It is very difficult for us to know how and where Brazilian farmers grow their beef cattle. In terms of Finnish meat production, on the other hand, we know everything there is to know, particularly the origin. In this article, we'll answer a couple of simple questions regarding Finland
Pekka and Elina Puputti's farm in Lapua, Western Finland, consists of a 150 head heard of Simmental beef cattle. Each calf, cow and bull has been given a name, as the children of the family, Tuulia and Juho, like to give names.
Feed production is in full swing in June and, while working in the fields, Pekka will only step down from his tractor if someone stands directly in his way. As the harvest is expected to be much better than the summer before last, this farmer can afford to smile with satisfaction. Grass is really growing here in Finland.
A total of eleven different breeds of beef cattle are raised in Finland. The most common breeds are Simmental from Switzerland, Aberdeen Angus from Scotland, Hereford from England and Limousin from France.
Beef has an international history. It is also a long history – a few thousand years.
However, we are now witnessing climatic changes and it is quite easy to find the culprits: in social media, television, internet, radio – everywhere.
– It feels bad particularly as we really do know how and where cattle are reared for meat, Pekka Puputti scoffs in disbelief and looks up at the clouds.
– Last summer, during one of the worst heat waves of the century, we were building a new slurry pit and fixing metal panelling on the wall while listening to reports about climate change on the radio. I asked a friend, in jest, to take a look at our cows over in the field where they are breaking so much wind that you can see the steam rising. At the same time, four large aeroplanes let their exhaust fumes into the sky. Perhaps they had their reasons to fly, Puputti ponders and looks at the bale of fodder that has just popped out of the baler.
He examines the bale density with satisfaction.
– This is pure grass without any additives. When baling is carried out in a timely manner, the cattle will be content throughout the year. There is plenty of grass here, elsewhere not so much.
In March, guests arrived all the way from China to marvel at the fresh smell of feed over here. They wondered why our cattle do not eat any soy. It does not need to.
Natural cycle, as it is on our farm
The Puputti farm is all about natural causes and consequences. The cows on the farm only eat grass with a little bit of grain and mineral supplements. Only a ruminant can eat grass. We could have up to three crops of grass. Grass needs a lot of water, but that's something we also have.
– The cause and consequence of everything on a farm is a healthy animal. Animals are born and reared here. Calving starts in March. Calves are born up to midsummer. In early June, the animals are turned out to pasture. When autumn comes or grass runs out in the field, the animals are brought indoors and calves are weaned, says Puputti.
Every morning shortly after five, bedding is cleaned or changed, animals are fed and their condition is checked. At the Puputti farm the same routine is carried out at night. We need to know our cattle as individuals, says Elina Puputti.
– We have to be very meticulous about our work, Pekka Puputti admits. – We make sure that the animals are able to interact in their group on an equal footing depending on their age and size. In other words, we try to avoid a situation where an animal would prevent another one's access to feed or water. We feel we are helping nature. Finnish farms ‘go the extra mile’, i.e., we do much more than we are obliged to do, says Pekka.
Being let out to pasture is a great moment
Letting cows out to pasture is like releasing a torrent of stories.
– The older dams can sense beforehand that summer has arrived. They begin to moo when the big moment approaches. They run with their tail up along the pasture boundaries with their calves in tow. It's as if the older cows were teaching their calves, says Elina.
The animals recognise their owners. Pekka just needs to give a little whistle.
– In autumn, pastures offer less food and, naturally, we provide additional feed. Just a little whistle at the edge of the pasture is needed. They know the cause and consequence, says Pekka.
Elina remembers well the autumn when the herd had escaped into the woods through a gap in the fence.
– Pekka started whistling at the edge of the empty field. Soon we could hear a thundering of hooves from the woods when the whole herd, led by the bull, thudded to where Pekka was waiting. A beautiful story and one that is important to us.
As soon as the yield of the natural pasture begins to decline, we must start using additional feed – so that no-one gets the urge to wonder out into the woods.
Text: Miika Kaukinen
Photos: Roope Reinola