Hof Ziegelhütte: Improving Animal Welfare for Calves and Cows

Cow and calf
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The biodynamic Hof Ziegelhütte farm in Bissingen an der Teck is located in the middle of the Swabian Alps biosphere reserve. For more than 20 years, a non-profit association called Michaelshof Ziegelhütte has been using it as a living and experiential space for young people. The workshop of the Ziegelhütte Ochsenwang youth welfare facility, for example, is one of the various offers provided by the association. In addition, Demeter farmers are trained on the farm, plus there are numerous educational farm activities for the surrounding daycare centres and schools. As the farm is located in a well-visited recreational area, it is also a popular destination for excursions. A farm shop and the “Maarstube” café offer delicacies from the farm’s own production. Another major attraction is the free-range barn, where visitors can experience the entire farm complex with its holistic farming methods.

The 30 or so Fleckvieh cows graze on the species-rich meadows at Randecker Maar at an altitude of 750 metres. The farm dairy produces over 15 types of Demeter-quality cheese from their milk. Caring for the animals and the demanding artisanal work in the cheese dairy are exciting practical applications where young people can take responsibility and experience self-efficacy. In the future, calf-with-cow rearing, where the newborn animals are no longer separated from their mothers but grow up with them or with nurse cows, will be an even more integral part of the farm’s work processes. In mid-March, construction work started on the necessary extension of the corresponding stables with additional boxes. In order to be able to finance this, those in charge have raised donations in various ways over the past two years. They have received further support from SAGST, which had already funded the development of the educational work on the farm several times in the past. “Not only is the practice of keeping calves with their mothers a significant improvement from an animal welfare point of view, but it also opens up new possibilities for human/animal interactions here”, explains SAGST project manager Christian Wüst. “The young people benefit from this, as do the apprentices who complete biodynamic training here – and it also strengthens the farm’s innovative profile.”