Northern Finncattle

Ark of taste
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Northern Finncattle are a breed of Finncattle whose population today includes only approximately 600 individuals. As their name implies, these cattle trace their origin back thousands of years to northern Finland. According to legend, the first Northern Finncattle cow was born from the water of a well when the first people settled in Lapland. This breed is naturally polled (hornless) and usually white, with a pigmented muzzle and ears, and cows produce an average of about 5000 liters of milk in one lactation period (compared to 8200-8800 liters in more commercial breeds like Ayrshire and Holstein). Northern Finncattle are also smaller than commercial breeds, however they are well adapted to the local climate, and tend to be long-lived and fertile.   Their milk has a higher quantity of fat and fatty acids and Kappa casein type B than other dairy breeds, and coagulates well, which is useful in the production of yogurt and viili (a yogurt-like sour milk product). Milk is sold raw directly from farms, or processed into yogurt, viili or cheese (such as the traditional fresh Finnish cheese leipäjuusto). Northern Finncattle are also used for small-scale meat production and for breeding and research purposes.  In recent years, they have also been used in green care due to these animals’ gentle, peaceful, curious and even intelligent nature.   By mid-19th century the three populations of Finncattle (Northern, Eastern and Western) were well established as separate breeds, with a Northen Finncattle studbook being created in 1905; but with the emerging and growing popularity of more modern, imported dairy breeds, their numbers declined greatly. The three breeds’ studbooks were merged in 1946 due to this decline during the Second World War, but the three cattle types remained distinct and are today still considered separate breeds. The war especially affected Northern and Eastern Finncattle’s numbers, and approximately half of the cattle population that was evacuated from Lapland was slaughtered, and the feeding conditions were scarce for those that remained. When people returned to their home regions, they usually only brought cows, and so there was a lack of Northern Finncattle bulls with which to revive the breed.   Finncattle reached their lowest population levels in the 1980s, and in 1984 a working group was established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to save this native breed. They can today be found on private farms, and also in farms connected to prisons, agricultural institutes and genetic research centers. Milk and meat can be found in specialty shops and in some restaurants. Today, despite their connection to the climate and culture of Finland, and their high quality milk, this breed is still struggling to overcome competition from commercial breeds that were introduced for industrial level milk and meat production.

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Lappland län

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Breeds and animal husbandry

Nominated by:Minna Junttila