The Mustiala teaching and research farm has almost 200 years of history. There have always been cattle on the farm and quite a variety of breeds. The farm has been involved in production monitoring since 1935, so systematic breeding work has been done in Mustiala for at least that time. Breeding of Western Finnish cattle has a long tradition, even though the Ayrshire breed almost completely replaced it. In the 1990, Holstein-Friesian cattle came along with the Ay cattle. Holstein has changed into the most common breed, both in Finland and internationally, even in Mustiala. Currently, the breed distribution in the herd of 75-80 cows is about 40 Holstein cows and about 30 Ayrshire cows, the rest being Finnish cattle breeds and Jersey. The herd also includes representatives of the brown Swiss breed and Guernsey. Mustiala has also wanted to invest in the breeding and preservation of Finnish cattle, which of course also fits the farm’s image as an organic and teaching farm.
The goal of breeding is to develop animal matter in an economically profitable direction. In the past, the breeding goal was to develop the structure. At that time, Mustiala mainly used imported bulls from the USA, and especially for the ay breed, from Canada. Embryo transfers were also done to some extent with purchased embryos. Structural refinement brought results. Not a single cow was removed from Mustila due to poor udder structure after the farm switched to automatic milking in 2015. Partly due to the transition to organic production, the breeding goals have also changed. Because of milk pricing, more weight has been placed on milk concentrations. This has been justified, because the concentrations have been lower than the average level and have further decreased with organic production. Although the profitability of the livestock has clearly improved based on the Tuotostutka analysis, the low concentrations weaken the price per liter. With the new goals, we have moved to using more and more Nordic bulls.
Breeding-related services are purchased from FABA. All calves born are genome tested. DNA ear tags are used on the farm, so a genome sample can be conveniently obtained when the calves are ear tagged. All cows are also structurally evaluated. The breeding plan is made by FABA’s animal matter experts. Since the farm has its own semen ration tank, where bulls are ordered as needed, the farm’s most common cow-specific recommendation is “named bull”. Since we also wanted to invest in durability, the extra production of heifers has been limited by the rather strong use of beef bulls. Their share of recommendations has exceeded 30%. Sex-separated semen has been used for a few good cows, from which daughters have especially been desired for the herd.