Beef production

At HKScan, beef production is carried out as contract farming, in close cooperation between HKScan and farmers. We provide guidance, training and feeding concepts to our farming community, and, in some countries, also animal healthcare services. Our beef cattle rearing farms are located in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, our beef product brand is HK® and in Sweden, Scan®. In Estonia, all cattle slaughtered by HKScan is purchased from well-known suppliers and products are sold under the brand of Rakvere®. The number of cattle slaughtered in HKScan’s slaughterhouses in 2017 were 200 000 animals.

Better welfare standards

HKScan has a Quality Programme for beef cattle rearing farms in Finland. HKScan aims to high level production quality and animal welfare on the farms. The farms committed to the programme are called Quality Farms and in 2017, 66 per cent of young cattle meat used in HKScan’s production came from these farms. The Quality Programme Guidelines are set for animal husbandry, animal housing, feeding, herd health and treatment. There are also minimum requirements for space, ventilation, lighting and lying comfort, which are above legislation requirements.  

To get the status of a Quality Farm, the farms have to be validated by HKScan. Monitoring is carried out through the National Heard Health Register Naseva, where all data received from regular healthcare visits performed by local veterinarians is recorded. The status of a Quality Farm requires registration with Naseva and all animal care related information has to be saved in the Naseva system. Additionally, HKScan experts visit farms on a regular basis and inspect compliance with animal welfare requirements set for Quality Farms. Producers are paid a quality fee, encouraging to foster higher animal welfare.

Cattle breeds

In Finland, of the total of slaughtered cattle, 82.0 per cent is from dairy breeds and 18.0 per cent from beef breeds. In Sweden, there is no availability of these kinds of statistics at the moment.

Slaughtered cattle

Dairy breeds 
82.0%

Slaughtered cattle

Beef breeds
18.0%

Finnish Ayshire

45.5 %

Hereford

31.2%

Holstein 

38.7 %

Charolais

20.7%

Crossbreeds

14.2 %

Aberdeen Angus

22.5 %

Original Finnish cattle

1.1%

Limousin

12.1%

Jersey

0.4 %

Simmental

11.3 %

Brown Swiss

0.1%

Blonde d`Aquitaine

2.0 %

Montbeliard

0.0 %

Piemontese

0.1%

   

Highland cattle

0.1%

Practices in animal husbandry

HKScan’s contract rearing farms in Finland and Sweden are committed to strict instructions with regard to rearing, feeding, healthcare and biosecurity. Beef cattle are reared in cowsheds and cold loose barns, as well as in pens and pastures. Beef breed cattle calves are born on suckler cow farms, where they graze with their mothers up to the age of approximately six months. After this, the calves are relocated to specialized rearing farms or remain at their birth farm. The finishing of beef breed cattle is always performed in cold loose barns with litter. Calves born on dairy farms are relocated to a calf rearing or finishing farm between the age of two weeks and three months. The teenage calves from a calf rearing farm are relocated to the finishing farm at the age of six months.

The pen laying area for young calves under two months has a solid floor, which is soft and well littered. Fattening bulls and heifers are housed in warm barns or in cold loose barns on a solid or partly slatted floor, mostly in groups of 10–30 bulls. In cold loose barns, bedding and peat or straw is used as litter. At the Finnish Quality Farms, beef breed cattle bulls are always housed in cold loose barns with peat or straw littered ground.  For other Quality Farms, it is required that there is a soft laying area covered with perforated rubber mat or litter.

There has been a lot of discussion about the lying comfort and welfare of bulls on solid floor housing. HKScan recommends that farmers increase the use of rubber mats as floor coatings. Covering floors with perforated rubber mats enhances the wellbeing of bulls, reducing leg problems. As a result, the use of rubber mats has increased quickly. All new housing building plans now include a laying area with soft bedding. According to Swedish legislation, a slatted floor with no rubber mats is only allowed for calves under 4 months in buildings taken in use before 2010. In all new housing buildings, the floor has to be solid or bedded with mats. 

Read more about Cattle and HKScan’s practices from the Corporate Responsibility Fact sheet.

Physical alteration practices

Many physical alterations that are common to cattle production animals are not in use in Finland or Sweden. The only procedure which is allowed is the disbudding of calves in dairy cattle and at calf rearing farms. Bull calves are normally not castrated and tail docking is forbidden.

If young bulls are castrated, the operation is only allowed to be performed by a legalised veterinarian under proper anaesthesia. Castration might be done to bulls that are used as “teaserbulls” or which are kept on pasture with female animals. Tail docking is not necessary and it has never been used as a preventive measure in Finland or in Sweden. If needed e.g. in case of an injury or inflammation, the tail can be docked by a veterinarian, under anaesthesia and pain relief.

According to the Finnish legislation, disbudding of calves or dehorning is still allowed for calves under 4 weeks if performed by a competent person. Disbudding of calves is common because horns are a safety risk for animals and humans. It is known that the operation is painful to the calves and, therefore, HKScan recommends that it should only be done by a veterinarian and only with the use of sedatives, local anaesthesia and painkillers. This is a mandatory requirement for HKScan’s Quality Farms and calf rearing units. According to the Swedish legislation, the operation has to be performed by a veterinarian with the use of sedatives, local anaesthesia and painkillers.

Antibiotics and hormones

Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and hormones are only used for veterinary reasons. The use of antibiotics on farms is strictly supervised by legalized veterinarians and no antimicrobial treatments are used to promote the growth of cattle.

Use of prophylactic antimicrobials is forbidden at HKScan’s fattening bull and calf rearing contract farms. Use of fluorocinolones and the use of third and fourth generation antibiotics is not allowed on Quality Farms and calf rearing units. The extended spectrum or long acting macrolides can only be used based on microbiological diagnosis or bacterial sensitivity testing, but never as the first line of treatment. The producers of HKScan are committed to following the guidelines of HKScan and national food safety authorities.

Legislation in Finland and Sweden does not allow the use of hormones for the purpose of growth stimulation. Hormones are used by veterinarian’s prescription for cows, mostly for dairy cows e.g. as a treatment for fertility problems. Hormones are very seldom used for beef cows, and, if occasionally used, the purpose is to stimulate milk ejection or to treat a uterine inflammation.

Read more about antibiotics and HKScan’s practices from the Corporate Responsibility Fact sheet.

Animal welfare non-conformity

There have not been any illegal offences resulting in a fine or penalty within our own beef cattle production operations in 2017. We strictly follow our methods and practices and, in case of any deviations, take corrective actions immediately.