The health benefits of having a pet are becoming widely known. But, did you know farm animals can also play a unique role in preserving your physical and mental well-being? Learn more about the science behind this phenomenon here.
People are drawn to country life, homesteading and hobby farming for different reasons.
Some relish the peace and quiet of being surrounded by acreage, others draw pleasure and purpose from gardening and working the land or achieving greater self-sufficiency.
But for many of us, the desire to go-rural is driven by our love of animals.
If you’ve been looking for a good excuse to upgrade from house pets to farm animals, check out these 5 ways keeping farm animals can help keep your entire family healthier and happier.
#1: Farm animals reduce the risk of asthma and allergies in children and babies
While it may seem counter-intuitive, researchers at Johns’ Hopkins University discovered that babies exposed to dirt, animal dander (yes!) and germs had a lower risk of allergies and asthma later in life than children raised in cities or towns.
Other studies conducted on Amish children have shown the same results: the more time kids spend with farm animals, the significantly lower their risk of asthma and allergies.
Our next point explains why this phenomenon occurs...
#2: Keeping farm animals can significantly boost your immunity
Not only does being around farm animals help lower a child’s risk of asthma and allergies, but studies have proven farm kids tend to have stronger immune systems, more resilient gut microbiomes and less chronic childhood disease than city kids.
Many of these health benefits are due to the microbe-rich barnyard dust that children inhale, which (believe it or not) challenges and strengthens their immunity over time.
Additionally, spending time outdoors tending to animals exposes us to natural sunlight which helps boost vitamin D levels. Plus, farm chores promote regular exercise and movement—all of which strengthen immunity.
#3: Farm animals provide healthier food & superior nutrition
There’s a certain level of satisfaction that comes from growing and raising your own food; and research has confirmed that raising your own animals for meat, milk and eggs has some impressive health benefits.
For example, a study from Penn State showed that chickens raised in their natural environment, with plenty of access to the outdoors, green grass, worms, grubs, etc. produced eggs with double the amount of vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids, a more favorable ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids (which helps your body fight inflammation) and a higher concentration of vitamin A.
Dairy cows raised on pastures give milk which is higher in essential fatty acids like anti-inflammatory omega 3 and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). And many dairy farmers and health enthusiasts swear raw milk, aka: “farm milk” is easier to digest, tastier and less allergenic than pasteurized homogenized milk.
And beef cattle raised on grass produce a leaner healthier meat higher in omega 3s, CLA, precursors to vitamins A and E (such as carotenoids which give the fat a yellow hue) and the antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase; all while being lower in fat and cholesterol than grain-fed cattle.
Plus, if you’re raising your own animals you have total control over what goes into their bodies— which typically results in less antibiotics and artificial hormones...and that’s good for everyone.
#4: Caring for farm animals protects your mental and emotional health too
You’ve probably read about the health and longevity benefits of house pets, but science shows that farm animals can impact your mental and emotional well-being too.
Horses, for example, have long been used as therapy animals for children and adults with disabilities; and horseback riding through equine programs has been shown to help quell stress and anxiety in teens by reducing cortisol levels.
Beyond equine therapy, Care Farms have shown promising benefits for those with mental, emotional, memory and behavioral health issues.
A Care Farm is a special non-institutional setting where people can interact with and care for farm animals as part of their healthcare treatment program. On a Care Farm, useful work while interacting with animals forms the basis of the therapy.
The animals on these Care Farms have shown great promise in providing participants with a variety of mental and emotional benefits including:
- Meaningful daily occupation
- A way to connect and create valued relationships
- Better coping skills
- Opportunities for reciprocity
- A distraction from their problems
- A source of relaxation
- Enhanced feelings of acceptance and purpose
- Healthy relationships with other people on the farm
- Stimulating healthy behavior
- Opportunities for reflection and feedback
Additionally, farmers on Care Farms have noted the animals provide a “mirror” for the participants, which helps them see how their own behavior and attitudes directly affect others.
Research has also shown Care Farms provide structure, purpose and stimulus which benefit those with dementia.
#5: Farm animals and pets help protect your heart health
Strange, but true.
Research from the American Heart Association has shown regular interaction with animals benefits your heart health by:
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
- Reducing stress
- Improving physical fitness
- Reducing the risk of obesity
Plus, animals provide companionship and purpose—both of which are important in protecting your heart health and longevity.
Eager to learn more about raising farm animals for better health and well-being?