Members of the Council of States rejected the so-called horned cow initiative, which would give farmers financial support if they chose not to remove the horns from their cattle, the Swiss news agency SDA reported.
In Switzerland around nine out of ten cows no longer have horns, the agency reported at the time the initiative was launched last year.
The initiative“for the dignity of agricultural livestock” was brought by animal protection groups, the association for small and medium-sized farmers, Bio Suisse and ProSpecieRara.
Supporters argue that animals experience fear and pain when they are dehorned.
They want the government to offer monetary help to the owners of cows, bulls for breeding and goats with horns to offset the higher costs of maintaining the animals.
“If nature has given cows horns, then they have the right to retain those horns,” argued Council of States member Anita Fetz of the Social Democratic Party.
But the government opposes the introduction of subsidies.
“The economic aspects need to be taken into account,” Agriculture Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann told the chamber of parliament.
A parliamentary economics commission has estimated the cost to the government at 30 million francs assuming ten percent of cattle and goats retain their horns.
The risk of injury among animals or to humans is the principal reason why most farmers dehorn their cattle.
The initiative still has to be debated in the larger parliamentary chamber, the National Council, before going to a nationwide vote.