Tag Archives: excursion

Visit to Lövsta: The Swedish Livestock Research Centre

Included in the course Animal environment, welfare and housing are several excursions. This week we spent a day at the pig and cattle facilities of SLU’s main research centre: Lövsta. There is a lot of information about Lövsta available on the SLU webpage, please have a look if you’re interested. The nice thing about Lövsta is that everything is modern, there are lots of opportunities to researchers and all different types of livestock are located in close approximation to each other. The downside of Lövsta is that it’s very costly to the University and the location is very hard to reach for those without a car. Luckily this excursion was well organized and transportation was included.


The map of the cattle facilities is displayed on the windows on the top floor,
from where visitors have a good overview on the different housing types.

The day started with an introductory lecture at the research centre. Though it was not the first time for me to visit Lövsta, it was an interesting lecture in which I heard a lot of new things. It was explained how the several parts of the stables function and what problems are faced. And it was fascinating to hear all about the ongoing research. For example right now they are experimenting with different types of floor scrapers for the dairy cattle. Which one is disturbing the cows the least? Another experiment looked at the importance of the neck rail and whether it could be moved or removed to increase cow comfort.

 
Upper left: A cow stepping over a floor scraper. Upper right: This flooring reduces slippery, but what about hygiene? Below: The Swedish red cow breed has a reputation of being more robust and fertile compared to Holstein-Frisians.

Half of the day was spent with the cattle, the other half was spent with the pigs. It’s not that I don’t like cows, but I just… adore pigs. Big time. They are such curious, social and smart creatures. At the pig stables we used most time to compare the different housing systems, the building constructions, space availability, ventilation, manure system, etc. In Sweden pig welfare is by far more protected by law compared to other EU countries. For example the provision of straw is obligatory and tail docking is not a standard procedure. Another large difference is the housing system of lactating sows – crating is not permitted. Therefore the sow can have much more interaction with her piglets, which is a beautiful sight to watch. Still, it’s not perfect, but in terms of welfare the standards of conventional pig production in Sweden are impressive.

 
Upper left: Deep litter bedding for dry sows. Upper right: Intact tails of growers. Below: Interactiong between the lactating sow and her offspring.

Crating or not crating of sows is a much debated topic, on which I could elaborate for many pages. I think Swedish pig production deserves a post of it’s own, perhaps I can do that next week. If you have questions already or some comments, you’re welcome to reply below.

Rosan

ps. Just one more pig photo, I mean, aren’t they adorable?

Excursion to Jällaskolan

For the course Animal environment, welfare and housing we went on a short trip to Jälla, an agricultural school just East of Uppsala. The aim of the excursion was to aquire on-site information about animal environments on a Swedish farm. As Jälla is an agricultural learning environment, many types of animal farming are represented. After a short introduction we were divided into groups and had received a list of questions we were supposed to answer by the end of the day. We received a small map of the grounds and were supposed to pass by eight ‘stations’ where we should be able to figure out the answers. Everybody seemed very excited and soon we had all spread out over the farm.


Inspecting the different ‘stations’ on a cold, sunny day in January.

The stations we visited were a traditional tie-stall barn, the manure handling system, a modern loose housing cow barn, the feed storage, roof structures, the horse stable and a sheep barn. Some questions were specific for the stables you were standing in, like ‘How do you regulate the temperature in this building?’. Others were more considering the farm as a whole system, for example we were supposed to figure out how feed distribution took place over the whole farm. As this course has a strong focus on housing and environment we had several questions regarding ventilation and heat regulation. And as Jälla has automized systems for both manure and feed handling and it was interesting to look at the pros and cons of such technical equipment.

 
Automatic feeding systems in the tie-stall barn (left) and the loose housing system (right).

What interested me most was comparing the tie-stall barn and the loose housing cow barn.  I had never seen tie-stall barns in the Netherlands, but in Sweden it is not that uncommon. It used to be the standard many years ago, but nowadays it’s being faded out slowly – building new tie-stalls is not allowed any longer. Still, about 30% of the Swedish dairy herd is still housed in tie-stall barns. To me it just feels wrong to tie a cow up for practically most of her life, but this system has quite some advantages. You need less space, cows have always access to a free lying place, but most of all the hygiene is much better. Seeing the tie-stall barn in real life did however not change the way I feel about it. Some of the cows had some small lesions on the hind legs, probably due to reduced locomotion. And as we’ve bred for bigger and bigger cows, we had the impression that the old stalls had become a bit too short for the ‘modern cows’ to lay down comfortably.

 
Two types of automatic manure handling in the tie-stall (left) and loose housing barn (right).

In the week after we had a follow-up on the farm visit in which we discussed the questions. It was really interesting to hear what the different groups had noticed – together you see much more! It was definitely a positive experience and I am grateful that SLU gives us the opportunity to see what the theories we learn about look like in practice.
Any questions? Comments? Leave a reply below.

Rosan

 

Meet the forest-workers

Beautiful, strong, eager and friendly, that is how Hans Sidbäck describes his working horses.  Their jobs? Moving logs out of the forest, chopping grass in summer and plowing away snow in winter. And wedding transport – occasionally. Meet the North-Swedish drafthorses, some of the coolest guys in town.

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Hans Sidbäck whistling (left) for his young horses, which come by immediately (right)
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My classmates Pauline and Frida saying hello to one of the youngsters

It was a great start of the horse-course, having a look at a horse business. Our class was divided into four groups, each visiting a different type of horse facility. Our group spent a couple of hours listening to Hans Sidbäck and his wife Raili, who own North-Swedish horses for breeding and draft purposes. We were extremely lucky with the weather and strolled over the farm while we discussed many things, such as housing, feeding, equipment and horse education. Not only do they have a lot of experience working with draft horses, Hans is also famous for writing several books about forestry work with horses.

“In some cases horses are just more suitable for the job compared to machines.”

Hans and his horses are mainly hired by municipalities, such as the one of Uppsala. You would think that in ‘our modern time’ all the work is done by machines. At least, that was what I thought. I was happily surprised to hear that in some cases horses are just more suitable for the job compared to machines. For example if trees have been cut and need to be removed out of the forest a machine might be able to get the job done, but will make a mess of the tracks. Horses may take a little bit more time – and therefore money – but will leave very few traces, which is highly appreciated in forests close to communities.

 

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A fascinating illustration about driving on steep terrain
From ‘The Horse in the Forest’, author Hans Sidbäck, drawings by Sigurd Falk

Hans and Raili have shown us not only their horses, but explained about the different machinery they use as well. Which is a lot, as every job seems to require different types of equipment. Also it was very impressive to learn how much weight two of these guys can move – up to 4000 kg(!) of timber if the terrain allows. It is always nice to hear someone speak with much passion for their animals and work, but it is even nicer when it teaches you many things you didn’t know about before.

Rosan

ps. one last goodbye kiss!DSC_0064