Are Animals From Organic Farms Healthier?

Housing system for healthy animals

Organic animal husbandry ensures the health of the animals preventively through the strictest legal animal husbandry regulations. Therefore, chemical-synthetic drugs such as antibiotics have to be used less, and their preventive administration is prohibited. Instead, when an animal becomes sick, it is preferable to use natural remedies.

The conditions of ecological animal husbandry increase the demands on health management. Therefore, in some cases, there is still a considerable need for research, knowledge transfer and continuously good management so that animal health can be further improved.

In the search for company-specific solutions, research and practice work together to develop innovative animal and environmentally friendly solutions.

Maintaining Health As A Central Aspect Of Ecological Animal Husbandry

In the EU Organic Regulation, the preservation of animal health is laid down as a central aspect of organic animal husbandry. It should primarily be achieved through preventive measures. These include needs-based feeding, animal-friendly and resilient husbandry with access to exercise or pasture, low stocking density and the choice of suitable breeds. The preventive use of synthetic chemical drugs such as antibiotics is prohibited.

If illnesses occur, they must be treated immediately and preferably with herbal, homoeopathic or other natural remedies. Chemical-synthetic drugs and antibiotics are given when alternative treatments have failed. The organic pet owner must document the type and duration of treatment and double the statutory waiting time (no statutory waiting period applies to organic 48 hours).

During this time, the food produced by the animal may not be processed or sold. This ensures that no drug residues get into the food. If antibiotics have to be administered more than three times in a year (or once if the animals' lifespan is less than a year), the animals or their products may no longer be marketed "organic".

Health Management As A Key Factor

The implementation of the EU organic regulation enables the animals to behave in a species-specific manner. However, it is crucial for the positive effect of the structural housing conditions that the farms guarantee good management, i.e. the rearing, care and care of the animals and the hygiene measures.

Organic farmers are faced with particular challenges here. For example, open-air or pasture management requires careful hygiene measures and planning in order to keep the parasite load on the animals low in the field. The organic animal keeper must also ensure high-quality feed for a needs-based supply of nutrients for the high-performance breeds used in organic animal farming.

So-called factor diseases, which arise from various management deficiencies, represent a significant problem. These must continue to be solved through good training and further education of the farmers and veterinarians, good care of the animals on the farm and further research in this area of organic agriculture.

Future Development And Disseminate Solutions For Better Health

The health status, which is approximately equal on average, is based on conventionally kept animals, e.g. on more substantial medication use. In organic livestock farming, the animals should be able to react to environmental challenges with the help of their self-regulatory powers.

The close cooperation between companies, consultants, veterinarians and interdisciplinary researchers, as carried out in several eco-projects, brought visible improvements after a short time.

Animal health plans, for example, with consistent implementation and success monitoring, are well suited to record farm-specific problems and risks and to initiate long-term improvements.

Animal and environmentally friendly approaches have also been developed to reduce the parasite load. Reduced by mobile stalls for poultry or the alternating or mixed grazing of different animal species or differently susceptible age groups. Other approaches are based on the feeding of tannin-containing forage plants, which reduce the worm infestation without chemical-synthetic wormer agents.

This is of great importance for agriculture as a whole, primarily because of the general increase in drug resistance, which comes about through the broad use of antibiotics in conventional agriculture. The promising approaches of eco-research are now to be further implemented in comprehensive practice with the help of training courses for advisors and farmers.

However, there is still a great need for research and further training (also on the part of veterinarians) to further develop and spread non-chemical treatment and preventive measures.

Animal Health In The Field Of Tension Between Economic Efficiency And Sustainability

In organic farming, good animal health requires an extensive additional expenditure on the part of the animal owners. The quality of animal care is a particularly important influencing factor.

Successful health management, which requires time and commitment, is made more difficult by the high workload on farmers. Since 2013, on organic farms that operate according to the guidelines of Bioland, Biokreis, Demeter or Naturland, not only the keeping conditions are prescribed and compliance is monitored, but the animals and their state of health are also checked to improve animal health.

A sustainable improvement in animal health can also be achieved by supporting politics and authorities, trade, manufacturing, and customers by rewarding a good animal health status or sanctioning unsatisfactory conditions.