Animal husbandry is a fundamental part of biodynamic agriculture. At the Section for Agriculture, two topics of focus are treated in this field of work. The first topic concerns cow and climate and the second the importance of animals in and for the landscape.
Animals not only provide valuable products such as meat and milk, ruminants also refine legumes in the crop rotation that are initially not usable by humans into these valuable products. In addition to their contribution to economic diversification, ruminants produce valuable manure that enhances soil fertility and benefits other farm operations. Their manure enriches the soil with nutrients needed for crops to thrive. But not only that, it especially promotes soil life. Whether it's a fly, a fungus or a worm, they love manure. A flourishing soil life is a prerequisite for a long-term humus build-up in the soil and thus good for soil and climate protection. A humus-rich soil is not only rich in nutrients, it also erodes less and stores more carbon. Furthermore, last year's DOK trial (link) found that biodynamically farmed land emits strikingly less nitrous oxide than organically or conventionally tilled fields. On the other hand, cows emit methane, a gas that affects the climate, when they ruminate. This inevitably leads us to the current debate about the cow as a climate killer. Is the cow a climate killer? We would like to get to the bottom of this question so that the biodynamic farmer can move confidently and without doubt in the climate debate. Our hypothesis is that biodynamically kept cows can contribute to the mitigation of climate change.
Animals animate farm and landscape. What sounds very lyrical at first is actually plausible. No one will deny that a farm where one smells and sees animals produces in one quite different images - animated images - than a purely arable farm without a barn with livestock. What the farm animals are to the farm are the birds and the insects in the landscape, at the farm's threshold to its environment. Through them, the farm is embedded in a larger organism and does not exist apart from nature. Rudolf Steiner devoted the entire 7th lecture in Koberwitz to this connection. Every animal interacts with other living beings. A simple example is the relationship network of black woodpecker, bee and ant. The black woodpecker builds its nest in tree cavities in forests. After some time, after the young woodpeckers have fledged and the tree cavity is abandoned, it is populated by bees. At the end of the season, the swarm dies. The dead bees are now picked up by ants and utilized in their colony in the dead wood. The ants themselves serve as food for the black woodpecker to raise its young. This closes the circle. If one link falls away, for example the bee or the tree, this has an immediate effect on the interactions and a self-sustaining system can lose its balance. When an imbalance prevails, for example due to monoculture, excessive livestock, or the absence of habitat in the landscape, balancing forces kick in. These show up, for example, as changes in animal behavior, in the emergence of pest populations, or in disease: The grasshopper begins to swarm, the million-dollar beetle makes its name, a virus spreads. Animals are balancing agents both on the farm and in nature.
For the farmer, this means becoming aware of his responsibility and accepting it. The farmer is not only the shaper of his agriculture, but also of the landscape and nature. Many farmers are already taking measures to create habitats, for example by covering the ground as much as possible, leaving field margins and planting hedges - they are all beneficial to the fauna. Nevertheless, as a farmer you also have to find measures that are most suitable for the particular location and goal. With a beautifully blooming flower strip you do not necessarily have an abundance of insects and healthy bees as a result. Integrating animals into the farm and landscape is challenging in many ways, especially for specialty crop farms. How can the integration of animals into the agricultural organism be strengthened and what are the opportunities? We would like to work intensively on these questions at the section as well.
Animal husbandry has a central role in biodynamic agriculture. Animal husbandry is essential for biodynamic farms; among other things, it is necessary for the production of the farm's own fertilizer, for building soil fertility and for the production of preparations. At the same time, the high degree of specialization and intensification in agriculture, the decline of diverse, small-scale farms and new trends in consumer behavior, such as veganism, pose a great challenge for farmers. In order to mitigate this situation despite animal husbandry, it is necessary that the integration of animals into the farm is again more attractive for farmers and animal-friendly.
The Animals on Farms project aims to support and promote animal husbandry so that enthusiasm for animal husbandry is revived and animals are more integrated into Demeter farms worldwide. The project will begin with a comprehensive, worldwide inventory of the current situation of animal husbandry on Demeter farms, which will provide a clear picture of the current situation. The next step will then be to identify best practice examples that can be included in a handbook. This handbook can give orientation and inspiration to the farm managers. Furthermore, there are different sub-projects, such as animal husbandry in tropical and Mediterranean climates, marketing models for animal products, examples for the integration of new animal farms, which serve to find solutions for the respective context and situation of the farms and to create incentives.
The Animals on Farms project had its kick-off meeting in early October 2020, which officially marked the beginning of the project. It is led in collaboration by the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International as well as by the Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum and lies at the interface of different areas of work, such as research, marketing, policy and standards issues. The collaboration is supported by a Steering Group composed of volunteers from members of the Federation. The steering group is regularly consulted and provides feedback on the content of the project. This ensures that the project meets the needs of the association's members.
more information on the last implementation here
more information will follow soon]]>
Scheduled to take place in March last year to coincide with the centenary of the First Course for Doctors, but suspended at the last minute because of the pandemic, the first conference on anthroposophical veterinary medicine finally took place in September at the Goetheanum in Switzerland.
The first meetings for veterinarians, following the founding of the international coordination in 2017, were organized during the annual international conferences of the Medical Section, but subsequently a further in-depth impetus was given to create a meeting opportunity for all veterinarians around the world dedicated to the study and practice of veterinary medicine, according to the teachings and methodology of Rudolf Steiner.
Despite the well-known logistical difficulties in attending, colleagues from Argentina, Brazil, the United States of America, Ukraine and, of course, Europe attended, all this conference.]]>