Animal husbandry at Demeter

Animal welfare is our highest priority.

In biodynamic farming, animals are part of the farm organism and their needs and wellbeing is respected and looked after in every way.

  • Farmers create conditions on their farms that allow animals to behave in a way that suits their nature, free-range and pasture-fed.
  • Animal feed ideally comes from their own farm and is not bought in.
  • They are not mutilated – dehorning, debeaking, wing clipping, tail cutting and tail docking is prohibited.
  • The use of hormones and the preventative use of antibiotics, is not allowed.
  • Animals and poultry on Demeter farms are usually kept in small herds or flocks. This allows them to express natural social behaviour, ranking order and provides enough space for them to roam free.
  • Ruminants and other farm animals not only provide valuable manure for compost, but they also shape and enliven the farm. This is why Demeter requires animals to be part of the arable farming process. Cattle in particular, play a central role in the farm organism.

Animal husbandry

Cows have horns Demeter animal welfare

Animals play an important role at Demeter farms

Animal husbandry is a key requirement in biodynamic farming and cattle in particular play a central role, as they provide precious manure for increasing soil fertility.

Nature knows what it’s doing

Respect for living creatures is the number one priority for Demeter certified farmers. They recognise that animals have developed to their present state to adapt to nature and therefore it is important for them to maintain their animals’ dignity.
For example, the importance of a cow’s horns as a sense organ, form of communication and contributor to their overall wellbeing and metabolism.
This is why Demeter farmers don’t force their animals to adapt to ‘production conditions’ but rather adapt the farm to meet the animals needs.

More about animal welfare.

A horn is a living organ with very good blood circulation. The horns grow in the course of a cow’s lifetime – they grow larger and take on their own individual shape: unique, like a person’s fingerprint. Needless to say, I respect this important organ my cattle have, and I enjoy watching them communicate with one another in the herd, resulting in a harmonious hierarchy.

Francis Rolton, Tablehurst Farm, United Kingdom

Cows have horns

A special thing to note about cattle on biodynamic Demeter farms: They keep their horns.
Demeter cattle are not painfully dehorned, as is the practice in most other forms of agriculture that uses cattle. There is a good reason for this: horns not only give the animal dignity, but research has shown they are also important for communication within the herd, physical heat balance, digestion and metabolism.
Demeter farmers rely on cattle breeds with horns and allow them enough room to roam naturally and build larger stables, for colder months,  to allow animals the room to display their natural behaviour.

Cows with horns threatened with extinction.

The cow with horns, an image often used in advertising, but in reality the situation is very different.  Horn-bearing cattle have almost disappeared. Either the small calves are dehorned, i.e. the growth buds of the horns are burnt out, or they are bred to be genetically hornless – a path of no return. There may soon be no more horn-bearing breeding animals.

Demeter is committed to the preservation of cows with horns.

Only the Demeter standards consistently exclude dehorning and genetic hornless breeding. Horns are an organ with a strong blood supply and are connected to the respiratory system of cattle. Their function can be well illustrated by the following observation: The drier and hotter the climate and the richer the raw fibre and lower the energy content of the feed, the longer the horns of the cows. The wetter and colder the climate and the higher the energy content of the feed, the shorter the horns. Horns are therefore important for the heat balance and digestion of the cow, which connects with the forces acting around it via the horns – and it is precisely for this reason that they provide the most valuable manure.

Animal husbandry and biodynamic farming

Animals on our farms provide high quality food.

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