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Organic Livestock Production Practices


Livestock Living Conditions and Facilities:

Organic livestock producers provide living areas that encourage the health and natural behavior of their animals. Organic practices reflect concerns for animal welfare and a desire to balance productivity with both animal well-being and environmental quality. Organic livestock must have access to outdoor areas, shade, shelter, space for exercise, fresh air, clean drinking water, and direct sunlight. Livestock shelters should give animals protection from extreme temperatures, adequate air circulation and ventilation, and space to exercise.


Organic producers must give ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, sheep, and goats) access to pasture during the grazing season. Livestock may not be continuously confined. However, temporary confinement is allowed under specific circumstances, mostly regarding the health and safety of the animal. By providing access to the outdoors, organic livestock producers convert forage, legumes and grasses into meat, milk, wool, and other products. Grazing livestock also provide producers with manure, a very important source of fertility in organic farming systems and an excellent means of recycling nutrients. Rotational grazing may improve forage quantity and quality, while preventing over-grazing.

Animal Health:

Organic animal health, like organic crop health, relies on preventative practices and systems. Good genetics are important, as organic livestock producers should select breeds that are well adapted to their particular environment. Balanced nutrition, exercise, and a low-stress environment also contribute to building strong immune systems in animals. Vaccination and other preventative measures are common; antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited. Organic livestock producers work to manage exposure to disease and parasites through grazing management, proper sanitation, and  preventing the introduction of disease agents.

Organic Feed:

Organic livestock must eat certified organic feed. Organic feed must be grown and processed by certified organic operations. Similarly, any pastures, forages, and plant-based bedding (such as hay) accessible to livestock must be certified as organically grown and processed. Certain additives, such as vitamins and minerals not produced organically, can be fed to organic livestock in trace amounts, but others, including hormones used to promote growth, are strictly prohibited. Animal Origin: Organic livestock generally must be raised organically since the last third of gestation. Birds used for poultry or egg production, may come from any source, but must be raised organically beginning the second day of life.

From: USDA


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