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Guano from gigantic goose gaggle costs Finnish farmer 60K euros

Millions were enchanted by the sight of hundreds of thousands of barnacle geese descending on a field in Elimäki, southern Finland last weekend. But the field's grain-farming owner now faces 60,000 euros in losses caused by massive amounts of guano air-dropped by the gigantic gaggle.

Lasse Hannola
Farmer Lasse Hannola in his spoiled field. Image: Juulia Tillaeus / Yle

An unusually large number of barnacle geese ruined 68 hectares of crops with a sizable amount of droppings in Elimäki, Southern Finland, resulting in one local farmer's financial losses of some 60,000 euros.

Increasingly, huge flocks of barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) – widely considered pests –  stop to rest in southern Finnish fields during their migration south. The birds cannot land in fields where the standing crops have not been gathered, and neither do they eat the harvest; instead the geese prefer to touch down in flat areas where crops have already been threshed.

It is during the flocks' flight that the problem arises.

Lasse Hannola, the farmer who grows wheat and oats in the field, says the geese defecate as they fly above the fields.

"Wherever the geese went, harvests were lost. We had high hopes for this year's yield. Those crops can't even be used as animal feed."

The enormous gaggle has temporarily settled in an area nearby, adjacent to fields owned by a number of other local farmers.

Adding insult to injury

The most recent guano fallout only adds insult to injury, growers say, as the wet summer had already caused heavy flooding in some parts of the region.

Threshing machines cannot be used in flooded fields and persistent heavy rains mean that pumping the water out will not necessarily help. The geese do not need to leave the submerged area even to roost for the night -- they gather in water to protect themselves from predators.

Valkoposkihanhia
A small portion of the 300,000-strong gaggle of geese. Image: Juulia Tillaeus / Yle

"The areas that weren't already soaked were spoiled by the geese," Hannola says. "At least the EU farming subsidies will make up for part of my losses."

Hannola says he does not want to evict the feathered troublemakers using pest-control methods.

"I don't think it would do much good at this point. I'll leave the ruined crops, droppings and all, as the mulch will serve as fertiliser for next year."

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