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Organic livestock farming: benefits, principles, challenges


Introduction to Organic
livestock farming:

Organic livestock farming is one among various farming systems that are close to nature & ethics. The use of veterinary drugs & synthetic products in conventional animal farming is continuously increasing the threat to human health. Organic livestock farming method is a land-based activity. In order to avoid environmental pollution, particularly natural sources such as the soil & water, organic production of livestock must in principle present for a close relationship between such production and the land.

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Organic livestock farming not only proves to maintain health
& welfare of animals. But is also playing an important role in providing
benefits regarding the health of consumers, profit to the producers and
sustainability of the environment. Certified organic animals are generally
reared by feeding on pastures, fully organic nutrition is provided that is
grown and processed by avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides &
herbicides. Animals are reared without the use of any genetic modifications
& antibiotics or artificial hormones are allowed only when no other option
is available that too to a limited extent.

The demand for organic livestock farming is increasing
tremendously with the attendant expansion of organic livestock product markets.
The presence of developing countries like Brazil & Argentina in exporting
the organic livestock products provides welcome opportunities for the other
developing countries like India. In order to increase export of organic
livestock farming products and develop strong domestic markets a lot of
challenges must be overcome by the developing countries. Organic livestock
farming has a greater demand & scope in the present global scenario due to
more focus on sustainability. Despite its benefits, there are several debatable
questions like the circulation of disease organisms, use of medicines &
management, etc. regarding organic livestock farming in which further research
& re-consideration is needed.

Historical development
of Organic livestock farming:

Historically, livestock has always played the main role in
organic production systems. During the formative years of the organic livestock
movement (the 1920s through the 1950s), the typical organic farms of Great
Britain, Continental Europe & North America integrated livestock production
with the growth of both food & feed crops.

Livestock provided manure, which is one of nature’s best
fertilizers & a good means for recycling nutrients within a crop rotation.
Rising organic livestock farming feed alongside food crops, expand rotations;
because forage legumes & sod-forming grasses are among the best feeds for
ruminant livestock, these soil-building crops physically became part of long
sustainable cropping sequences. In such systems, livestock could be fed cull
vegetables, weather damaged crops, crop residues, “alternative” grains, and
forages & cash crop grains during years of low prices.

Organic agriculture has its roots in traditional agricultural
perform in small communities around the world. Farmers passed down knowledge of
efficient practices onto subsequent generations. Organic agriculture became
observable on a wider scale in the 1960s, when farmers & consumers became
concerned that the number of chemicals used in crop & animal production
could have negative consequences for human being health & the environment.
Since then, it has developed into a more cohesive & organized movement and
it is now the fastest growing food sector globally.

Characteristics of
organic livestock production systems:

Organic livestock management shall aim to use natural breeding
methods, minimize stress, prevent disease, progressively eliminate the use of
chemical allopathic veterinary drugs, and maintain animal health & welfare.

Breeds and Breeding

There is a large range of organic farming enterprises. There are
farms that focus on scale economies & maximum production efficiency per
animal or per hectare. Other farms focus on product quality, self-sufficiency,
direct marketing or niche market, etc. These different types of farms may need
livestock breeds with different characteristics. At present, organic farmers
worldwide keep livestock according to circumstances where breed choice has been
based on information from conventional production systems. Such livestock could
not be optimally adapted to an organic, low-input farming system.

When animals are genetically adapted to specific or extreme
conditions, they will be more productive and production costs will be lower.
Also, selecting breeds suitable for the local environment will also safeguard
animal health and welfare. Production in intensive systems is associated with
high-energy concentrate feeding & regular, prophylactic veterinary
treatments and the use of exotic livestock breeds. Livestock breeds developed
for use under these circumstances. Organic forage-based livestock systems may
need special breeds. Highly productive dairy cows, for example, may endure
physiological problems under organic conditions, as they need concentrate.

Feeds and feeding

  • Livestock should be
    fed with 100 percent physically grown feeds.
  • More than 50 percent
    should come from farms or formed in the region.
  • Sufficient green
    fodder must be supplied.
  • Sufficient clean &
    potable drinking water should be provided.
  • Use of synthetic
    growth promoters, synthetic appetizers, preservatives, synthetic coloring
    agents, synthetic amino acids, emulsifiers, urea etc. is prohibited.

Housing:

  • Animals should not be
    caged, tethered in buildings.
  • Animals should have
    enough area to graze.
  • Housing must allow
    sufficient movement.
  • The maximum amount of
    fresh air & daylight should be provided.
  • Should be reared in
    herds or flocks of appropriate size.
  • Dry litter material
    must be used as bedding.
  • Group penning is
    arranged.
  • The indoor area is
    complemented by an outdoor area that must be at least 75 percent of the indoor
    area.

Disease prevention:

  • Selection of breeds to
    avoid exact diseases. The indigenous breeds are resistant to most of the
    disease as compared to exotic breeds.
  • Animals should be
    raised in a manner that promotes good resistance against diseases &
    infections.
  • Availability of good
    value feed in outdoor areas strengthens the natural immune system.
  • Adequate space
    allowance avoids overcrowding & prevents health problems associated with
    it.
  • Vaccines should be
    used when diseases cannot be controlled by other manage mental techniques.

Treatment:

  • Avoid reliance upon
    routine or prophylactic makes use of conventional veterinary medicines.
  • Non-allopathic
    medicines, herbal medicines & methods, including Homoeopathy, Ayurvedic
    medicine and acupuncture should be emphasized.
  • Conventional
    veterinary medicines are allowed in case of an emergency. If used, the
    with-holding period for livestock products should be twice the legal essential
    period.

Challenges of Organic
livestock farming in Developing Countries:
Developing
countries are already producing a wide range of organic products & many are
thriving well. Though, most of them are often faced by a number of constraints,
such as:

  1. Lack of technical
    know-how, for example, organic farming practices & production methods. In
    most developing countries, practical support is oriented towards using
    technologies that can enhance productivity per unit input and time. The
    practical knowledge, how about organic livestock farming is restricted to
    private companies that have access to export & limited local markets.
  2. Lack of market
    information, for example, which products to grow, which markets &
    distribution channels to choose, competition, market access. Although most of
    the population in the developing countries become aware of the health &
    environmental hazard of inorganic agricultural products, there are no extensive
    promotion works concerning the negative impacts of these products &
    initiation of the use of organic ones. In addition, most governments in
    developing countries are promoting the common conventional production systems
    which could hamper the market information about the accessibility of organic
    agricultural products.
  3. Organically produced
    foods have to meet strict regulations. Entering this profitable market is not
    easy. Farmers are denied contact to developed country organic markets for two
    to three years after beginning organic management since such countries will not
    certify land & livestock as organic before that time, arguing that it is
    essential for the purging of chemical residues.
  4. Intensive management
    & this is why farming is mostly done on a smaller scale.
  5. Organic farming is
    still faced with the difficulty of higher labor input in its operation. Other
    studies show that the major reason why organic farming requires more labor is
    to carry out manual & mechanical tasks essential to growth. The preparation
    for sale on the farm or on the market involves more labor on organic holdings.
    In fact, this could be a challenge to organic livestock farming because of the
    rising flow of the labor force from rural agriculture to urban areas where they
    could enjoy a better payment.
  6. Organic farming is
    still hampered by the requirement of clarity: Consumers were not always sure
    about what was actually covered by organic farming and the restrictions it
    implied. The reasons for the confusion lay, among further things, in the
    existence of a number of different “schools” or philosophies, the need of
    harmonized terminology, the nonstandard presentation of products & the
    tendency to blur the distinctions between concepts such as organic, natural,
    wholesome & so on. The situation was worsened by cases of fraudulent
    utilize of labeling referring to organic methods. In the future, organic
    livestock products will gain contact to lucrative local markets because of the
    growing income, urbanization & the increasing demand of animal products and
    these together with the information on the inclination to the requirements of
    organic livestock products, will make opportunity for the deceitful use of
    labeling.

Factors influencing
organic livestock farming success:

With regard to the legislative side, it is extremely important
to note that regulations on organic production embrace a wide variety of
organic farms; they agree to use different animal breeds, structures,
agro-ecosystem management, feeding strategies, & marketing strategies. As a
consequence, organic the livestock farm’s success & perspectives are really
different from one place to another. For example, found that the situation in
North Germany was in contrast to the region in the south, where the variability
of amount & proportion of the different feed types is predominantly
independent of the milk yield. Many factors form these differences, such as the
ecosystems on which farms are based and consumers’ demands & willingness to
pay.

Animal nutrition: Legislation
and market

Animal nutrition constitutes the main pillar of organic
livestock production. Therefore, found that feeding strategies among Wisconsin organic dairy farms were the main
determinants of herd milk production and income over feed costs. This could
serve current organic farmers & transition farmers when considering feeding
management changes needed to meet organic pasture rule necessities or dealing
with dietary supplementation challenges.

In relation to organic feedstuffs, the mainly important
obstacles are the difficulty to find them & their prices. This situation is
forced by the farms’ high external dependence of feedstuff due to the
decoupling between crops & livestock. These facts decrease the organic
livestock farms´ adaptability, & their access to feed additives and
materials of high quality. As a result, the organic livestock farming sector
faces a big challenge that, along with other factors, has to lead to a
situation characterized by organic livestock farms without organic products,
which decreases their profitability & future perspectives of success. This
has been observed also in beef cattle, dairy cow farms, or other species.

One possible result of overcoming this barrier would be the use
of local agricultural by-products for animal nutrition since their price is
generally low, and according to, they allow adding to their economic value,
while providing an environmentally sound technique for disposal of the
by-product materials. Moreover, it would lead to either an increase in the
incomes for the organic business that sells such by-products or a decrease in
the expenditure related to their disposal.

Opportunities for
Organic Livestock Farming in Developing Countries Acceptance by Consumers:

Most consumers wish organic foods because they declare it is
tastier, as well as healthier both for themselves & the environment.
Consumers are ready to pay additional for organic products. Another reason for
Organic products prominence is the opposition to genetically customized food.
Under organic livestock production process, consumers expect organic milk,
meat, poultry,
eggs and leather products, etc. To come from farms that have been inspected to
prove that they meet rigorous standards, which permit the use of organic feed,
prohibit the use of prophylactic antibiotics & give animal contact to the
outdoors, fresh air and sunlight.

Consumer demand for certified organic products is mostly
concentrated in North America & Europe with the two regions contributing 96
percent of global revenues of certified organic products. Besides a large
variety of organic crop products, major livestock products sold are eggs &
dairy products. Even though there is less availability & lack of
certification process of organic livestock products in developing countries,
most of the people, particularly those living around urban areas in are aware
of the beneficiary aspects of organic products & thrive to use these
products for consumption. Once if the government of these countries endorses
organic livestock farming as a policy and if awareness formed & technical
assistance is provided among the communities of both urban & rural areas,
people tend to produce more of the organic livestock products so this will
increase the supply & compensate the price of products.

Encourages Biodiversity:

Organic livestock farming provides energy for microbial activity
& this has been suggested as an indicator of change for soil properties
because the size & activity of the microbial quotient is directly related
to the amount & quality of carbon available.

Organic livestock farms often explore biodiversity than
conventional farms since it is usually with more trees, a wider diversity of
crops & many different natural predators, which control pests & help
prevent disease.

Livestock farmers could tend to think of insects as pests:

mosquitoes & various
flies come to mind. Yet dung beetles & other similar insects help to take
manure into the soil, where it feeds the microorganisms & eventually the
pasture plants. Pollinators that assist the ecosystem function are beneficial
to livestock & insects are vital to the food chain. You can encourage
insects by having a diversity of flowering plants & by not using
broad-spectrum insecticides

Benefits of Organic
livestock farming:

Environment: Organic farmers & ranchers use practices that reduce
impacts on the off-farm environment. They implement plans to avoid manure
runoff, instead of using compost as fertilizer it to conserve nutrients. As
well, farmers use sustainable practices such as crop rotation & cover crops
to maintain soil fertility and protect soil & water quality.

Animal health: Pasture-based
diets develop ruminants’ digestive health, making the rumen less acidic. This
lower acidity increases the number of beneficial microorganisms that help
ferment ruminants’ high-fiber diet. Pasture-based systems have been exposed to
reduce hock lesions and other lameness, mastitis, veterinary expenses, &
cull rates.

Although livestock is generally the last part of the farm to be
certified organic, they are often central to the farm & can contribute to
its success. Livestock plays an even critical role in organic farms than they
do on conventional farms. Livestock on an organic farm plays the main role in:

Nutrient cycling: a process in which nutrients are returned to the soil
through manure & compost. Amending soils with animal manures can increase
microbial biomass, enzymatic activity & alter the structure of the
microbial community.

Incorporation of feed crops, such as alfalfa, grasses into crop
rotations assists to build soil organic matter. Increasing cropping options,
adding diversity of the agro-ecosystem.

Weed control: feed crops can be used to suppress & control weeds and
animals can be used to graze out weeds on crops or pastures

Preparing the ground for cropping:

Livestock farm such as pigs can ‘Plough’ rough or new land
earlier than planting vegetables or grains, reducing tillage & weed control
costs.

Interrupting insect & disease cycles by taking land out of
cropping.

Adding value to
grasslands & promoting the use of green manures Reducing the financial
risks of farming by converting lower quality grain crops & screenings into
profit and spreading income more evenly over the year.

Organic Certification:

It is a certification procedure for producers of organic food
& other organic agriculture
products. In general, any business straight involved in food production can be
certified, including seed suppliers, dairy farm, farmers, food processors &
retailers. Certification is basically aimed at regulating & facilitating
the sale of organic products to consumers and also prevents fraud.

The five major certifying bodies which monitor the standards for
organic production & having worldwide acceptance are:-

– EU regulation (1804/1999),

– Organic Food Products Acts (OFPA) of USA,

– Draft Guidelines of Codex / WHO/ FAO,

– UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS)

– International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements
(IFOAM)

Steps required for
certification:

  1. The local
    certification group has to be contacted to know their standards as they vary from
    area to area & type of production.
  2. Study the standards
    & check by the certification agency if there is anything that is not clear.
  3. Submit a completed
    application & fees to the certification agency. Confidentiality is secure.
  4. The certification
    agency’s certification group will consider the application & if anything is
    in order, will hire a third party inspector to create an on-farm assessment
    periodically.
  5. The inspector submits
    a comprehensive report & committee member’s made a decision based on the
    report & sells products as ‘certified organic’. Some agencies charge
    licensing fees & have official stickers or labels, which may be purchased.

The followings are the
National Standards for Organic Livestock Production (NSOLP) In India:

  • Landscape
  • Fertilization Policy
  • Animal husbandry
    management
  • Length of the
    conversion period
  • Brought –in Animals
  • Breeds & Breeding
  • Mutilations
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Transport and
    Slaughter

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