The history of heifer

In the early years of the previous century, Dan West, an American farmer, traveled to Spain to assist the victims of the Civil War. However, he felt helpless witnessing the supply of powdered milk they were distributing running out, and the recurring sight of hungry families lining up each day.

Not a cup but a cow

He pondered, “This needs a different approach!”. They don’t require powdered milk; they need a cow. Dan West began working on the concept of donating young, pregnant cows to impoverished families. The calf could then be passed on to another family within the community. The idea of Heifer was born.

But there were significant challenges. How do we get the animals there? How do people access the right knowledge and materials to care for the cows? Dan West realized that he could never achieve this by himself.

He joined forces with others. They organized livestock transportation by sea and air, and brought knowledge of animal husbandry to impoverished areas. The families who received these cows began to believe in themselves again, saw new opportunities, and were no longer dependent on assistance from others.

80 years later

Now, 80 years later, Heifer has grown into a global organization. 43 million farming families have a access to nutritious food and earn a good income thanks to the Heifer method. What makes this approach unique is that each farmer passes on knowledge, seeds, and livestock, thereby helping others to build a better life.

Today, Heifer has offices in (Latin) America, Africa, and Asia. The approach has evolved to address contemporary challenges: Livestock farming is integrated with sustainable agriculture, with a strong focus on climate considerations. Together with farming families, we work on improving production, earning a sustainable income, overcoming social taboos, and ensuring a diverse diet.

Read more about the Heifer approach