Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment


Theory of outdoor animal production: An unknown science


A revival in outdoor animal production can be observed. Outdoor production is defined as regular semi-intensive husbandry and management method with buildings or shelters, where animals usually have unrestricted or temporal access to relatively large areas outdoors on natural soil or grassland, thus being significantly different from extensive semi-natural free range breeding without buildings. Outdoor production finds increasing interest with researchers and extension service, particularly for beef cattle, breeding sows, piglet production and poultry. Outdoor production is perceived by ethologists, animal welfarists and consumers to meet animals needs and welfare considerations to a high extent, thus reducing social conflicts in the field of animal protection.

It is shown by literature survey, that there are inconsistent and contradictory results about the effects of outdoor production on animal health and performance, probably depending on the level of good management and veterinary supervision. For outdoor production as a field of research and knowledge we can hardly speak of a state of the art. Theory of this sort of production must be called an unknown science. General aspects of such a theory are presented hypothetically: Significance and effects of natural sunlight, fresh air, stress and strain by the challenge of blood circulation and all regulatory systems of the body, especially as a result of strongly changing environmental conditions and of movement.

Management and hygiene of the whole production system, particularly soil management, are vital aspects. Success or failure are primarily depending on them. Systems are much more complex and difficult to manage than regular housing systems without keeping animals out of doors. Increasing efforts in research and development are necessary to cope with the lack of knowledge and experience in Austria if a satisfying growth of this sort of production should be achieved.

Finally the problem of stocking rate on outdoor areas is discussed. Prevention of water- and airpollution and a high efficiency of the nutrients of the dung for plant production must be assured. As an example nitrogen balance is calculated for fattening pigs on arable or grassland.

Key-words: outdoor production, free range husbandry, theory, health- and pollution problems.