Cow of the breed Northern Finncattle captured in Finland.
Today, on the International Day of Biological Diversity, NordGen publishes a debate article about Nordic native breeds:
Native breeds have been unpopular the last decades since they can’t produce as much milk and meat as modern breeds. To increase yield is fundamental for a successful enterprise, agriculture included. Hence, today’s food production is relying on intensive production systems with modern techniques and modern breeds. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to produce meat and dairy in the volumes required by consumers.
But although the native breeds can’t compete with the modern breeds when it comes to production volumes, they do have important and unique properties that need to be preserved and used in a sustainable way. The recently published overview article included 85 different breeds of Nordic farm animals. Let’s take one example; the Northern Finncattle.
The Northern Finncattle is smaller than commercial breeds, which enables it to graze and keep the landscape open – even in places where the modern breeds wouldn’t cope. The milk and meat of the Northern Finncattle is of very high quality, which can open up for new ways of usage. Considering the breeds curiosity, calmness and beauty it’s well suited for animal therapy and farm tourism. Different research projects have also shown that the Northern Finncattle carries unique genetic resources. If this breed would go extinct, its genetic combinations, adapted to the Nordic environment for centuries, would be lost forever.
To secure our food security, we need to rely on intense production systems where modern breeds are most suitable. Our native breeds are better equipped for small-scale farming. But the genetic diversity found in our older breeds can prove to be crucial if we need to adapt our modern breeds to future challenges and new conditions. The Northern Finncattle is part of our unique heritage. We need to secure their future and make room for them in the Nordic agriculture.
The recently published study shows that we lack a lot of critical information about many of our Nordic native breeds. Their properties are not sufficiently known. To investigate their genetics, their cultural historical heritage and their potential benefits for the society are absolutely vital in order to find which possibilities they can create for rural development, tourism or for developing new food products.
Recently, NordGen commenced a cross-sectorial project with several different partners focusing on the three breeds of mountain cattle found in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The aim of the project is to gather and spread knowledge about the history, cultural inheritance and genetics of these breeds. We hope that the project could give the Nordic countries inspiration and new energy in the work with preserving and promoting the sustainable use of our native breeds. They are a historic legacy needed for a sustainable future.
Lise Lykke Steffensen
NordGen Farm Animals
*Line Sass Kierkegaard, Linn Fenna Groeneveld, Anne Kettunen & Peer Berg (2020) The status and need for characterization of Nordic animal genetic resources, Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science, 69:1-2, 2-24, DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2020.1722216
Link to scientific overview article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09064702.2020.1722216