The birch trees that have given Björkback farm its name sway in the wind next to a red farmhouse and production buildings. The fields spreading around the farm provide the food for the farm's pigs.
The owner of the farm, Tomas Långgård, meets us on the yard. We are also joined by the two eldest sons of the house, Jens and Andreas, the future successors of the farm.
The pigs at Björkback arrive at the piggery when 10 weeks old and are raised at the farm for around three months before moving on in the production chain. For the past few years all of the farm's pigs have come from Westfarm sow barn where Tomas is a shareholder along with three other producers.
"The quality of the pigs to be raised has improved since we started getting our pigs from Westfarm. They are healthier, and we know their background exactly," Tomas says.
It is important that the piglets arriving at the farm are in good health and that no infectious diseases get to the farm through any other means, either. This way there is no need to medicate the animals, and consumers get clean, antibiotic-free meat. A veterinarian visits the farm every other month to control the health conditions of the animals. At other times any necessary treatments are taken care of by Tomas.
As we enter the piggery, the pigs become alert as soon as the door is opened. The pigs are used to their owner, and Tomas walking the corridor between the pens merely piques their curiosity. However, seeing us causes at first quite the oinking and running away. Luckily, soon their wet snouts are already poking us excitedly.
"Pigs are by nature very intelligent and attentive. They also have a strong group hierarchy," Tomas explains while giving his pigs a scratch.
According to Tomas, the most important factors for the well-being of the pigs are conditions, feed and care. The piggery needs to have a temperature that suits the pigs as well as adequate ventilation but no draft. The biggest challenges are caused during long summer hot spells.
The feed is based on the crops grown on the Långgårds' own farm. Finnish crops already have a naturally high protein content, and they are supplemented by liquid barley protein and feed from Atria's own feed plant A-Rehu.
The mix and distribution of the feed is carried out automatically four times a day. The pigs have constant access to fresh Finnish water. Tomas monitors at least two of the pigs' meal times a day. As the feed automats start, the pigs all rush to their feeding trough. There is enough space for everyone to eat at the same time.
Good care includes interaction between the owner and the animals as well as monitoring the animals' health. Although the animals only spend a few months on the farm, it is enough for their owner to learn to know them and their personality.
Each pen contains only 12 pigs at a time, allowing for enough space to move around and take a rest. The generous space of the pens prevents stress, helping the animals to get along well and not, for instance, bite each other's tails.
"It is also very important to care for the producer's wellbeing. If the carer of the animals is unwell, so is the care of the animals," Tomas says.