Stefan Björkman is a trained veterinarian who graduated from the Free University of Berlin, Germany. As part of his basic studies, he also studied in Estonia and Finland. Just before graduating Björkman started to work as a researcher in Professor Olli Peltoniemi’s pig research group, at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, at the Department of production animal medicine. Björkman’s research area is pig reproduction and he started with this topic six years ago leading eventually to his PhD dissertation with honors. In the history of the Department, it was the first PhD thesis passing with this grade. Simultaneously Björkman also accomplished residency and passed the EBVS European Veterinary Specialist in Animal Reproduction examination at the European college of animal reproduction in 2017.
According to Björkman both of these degrees have brought him different things for his skillset.
“The PhD was a deeper dive into the reproductive health of sows. It also taught me what it means to do research and get evidence-based knowledge, whereas the diplomate studies gave me a wider perspective to animal reproduction and also some practical tools as a veterinarian.”
In his dissertation Björkman hypothesizd among other things that prolonged farrowing decreases subsequent fertility i.e. pregnancy rate. Björkman’s results showed that sows with a prolonged parturition, over 300 minutes, were 3.4 times more likely not to be pregnant. According to Björkman sows do not cope well with giving birth to a large number of piglets, especially in the current husbandry conditions. These sows usually experience problems at birth and are prone to reproductive diseases, especially uterine diseases, afterwards. These diseases often go unnoticed and are hard to diagnose and manage for farmers. This may result in reproductive problems and later on sows won’t get pregnant anymore.
Björkman’s solution to this is a better understanding how giving birth to a large litter and birth complications affect the reproductive health and how birth complications and uterine diseases can be easily diagnosed e.g. by ultrasonography of the uterus by the farmers on the herds. This will lead to a better birth management and subsequently better fertility and longevity of sows.
Björkman is currently working as a clinical instructor at the Department of production animal medicine. There he is teaching animal reproduction regarding all production animal species, not only pigs, which however still remain his favorite. The teaching includes obstetrics, andrology and biotechnologies such as embryo transfers. For the future Stefan will be involved in new pig research projects.