Control experiences: Animal husbandry outside the growing season

Andreas Müller, bio.inspecta AG

The first inspection quarter of the 2024 season has been completed. An interim balance can therefore be drawn. A considerable proportion of the inspections carried out so far have been unannounced on behalf of the cantons. The focus was on compliance with animal husbandry requirements. The conclusion is largely positive.

The endeavours of the farm managers to keep the animals in winter in accordance with the rules and with dedication were obvious. The often wet conditions led, in individual cases, to inconsistencies with the requirements of the water protection regulations and the provisions of the RAUS programme. Here and there, the storage of farmyard manure had to be criticised, or violations of the Animal Welfare Ordinance were noted. To maintain the high quality of animal husbandry, Switzerland has one of the strictest animal welfare laws in the world. We would like to take this opportunity to compliment the farms and thank them for their cooperation.

The spring grass for cattle, goats, sheep and horses
Now it's time to focus on the next milestone. The 1st of May is approaching, and with it, the deadline by which animals of the cattle, goat, sheep, and horse species must be allowed to graze on organic farms. Poultry also enjoy daily access to pasture or a bad weather run during the dormant season. Deer and bison must be kept on pasture all year round anyway.

The requirements for RAUS basic contributions
The following summary is not exhaustive.

  • From May 1st to October 31st, cattle, horses, goats, and sheep must be allowed out to pasture on 26 days/month.
  • Animals of the cattle species and water buffaloes must be provided with a pasture of 4 ares.
  • For equines, the area of the pasture must be 8 ares. If the grazing group size is 5 animals or more, the area may be reduced by 20%.
  • • Sheep and goats must be able to consume 25% of their daily requirement of pasture feed on the grazing area.
Exceptions to the grazing obligation
  • During or after heavy rainfall, grazing animals may be given access to the exercise yard as an alternative to grazing.
  • During the first 10 days of the grazing period, the exercise yard may be used in preference to the pasture.
  • If the vegetation on May 1st does not yet permit grazing, depending on the location (regulations vary from canton to canton).
Grazing must be recorded
In principle, grazing must be documented for each group of animals after three days at the latest. If the animal categories of the RAUS programme are allowed daily access to pasture during a period, entries in the grazing journal must be made on the first and last day of this period. To fulfil the additional grazing contribution requirement for cattle and water buffalo, the animals must be able to cover at least 70 percent of their daily requirements with grazing feed on 26 grazing days per month.

Increased requirement of the Bio Suisse Standards
In sheep and goat husbandry, the Bio Suisse Standards require daily grazing during the vegetation period. In addition, cattle must be able to consume at least 25 per cent of their daily dry matter requirement from pasture feed on the prescribed 26 grazing days per month. This means that the requirement for cattle at fattening level is the same as the RAUS programme for sheep and goats for the daily intake of pasture feed on grazing days.

Requirements and necessity create a dilemma
Farms are obliged to start grazing on time. The animals, on the other hand, need the important time to acclimatise to the changed feed, which is suddenly available in abundance on the young pastures.

Prevent health problems with a gradual change in feed
In order to avoid health problems in the animals associated with the feed changeover, it is worth taking a look at the FiBL leaflet on reduced concentrate feeding for dairy cattle (see Further information). Particular attention should be paid to the dreaded pasture tetany. After all, both humans and animals want to enjoy the spring they have both been waiting for so long without any restrictions.

Published on www.bioaktuell.ch