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Local knowledge held by farmers in Eastern Tyrol (Austria) about the use of plants to maintain and improve animal health and welfare

By C. R. Vogl, B. Vogl-Lukasser, M. Walkenhorst

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Background: The sustainable management of animal health and welfare is of increasing importance to consumers and a key topic in the organic farming movement. Few systematic studies have been undertaken investigating farmers' local knowledge related to this issue. Ethnoveterinary medicine (EVM) is a discipline focusing on local knowledge and folk methods in veterinary medicine, however most ethnoveterinarian studies primarily address the treatment of animal diseases. Very few studies have explored prophylactic methods. Methods: An ethnoveterinary research project in Eastern Tyrol (Austria) was conducted in 2004 and 2005 to gather information about local knowledge of animal husbandry from 144 informants, with the emphasis on plants that maintain livestock health and welfare. Results: Informants mentioned a total of 87 plants and 22 plant-based generic terms in the context of maintaining and improving livestock health and welfare. The most important preventive measures for maintaining and improving animal health and welfare were practices related to "fodder" and "feeding". In this category the plants mentioned could be grouped according to three different perceptions about their effect on animals: "Good or bad fodder", "Functional fodder" and "Fodder medicine". In addition to fodder, environmental management, the human-animal relationship, household remedies and cultural/religious activities were also mentioned. When asked about practices in the past that maintained animal health and well-being, interviewees mentioned, for example, the importance of the diversity of sources that used to be available to obtain feed and fodder. Conclusions The informants' approach that feeding is central to livestock welfare is in line with the standard scientific literature on animal health, including in organic farming. Various scientific studies into common fodder evaluate the nutritive and dietary value, efficiency and safety of fodder. Future studies also have to consider the evaluation of traditional, local fodder resources. In fact, the value of 'food as medicine' for humans in the context of local knowledge has been widely assessed, but the potential health benefits of fodder and nutraceuticals in local and traditional ethnoveterinary methods require further attention.

Publication Title Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Volume 12
Issue 40
Pages (12 September 2016)
ISBN/ISSN 1746-4269
Language English
Author Address Working Group: Knowledge Systems and Innovation, Division of Organic Farming, Department for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal health and hygiene
  4. Animal husbandry
  5. Animal nutrition
  6. Animals
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Austria
  9. Culture
  10. Developed countries
  11. Environment
  12. Europe
  13. Fodder
  14. Food quality
  15. Foraging
  16. Horticulture
  17. Humans
  18. Indigenous populations
  19. Livestock
  20. Mammals
  21. Medicinal herbs and plants
  22. Men
  23. OECD countries
  24. Plants
  25. Primates
  26. products
  27. Psychiatry and psychology
  28. Religions
  29. Social psychology and social anthropology
  30. surveys
  31. vertebrates
  32. Veterinarians
  33. Veterinary sciences
  34. welfare