FA2 Livestock and livestock farms

  This is a pressure (P) indicator. DPSIR = drivers, pressures, state, impact, responses. Moderate positive impact on biodiversity in the 20th century prior to 1990 (background). Moderate declining trend of positive impact since 1990 (arrow).
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The number of cattle and cattle farms have decreased steeply since the 1970s. In 2012 there were less than 14 000 cattle farms with altogether 913 000 animals living on them. The decline has been steady apart from the levelling of cattle numbers during the past couple of years.

The number of farms has declined more than the number of cattle. In 2012 there were 76% less cattle farms than in 1990, but only 33% less cattle on them. This means that the remaining farms now have more than twice the number of cattle than in 1990.

Compared with cattle farms the number of sheep and horse farms is much lower in Finland. Their numbers fell already in the mid-20th century. At the moment there are approximately 130 000 sheep and less than 700 sheep farms. Their numbers have fluctuated without any clear trend.

The number of horses has increased by more than one third during the last two decades. The increase is due to growing popularity of horseback riding and trotting activities. In 2012 there were approximately 74 000 horses and 1 800 horse farms. However, only some 40% of the horses are on farms; the majority of horse owners are not active farmers.

Impact on biodiversity

Grazing livestock has an essential role in sustaining the biodiversity of farmland habitats. Grazing is the most common way to manage traditional biotopes. Therefore the decrease in the number of livestock farms is connected to the decrease in the amount of traditional biotopes (see also FA7).

There is more cattle now than there were during the bloom of livestock agriculture. However, a large proportion of cattle is now being kept in cowsheds  all year round leading to fewer and smaller pastures. Most cattle farms are located in eastern Finland and the Ostrobothnia region. In southern Finland, where most of the valuable traditional biotopes are found, the number of cattle farms is low.

The crazing of sheep and horses may, in part, compensate for the decreasing crazing of cattle. However, the crazing habits of different animals differ from each other. Sheep, for example, are more selective in their choice of diet than the larger animals. More important than the species are in any case the quality and size of the pasture as well as the crazing pressure.
This indicator is updated annually.  

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