Understanding And Caring For Animals

Understanding The Phenomenological Biological Ordering System Of Wolfgang Schad

(1.1) Wolfgang Schad has taken a Goethean approach to categorise animals. He wanted to find a threefoldness present in animals, similar to the threefoldness that Rudolf Steiner had found in man’s organisation. From Schad’s extensive studies he identified a threefoldness in animals, categorising them into groups with predominantly, nerve senses, rhythmic, or metabolic characteristics.

An overview of Schads work can be found here, as part of a book review from RudolfSteiner.org

I came across small Wooden Books edition on the workings of The Human Body (Moff Betts 2004, Wooden Books LTD), in it there is a table that brings together many threefold systems related to the human body, many of the examples are congruent with for animals. I think it is of interest here.

Nerve SenseRhythmicMetabolic
ThinkingFeeling Willing
Nerve-Sense SystemRhythmic SystemMetabolic-Limb System

I came across small Wooden Books edition on the workings of The Human Body (Moff Betts 2004, Wooden Books LTD), in it there is a table that brings together many threefold systems related to the human body, many of the examples are congruent with Wolfgang Schad threefold system. I think it is of interest here.

Wolfgang SchadNerve SenseRhythmic Metabolic
Embryonic germ cell layerEctodermEndodermMesoderm
Body Typethin, wiry, activerounded, steady, slowstocky, strong, cyclic
Ayurvedic dosha & humourVata – WindKapha – PhlegmPitta – Bile
Tibetan ElementsAir & SpaceEarth & WaterFire
Arabian – European Alchemymercury/communicationsal/structuresulpher/energy
Fluid compartment & Cationextracellular/calciumintercellular/potassiumblood/sodium
Body Systemsneuro-endocrine, integrationassimilation, excretionmetabolic, immune
Teethlong crooked brown – blackstrong large white – bluemedium hard gray – yellow
Eyesbeady, black holesbig open clearpenetrating, yellow – red
Psychethought, intergration, desireacceptance, stability, greedcompassion, vision, anger
Lifeinspirational, myriad, futuredevoted, belonging, pastphasic, powerful, present
Memoryquick, recentslow, long, deepall encompassing
Page 57 The Human Body – Wooden Books

We can use Wolfgang Schad’s research to inform our understanding of our own animals on the farm. Researchers at Ruskin Mill have also used his work to help us better understand our students. (1.2) Below shows there farm animals ordered from Nerve Sense to Metabolic. The Sheep and Donkeys are the most rhythmic.

Polarities and their active mediation are the fundamental processes that constitute every living organism. Threefoldness is therefore one of the universal signs of life.

Wolfgang Schad

The animal also be seen as a two-fold organism, the nerve-sense system is primarily located in the head, and the metabolic-limb system is primarily located in the limbs and hindquarters. The rhythmic system is located between the nerve-sense system and the metabolic-limb system. Therefore, the rhythmic system can be understood as a meeting point for the two systems, where a reverberation takes place.

Nerve SenseMetabolic

(1.3) Goethe and Wolfgang Schad understood there to be a law of contraction and intensification in the development of an animals physiology or form. A contraction of one organ, will indicate an intensification/specializing of another organ. Goethe discovered that no animal will a full set of teeth on its upper jaw will have developed horns or antlers. Nature cannot expend enough material to give a cow a full set of teeth or to give a tiger a set of horns.

The presence of of intensification and compensation is present in every animal. Ungulates have developed digestive systems and grooved molar teeth that allow them to digest cellulose. Ungulates have also developed hooves, which allow them to run faster, but they don’t have any claws.

(1.4) Wolfgang Schads methodology requires the student to study the animal in its natural environment, and then compare it to other animals from their respective environments. By comparing animals such as those found on a biodynamic farm, it allows us to put them into a threefold schema (as shown above.) If we compare a cow with a chicken we will see an extensive polarity, due to countless intensifications and contractions. The same organ elements are present in both animals but their forms and functions are far apart. For example: A chicken has a beak for breaking up food whereas a cow has bottom incisors and a dental pad.

Wolfgang Schad’s methodology gives us a new way of perceiving our farm animals. Its beneficial to farmers as it give us a more holistic understanding of their needs and behaviors so we can make beneficial changes to their environment. It also offers an opportunity for us to observe them closer to understand how we would categorize animals into a threefold organization.

Understand The Impact Of Schads 3-Fold Categorization On Own Interactions With Animals

(2.1) Schads three-fold perspective allows us to categorise animals, from this we may be able to make assumptions about an animal based on whether it appears metabolic, rhythmic, or nerve sense. A cow is a farm animal on the far side of metabolic, and a chicken is highly nerve sense. The chickens appear more alert to humans, when I walk near them they react to my movements, whereas the cows won’t be bothered at all. The cows in the field at Ruskin Mill College will glace slowly at me, when I start to walk across their field, but they will quickly return to eating the grass with their heads down. The chickens movements are stressful, nervous, and exaggerated, while a cow moves calmly, slowly, and steadily. A chicken is able to excrete approximately every 30 minutes, whereas a cow takes approximately two hours. A cow requires just 4 hours sleep per night, whereas a chicken will sleep for 8 hours. The chickens go to sleep with the sunset, they are deeply synchronised they will even fall asleep if their eyes are coved.

(2.2) I have decided to reflect on my interaction with the chickens. As I have encountered them the most during my time at Ruskin Mill. In the valley, there is a chicken area, with two house, and their have been between 8-12 chickens at any one time over the last two years. These animals are always surprising me. For a long time I was very disinterested by them. I didn’t want to spend time observing them, or spending much time with them. But over the last year, I have begun to recognise some of there individual personalities, and patterns in their behaviour. There is a very strict pecking order within the flock, which begins with the order in which they leave their houses, when they are opened in the morning. There is always a chicken that is waiting just behind the door to leave the house, then other hop down from their perch. Some chickens, with a free exit, often wait to allow the more dominate chickens out first.

When the chickens have no more feed in the bowls, they pay a lot more attention to humans. They will even walk straight up to me, and students, allowing us to stroke, catch, and hold them without much fuss. They are anticipating us to give them food, or maybe thing we have some with us.

The chickens enjoy being out in the sun, but during really hot days in the summer they are always seen sitting in the shade. One hot afternoon, I noticed them all sitting under their houses to avoid the sun, we quickly put together a ‘chicken shack’ which offers shelter for the chickens.

Many of the chickens are able to propel themselves over the 1 meter electric fence if they chose to. I have seen this happen many times, if the chickens are unhappy or don’t have enough food then they will simply escape, to wander about nearby on fresh grass, foraging for insects.

The chickens, spend most of their day cleaning their feathers, they do this by shaking their feathers, picking out bits with their beak, or by creating dust bowls. They dig into the ground to make areas of dry soil. This creates the job of refiling holes with soil and grass seed, when we move them.

The chickens are rotated every few weeks, to make use they don’t damage the grass too much, and to ensure that they remain happy and healthy. We plan to incorporate the chickens into other areas, maybe enclosing them within the market garden at the end of the season, or perhaps within the orchards on the banks. Chickens benefit from a stimulating environment that offers them areas to perch, hide, explore, forage, and play. Staff and students from time to time offer the chickens one stale rice cake, and the chickens start to play rice cake rugby, which is a very interesting watch, involving complex strategy and cunning from the chickens. This is partly, because the chickens cannot eat while they are running with the rice cakes, trying to avoid any other chickens from snatching it. One way is for the chicken to run for long enough that the other chickens leave the chase, leaving enough time and space to put the rice cake on the ground to start eating it, or to run around the house before ducking underneath to eat it there.

I made a quick video a while ago as a joke to send to some friends, but I guess its relevant here to show some the behaviour of the chickens. The background sound is intense Italian football commentary.


Understanding The Relationship Of The Animal To The Farm Organism

(3.1) Ruminants are animals that have four stomachs, which are called the the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum and the abomasum. This category includes cattle, sheep, and goats. Ruminants are able to ferment their food, which allows them to digest and consume energy from grass.

Monogastric are animals with one stomach, including pigs, chickens, and dogs. Monogastric animals are unable to digest much cellulose in their diets.

All of the animals of the farm have their roles in consuming food, and producing manures. The ruminants are able to extract energy from grasses, they have emerged symbiotically with grasslands. Without the ruminates in the countryside, it would become more difficult to manage land. Ruminates consume grasses and provide manures for the biodynamic farm, as a by-product their is meat and leather/wool. Manures are very important to the biodynamic system. Different animals may also be helpful in growing different type of vegetables. If we categorise animals into four groups relating to their qualities, then we can match this to Maria Thun’s four-foldness of vegetables. This needs more researching but for example:

Planting DayLeafRootFruitFlower
AnimalsChickens, SheepPigsHorse, DonkeyGoat
ExplainedPigs are slow to the ground, they dig, eat rootsHorses are very warm, and their manure is hot. Goat like to stand on their hind legs and eat for from branches or raised troths

(3.2) Animals provide a great deal of fertility to the farm organism. In particular, the Ruminants provide a rich manure that can be added back into the soil. From the pastures, the cows create ‘black gold’ which is added to the market garden, increasing the nutrients and micro bacteria diversity of the soil. Without the manure from animals, farms would need to rely on the compost from vegetative matter, or contrary to the ideals of biodynamics, farms would need to import the fertility from elsewhere, beyond the farm organism

(3.3) Horns are of significance in biodynamics, the horn of a cow, is used as a sheaf for the manure, and silica preparations. They are regarded to have a spiritual importance for the cow, and are integral for the health, wellbeing, and normal functioning of a cow. Biodynamic farm do not remove horns from live animals, it is prohibited by Demeter biodynamic standards. In the UK most farmers dehorn their cattle, this is because most cattle are kept together in small spaces, which makes them stressed, causing them to injure each other with their horns. A biodynamic farm, understands that a farm can only support a certain number of cows within its farm organism, so this issue isn’t relevant for biodynamic farming and traditional farming.

Here is a link to a guide by the Biodynamic Assosication looking into the research paper by Fibl that looks into the importance of the cow horn.

The horns of a cow, are an important organ relating to their metabolic processes. The cow horns are made from siliceous substances and they are able to reflect back the forces that are released during the digestive process, meaning that it goes through the digestive system again, and the is excreted with this vital force. Horned cows therefore retain a certain degree more vital energy, whereas these forces will be streaming out from dehorned cows. The horns are also able to absorb influences from the cosmos, and focus them within.

Care And Husbandry Of Farm Animals

Understanding How To Plan For Livestock

(1.1) The farm organism will dictate what animals and how many animals it can support. Some land is better suited to crops, while other land is better suited for animals. On a biodynamic holding you will only host as many animals as the land will provide for. Many conventional farm, with have too many animals living in bad conditions, and the farm will also have to bring in many inputs for other places to support an unsustainable farm set-up, due to commercial pressures.

At the farm we have Gloucester cows, Lleyn Sheep, and a few Cotswold Sheep. These ruminants have four stomachs which allows them to break down the tough grass material, and gain nutrition from it. This keeps the pastures trimmed and healthy, which would be very difficult to manage if we had to use tools to manage the pastures. Furthermore, the manures from the ruminates fertilizes the soil, and there presence on the land can help increase plant biodiversity.

When choosing animals for a farm, it is good to identify the native animals, that have developed synergistically alongside the land. At Ruskin Mill College Gloucester Old Spot pigs make a great addition. Firstly, because its native to Gloucestershire, and it traditionally eat windfall apples from orchards. Ruskin Mill College also has a trout farm, this is because the valley is abundant in flowing water, and there is a historical precedent for fish farms since monastic periods. Also the brown trout is a local freshwater species of fish. The landscape, historic context, climate, and scale of a farm should inform the types of animals and the number of animals it can support. You have to consult the genius of the place.

(1.2) Having too many animals, and not enough grazing land is a bad scenario for a farmer. The farm should only support a number of animals that the farm can sufficiently support, with a generous margin for error. If their are too many animals then the land will deteriorate, too many external input will be needed, animals could become stressed, the farm organism will be unbalanced, and in the worse case scenario disease could spread among the animals.

From my experiences in the valley, I have seen how much harm 8 chickens can do to an area of land in a couple of weeks. It’s important to rotate the chicken area as often as possible to prevent harm to the landscape.

We could implement a shorter rotation on a weekly basis. This could be achieved by having a small chicken run on wheels, that could be moved with students once or twice a week. This would mean the damage to the grass will be to a minimum, and it would quickly regenerate. The chickens don’t appear stressed from their current environment, but the landscape appears damaged.

The stocking rate is determined by the possibilities for fodder production,
as dictated by climate and the local conditions. It is to take into account the
maintenance and development of soil fertility.

The minimum stocking rate will be defined by BDA Certification on a case
by case basis where necessary. The overall principal is to ensure the farm
/ garden fertility levels are not diminished The maximum stocking rate may
not exceed 2.0 livestock units/ha, corresponding to a maximum of 1.4
manure units/ha, if feed is brought in.

Demeter Certification
Animal TypeLivestock Unit
Breeding Bulls1.2
Sheep and Goats up to 1 year old0.02
Sheep and goats over 1 year old0.1
Pigs for mat production (20-50kg)0.06
Laying Hens0.0071

The table above is a sample of the stocking calculator from the Demeter regulations. This allows the farmer to see how many of each animal they can have per hectare under biodynamic regulations. According the calculator a farmer could for example have 280 chickens per hectare or 6 calves.

(1.3) In the valley we have chickens and honey bees. We send the majority of the eggs (approximately 4 per day in spring/summer) to the café to subsidise the amount of eggs that are purchased from other farms. If we included the eggs in our honesty box scheme then they would instantly find another market from the public that walk through, and would be sold very quickly. We have a couple hives of honey bees. Honey bees, produce wax, honey, nectar, and propolis (medicinal resin) all of which have a potential market. Many of the by products of the hive could be processed into cosmetic products such as soaps or creams to be sold in the farm shop. However, there are only a small number of hives, and it is important not to exploit or harm the health of bee hives which produce honey all year round for their own survival throughout the winter months.

At Ruskin Mill we already make good use of the by products from the animals. Meat, offal, and bones are available from the farm shop. The wool from the sheep is transformed into slippers, hats, and artworks by students and staff. Cow and goat skins have been dried and oiled, which have a market. Trout has been sold in local shops, local markets, pubs, and sent to other colleges.

(1.4) Students at Ruskin Mill College instantly gravitate to animals. With new students in the valley, the first task I usually offer is to feed the chickens. The therapeutic benefit of animals cannot be understated. It is important to care for something beyond ourselves, perhaps it can be said that caring or being responsible for other people and animals gives us a sense of meaning in our lives. Many students benefit from being able to hold or stroke a animal, as touch is very important to our wellbeing. This can clearly be seen during lambing season, when students may have to give milk or colostrum to a little lamb. Animals are very visceral and can be easily understood by students. Collecting eggs is one of the daily jobs in the valley which students really enjoy. Usually, they will be able to go independently to look for the eggs, and will shout out how many they found. Then they write the date on the eggs, and take them to the shop. It allows them to see the clear link between looking after the chickens, to eating an omelette in the café.

In my sessions, I have a student that can be very difficult to engage. As soon as I say that the chickens haven’t had their breakfast, or don’t have enough food for the weekend, then they will get up and go and feed the chickens. They know that this routine must be carried out otherwise the chickens might be hungry.

(2.1) Biodynamic farms are certified by Demeter standards, which provide some of the highest animal welfare standards.

Farmers create conditions on their farms that allow animals to behave in a way that suits their nature, free-range and pasture-fed.

Animal feed ideally comes from their own farm and is not bought in.

They are not mutilated – dehorning, debeaking, wing clipping, tail cutting and tail docking is prohibited.

The use of hormones and the preventative use of antibiotics, is not allowed.

Animals and poultry on Demeter farms are usually kept in small herds or flocks. This allows them to express natural social behaviour, ranking order and provides enough space for them to roam free.

Ruminants and other farm animals not only provide valuable manure for compost, but they also shape and enliven the farm. This is why Demeter requires animals to be part of the arable farming process. Cattle in particular, play a central role in the farm organism.


(2.2) We do not cut the beaks of our chickens, we provide nest boxes for laying, chickens get 8 hour of darkness (as there are no artificial lights), they have an open air run, they are feed organically (mostly biodynamically) these are some of the Demeter requirements for keeping chickens. (2.3) During time of bird flu outbreaks we are required by law to keep the chickens away from wild birds. We have a small polytunnel, with a outside netted run. The bird flu restrictions ended at the beginning of spring, so we decided to put manure down over their old run, and sow a grass mix, to ensure their is plenty of grass if restrictions come back, as they have done over the last few years. We examine the chickens regularly for any red mites, or any other ailments. We also clean their houses about every week and a half, removing everything an putting wood shaving down, with shredded paper in their nesting boxes. Their water containers a cleaned each week, and water is topped up most days. They are rotated often to give them plenty of fresh grass, and insect forage.

The trout farm implements flow forms that increase the oxygen levels in the water. There are many ponds, and the fish are often graded so they are will similarly sized other fish. This also gives the fish farmer and estimation of how much food to give each group of trout depending on the average size, and quantity of trout.

(2.4) They are many skills to be attained through looking after animals on a farm, many students have aspirations to become farmers in the future. Looking after animals is very structured, from daily feedings students learn about routines, that can be applied to their lives. Other students might learn about where their food comes from which might bring up ethical conversations, another student may learn the technicalities of keeping chickens.

Looking after animals is a great way to learn independence skills, over a period of time a student may go from:
not engaging in college
not engaging in the session
watching the chickens being fed

backwards chaining: dropping the chicken feed into the contained
helping to feed the chickens with support
locating the feed then helping feed the chickens with support
feeding the chickens with less support
feeding the chickens with minimal support
feeding the chickens without support
feeding the chicken with a little prompting
feeding the chickens without any prompting
refilling the feed container to be able to feed the chickens without support
ordering chicken feed
(calculating how much we require, interacting with community)

As you can see from the above example, a task like feeding the chickens, can be a developmental journey for a student, and is a task that can provide a learning opportunity to many students at a wide range of different levels.

(3.1) A farm organism can only sustain a certain number of animals before problems arise. The ruminants need access to a suitable amount of land throughout the year. The pigs can be quite destructive to the land through excessive digging, so the correct breeds should be chosen, and only as much as the land can hold. Conventional farms use nose rings to stop the pigs from digging but this is against biodynamic welfare standards. Pigs then need to have a large amount of land, with muddy areas, but also areas with vegetation. During the winter months, the cow are usually kept inside and require silage and hay, likewise the sheep in the fields will need supplementary feed, as the grass will be low in nourishment at this time. An important part of an animals diet is from forage, hedgerows can offer lots of nourishment for sheep, goats, and cows, as well as area of shade during summer.

Fodder beet as well as apples in autumn is a great addition to the diets of the farm animals. Ideally, the cows would be outside the barn for a long as possible. The market garden in horticulture really benefits from have a generous amount of manure, but for this to be available the cows have to been kept in the barn for as long as possible. This also gives time for the grass to grow, and let the pastures rest. There are only a handful of cows on the farm, giving them all plenty of space in the barn. But they would benefit if they were able to spend 10 months of the year on the land.

(3.2) Land, crops, and livestock are all connected on a biodynamic holding. Ideally, within the perfect farm organism, the land informs what crops can be grown, the livestock consumes the food from the land, and crops, producing manures that are put back into the land, to maintain the fertility to grow more crops, and maintain land health to continue this cycle.

(3.3) From a pedagogical perspective student can understand that the animals are well-cared for on the farm. The college strive to provide a nourishing environment for the students. We can sense harmony and balance, and this help create a therapeutic environment where students feel safe. It has been shown that walking past a abandoned, boarded up house, will instant increase a blood pressure and have biological affects on us. The biodynamic farm, and gardens are tended to in a intrinsically harmonious and conscious way that creates the ideal location for students to re-step, and re-imagine their potential.


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