200 super-cows mooing in Finland’s cowsheds
Taivalkoski cow "Kulkuri" has produced 100,000 litres of milk in her life
Finnish dairy cows have grown in size when compared to yesteryear, and they also produce far more milk.
Farmer Pekka Nyman pats the flanks of the 13-year-old cow named Kulkuri, which has produced 100,000 litres of milk during her life.
Kulkuri doesn't know it, but she is the 200th cow in Finland to make it to this elite squad.
“Never before in Finnish history have there been so many 100,000-litre cows alive at the same time. As late as in the early 1980s only two cows per year would reach the mark. Also the daily output by the top individuals among these super-cows has increased from 40 litres to up to 80 litres”, says breeding agronomist Sirkka-Liisa Haapamäki of Faba Jalostus (“Faba Breeding”).
The achievement was celebrated on a farm in Taivalkoski’s Metsäkylä, where Pekka Nyman looks after a 12-strong dairy herd together with his brother Kauko Nyman.
“Kulkuri is already so advanced in years that she likes to lie down from time to time. But she still yields milk very well”, Pekka Nyman enthuses.
In her prime, Kulkuri produced 52 litres of milk per day, and even today the cow still yields 30 litres in a 24-hour period.
“I bought Kulkuri as a calf through an agent from a farm in Valkeala. Her mother was also a good dairy cow”, Pekka Nyman explains.
“Kulkuri cost more than 2,000 euros. She’s a bit like a good old Merc. The long service life saves you money in the end”, Pekka Nyman continues.
So, the Finnish cattle breeding branch also deserves to be congratulated.
“Well, good care and feeding play an important role”, Faba Jalostus departmental manager Auli Himanen tones down the praises.
“Even on a modest farm there can be a 100,000-litre cow. An animal that is suffering does not yield milk well, and does not stay healthy either”, Himanen adds.
In cultivation by breeding animals are improved through selection. Not every farm needs a top bull, for nearly all of the dairy cows are artificially inseminated. Furthermore, farms buy calves with a good genotype when the animals are less than two years of age and have not calved yet.
The effects of cultivation by breeding and selection are evident at the Nyman farm as well, where the average size of the livestock has grown.
“The leg-length of the dairy cows has been increased deliberately, so that the udders would not hang to the cowshed floor. The withers height has increased by about eight centimetres from 1995. The udder size, in turn, has not been emphasised, because if the udders grow too big they can rupture”, Himanen explains.
Can the cow be cultivated to be the size of a giraffe?
“Individuals that are much larger than average cows are not favoured in cultivation by breeding. An optimum height is the aim”, Himanen explains.
“Instead, health, fertility, endurance, and the ability to resist udder infections are characteristics that are not limited. A countless number of genes influence the outcome. Sometimes a single gene may cause an animal to be unfit for cultivation by breeding”, Himanen concludes.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Cattle disappearing from Southern Finland (12.8.2008)