Tuula Nyström, Barn Manager and the person everyone calls ”mom”

“Empathy, respect and courage are very important for a good animal caretaker. And it is not a question of the size of the person, it’s the size of the heart that matters” 

Tuula Nyström has been working for VikingGenetics for a very long time. She started as an animal caretaker at Hollola bull station in 2000 and she is very dedicated to her work.  The barn staff calls her “mom” and that is a clear indication of what she means to her staff. She is the one who knows how everything works, you can always rely on her help and as mothers do, she keeps everything – and everyone – in order. 
Tuula has a strong background in dairy farming as she grew up on one. There are five siblings in her family and the eldest brother continued the family farm while the rest of the kids went off to pursue other careers. 

Tuula has a long working history as an Artificial Insemination (AI) technician. She started in 1984 and worked for seven years. She and her husband decided to start dairy farming in 1990 on their home farm. They had a herd of 20 Ayrshire cows. Tuula gave up the AI technician job to work full time on the home farm. They had cattle for nine years, but when it came down to a decision either to expand and invest more money or stop dairy farming, they decided that they didn’t want to expand. Tuula returned to her job as an AI technician, but soon after that she got a job as animal caretaker at the Hollola bull station. 

Tuula’s knowledge about animals, farm management and her high work ethics didn’t go un-noticed and soon she was promoted to be the barn manager. “Well, I was very well suited for the position as I knew so much about the management side and had good relationships with local farmers”, Tuula says and continues: “The bull station went through a big expansion and firm knowledge about e.g. feed and straw purchases was needed.” 

Ahead with the time 

Tuula has seen the various stages of the Hollola station throughout her years there. Starting from 100 bulls to hosting up to 400 bulls, and now hosting no bulls as Hollola station was transformed to a heifer station late last year. Hollola is now the focal point of embryo production and research for VikingGenetics. 

“There have been so many changes during my time here. Before we started to use the genomic selection, we were hosting over 400 bulls due to the proof waiting periods. It took five years to get the daughter information for the bulls, so we had to keep all the bulls to know which ones were going to be the best bulls for our breeding programmes. Nowadays, we get the genomic breeding values from young calves and we can start the semen production when the bulls are under 1 year old”, Tuula explains. 

Tuula says it was demanding to work with 400 bulls, but she could manage with careful closure planning and healthy respect for the animals. Actually, there has never been a serious incident at the Hollola barns. 

“You need to respect the animals, but you also need to show them that you are in charge. If they see that you are afraid and timid – they will challenge you. You need to read the animals’ emotions right. Empathy, respect and courage are very important qualities for a good animal caretaker. And it is not a question of the physical size of the person, it’s the size of the heart that matters”, Tuula states. 

Tuula is known for being the one that took on the ‘difficult cases’, the bulls that many were afraid to catch and walk to semen production. She’s the boss for the animals too. 

Changes in production

The changes in the production structure at VikingGenetics meant some substantial changes in Hollola. Transferring the facilities to host only heifers and expanding the embryo production meant changes in the organization chart too. Tuula is no longer officially the barn manager, but works in a team with two other barn staff members. She oversees the facilities and farm management issues still, and no matter what the official titles are – she will always be known as the “boss”. 

“Change is always a bit scary. It has been sad to see all the bulls leave from here as I have worked with them for so many years, but I do feel that change is good and we need to grow with the growing markets. This is the beginning of something new and exciting. We are one of the best in the world with our expertise in embryo production so we should be very proud of this, and I’m very happy to be a part of it”, Tuula says smiling. 

When asked about what she likes best about working for VikingGenetics, she says: ”I enjoy the fact that my work is very versatile. Some days I work more on the facilities management and some days I’m doing more hands-on work with the animals.” She continues to explain about her team / colleagues: “The most important thing is that we need to be able to work as a team here, we need to trust our colleagues and give them support when they need it. I think we have a talented team here. We all have entrepreneurial backgrounds so I think we all have the correct attitude towards work and achieving goals.” 

Tuula is truly a character and she is well-liked among all colleagues at VikingGenetics. Her passion for the job is inspiring to all her co-workers and her work morale is truly something inspirational. She is the “mom” and she fills the role very well indeed.

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