The farm

“In summertime you can admire the cows from the abbey in the pastures around the abbey buildings.”

A farm has always been part of Westmalle Abbey, since its foundation in 1794. For a long time, the monks combined working the land with breeding cattle. However, from 1932 onwards, they focused on dairy farming so they could cover their own dairy requirements as well as sell their cheese on a limited scale (cheese product page).

groningse-blaarkop.jpgGroninger Blaarkop and Brown Swiss

The farm’s herd mainly consists of two cattle breeds: Groninger Blaarkop and Brown Swiss. Around 100 dairy cows, together with calves and bulls used for breeding, are housed in the barns in the grounds of the abbey.

These two cattle breeds were selected specifically because they give birth to calves that are relatively small in size, which makes birthing far easier. In summer you can admire the animals grazing the pastures around the abbey.

Animal welfare comes first


Recently the monks decided to replace their tie stall (in which cows are tethered) with a modern free stall that allows the animals to move freely. This type of stall has several advantages: the cows remain quieter, they live longer, and there is no loss of contact between humans and animals. The abbey farm always strives to be animal friendly.

The cows are milked twice a day in an auto-tandem or carousel with room for 28 animals. The animals are allowed to eat whilst they are milked, so they make their way spontaneously towards the carousel, producing a calmer atmosphere. Most of the milk is destined for the abbey’s own cheese workshop and the remainder is sold to a local dairy.

  • Sheep in the meadow.
  • A monk stands amongst the sheep to feed them.
  • A brown hen free-ranging in the meadow
  • Cows peacefully graze the pastures around the abbey.
  • Cows feeding in the barn.
  • Cows on their way to being milked.
  • Cows in the auto-tandem.
  • Cows lying down, resting in the barn.