no physical monitoring of livestock raising processes but there doesn’t seem to be the need for that in Finland. Juhani explained that most people follow laws adamantly and the costly consequences of violating production laws keep farmers within the boundaries. Punishment by fines or losing governmental subsidy could be enough to put a farm out of business. If the violation were so severe that the producer cannot sell their products the result would be devastating to the farm’s economic condition as well as its reputation, which means a lot in Finland where most goods can be tracked to their origin.  Finnish farmers take pride in the quality of their products as well as the process of making it. They value the well being of their animals alongside the health and satisfaction of their customers.   This is something we have seen on our family farms, the Valio factory, the school farm, even the fur farm we toured.

My time studying agriculture in Finland has made me think differently about the ongoing battle between farmers and activists.  Juhani was joking that ‘green people’ watch Donald Duck and Yogi Bear and think that animals talk and have feelings the way people do. They just eat vegetables and think we don’t need milk or meat though they drive their cars, use their cell phones and wear clothes that may have been produced in foreign countries at a cheap price but in poor labor conditions. Finland puts people first but animal welfare is important, too.  One of the main reasons Finns prefer to use domestic products in that they know they were produced the right way.  

Feed storage silo at the Ilmajoki campus

Milking robot at the Marttila farm

Manual manure removal

Free stall barn on the Marttila farm
(In the middle aisle you can see the poop-scraping robot making its rounds)

The Marttila's automatic milking robots

Herring-bone milking parlor at Kure Mõis-tila

Hydraulic manure scraper moving slowly along as the cows eat at the Tartu University Research Farm 

Difficult to see but there is a car on a rail delivering feed to cows below us
 at the Tartu University Research Farm

1 comment:

  1. Pole barns are usually barns made from taken care of rods which are moored into the floor along with concrete plus occasionally stones. Planks plus steel bring the particular edges in addition to anchoring screws to install the particular steel. This is a convenient method to build a barn and it is economical since you figure out what you need in the barn. You could have an easy barn or even one which includes bvnvbn and porches. American barns