Organic production practices are just one of the many options available to livestock producers to grow and market quality livestock and wholesome end-products.
Organic livestock management practices offer unique rewards and challenges to the livestock producer regardless of the animal species produced. Organic livestock production often necessitates the integration of animal-pasture-crop production to be successfully.
There are a number of considerations that need to be addressed to successful produce certified organic livestock and products.
Considerations for Organic Livestock Production
Origin of Livestock: Livestock and products from the livestock that are sold, labeled, or advertised as organic must be from livestock that originate from animals that were managed under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation or at hatching.
Livestock Feed: Livestock that are produced under organic management must have their total ration that is comprised of agricultural products including pasture, forage, and crops that are organically produced and handled organically. There are certain nonsynthetic and synthetic substances that can be used as feed additives and supplements. Dairy cattle under 9 months of age are allowed 20% of their feed come from nonorganic sources. Plastic pellets, urea, manure, mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products are not allowed.
Living Conditions: An organic livestock producer must create and maintain living conditions that accommodate natural behavior and health of the animal. The living conditions must include access to outdoors, shade, shelter, fresh air, direct sunlight suitable to the species, and access to pasture for ruminants.
Waste Management: Organic livestock producers are mandated to manage manure so that is does not contribute to the contamination of crops, soil, or water and optimizes recycling of nutrients.
Health Care: Organic livestock production practices require the producer to establish preventative health care practices. The health care practices include selecting the appropriate species and type of livestock, providing adequate feed, create an appropriate environment that minimizes stress, disease, and parasites, administration of vaccines and veterinary biologics, animal husbandry practices to promote animal wellbeing in a manner that minimizes pain and stress. Producers can not provide preventative antibiotics. Producers are encouraged to treat animals with appropriate treatment, including antibiotics and other conventional medicines when needed but treated animals can not be sold or labeled as organic. Producers can not administer hormones or other drugs for growth promotion.
Record Keeping/Audit Trail: Organic livestock operations need to maintain records for a number of reasons. Certainly, records are important for financial management of the organic livestock enterprise. Likewise, records are important for the verification of organic status of animals, production, harvesting, and handling practices associated with the organic products and animals. Records are mandated to be maintained for 5 years, and must demonstrate compliance with the Organic Food Production Act.
For more information about organic livestock production, please see the resources listed here or contact your local UF-IFAS County Extension office.