We often think of biodynamic farming as chemical free, but did you know that biodynamic standards dictate farming is cruelty-free? Humane treatment of all farm animals is a requirement of biodynamic farming that is incredibly important, but often overlooked in articles on the methods.
Biodynamic farming doesn’t look at animals as a means to a profitable end. Animals are a vital living force on a biodynamic farm and an important piece of the farm organism as a whole. Therefore, their health and well-being is considered with gravity and great care.
Unfortunately, conventional farms are exempt from many standard animal cruelty regulations and are legally allowed to use ugly practices. You have probably heard about animal confinement in crowded crates or pens, wallowing in feces, dirt, or mud without access to pasture, unnecessary use of antibiotics and hormones, and feeding ‘junk food’ to animals to hasten growth and weight gain.
Happy Animals, Happy Farmland
In an earlier post, we told you how farming cattle on our land gave us the opportunity to heal the land. We don’t stop there. Foxhollow’s cattle team also ensures the animals we raise for beef had a good life and are raised humanely. Biodynamic farming methods made sense for us - with strict standards of care that far surpass any legal animal welfare requirements and most voluntary welfare practices.
First and foremost, all animals must have access to roam on fresh pasture. At Foxhollow, our cattle don’t just have access to pasture - our cattlemen move the herds to new pasture every day. Cattle never wallow in gross conditions because they are always on the move to greener pastures. They are never confined to a pen. They do not stay in a barn unless there is a medical need.
Animals aren’t allowed to be altered for the farmer’s convenience - no dehorning cattle, docking tails, or debeaking chickens. At Foxhollow, you’ll see steers in the herd with full horns, looking glorious. The animals cannot have any hormones (given at conventional farms to speed growth and weight gain) or antibiotics (given at conventional farms as a preventative with disastrous consequences for the entire food chain). Our cattle take two years to grow at the rate they were made to grow, rather than forcing quick (and unhealthy) growth for profit. Biodynamic farming encourages homeopathic vaccines and treatments. We also supply minerals for the cattle that we leave in the field for them to self-select what and when they need it. The TLC the cattle get is highly effective and our animals are very rarely ill. On the very rare occasion that an animal needs antibiotics, it will be given medical care but is never sold as Foxhollow beef.
Ideally, all animal feed comes from the farm. At a minimum 50% of the feed must come from the farm. Foxhollow’s Certified Biodynamic pastures provide all the feed our cattle need. In the summer, the cattle graze on fresh grass. In the winter, when grass is short, the cattle get hay that was harvested in the summer and stored until it is needed.
Humane practices also try to reduce stress for animals. That’s why Foxhollow’s cattle are cared for by a small highly-trained team who the cattle know and trust. The animals stay on familiar pastures from birth until processing day. Travel is especially hard for cattle, so our cattle make a short, 30 minute trip to the processor the same day they’ll be processed. They never have to wait in unfamiliar surroundings or be in a truck for many hours.
At Foxhollow, we recognize and respect the role the cattle herd plays in our farm organism. We treat them accordingly, regardless of requirements. We do it because it is the right thing to do: for the animals, for ourselves, and for our planet.