Integration of organic animal production into land use with special reference to swine and poultry
The development in organic livestock production can be attributed to an increased consumer interest in organic products while, at the same time, increased farmers’ interest in converting to organic production methods—often stimulated by governmental support or subsidies. It is important that organic production systems can fulfil the expectations of each of these stakeholders if organic livestock production is to increase further. This is of particular importance if organic pig and poultry production (other than egg) is to move from the present niche-production to a significant place in the food market, as in the case of beef and milk. It can be argued that the limited organic pork and poultry production is related to the fact that it is far more difficult for farmers to change the existing production systems for pig and poultry compared to production systems for cattle and other ruminants in a way that gives a harmonious balance between the different aims of organic farming. Conflicts may occur as to the most appropriate rearing practice in considerating the basic aspects of the innate behaviour of animals on one hand, the risk of pollution from the production on the other and, in addition, the aim of producing in sufficient quantities. These possible conflicts are reflected in the compromises made in national or EU regulations on organic farming. In the regulations for organic farming, the aspect of allowing a high degree of natural behaviour of the livestock is, among others, translated in the requirement that livestock, in certain periods of their life or of the year, should be allowed to graze or have access to an outdoor area. The most common outdoor systems for pig and poultry used in intensively managed organic production have some significant drawbacks in relation to environmental impact (risk of N-leaching and ammonia volatilisation), animal welfare (nose-ringed sows), high mortality in poultry and workload and management constraints. From recent experience of such systems, it is argued that there is a need for a radical development of the systems. There is a need for outdoor/free range systems (for the sake of the livestock), which are constructed and managed in such a way that the livestock, at the same time, exert a positive influence on other parts of the farming system. There is evidence that pregnant sows can fulfil their nutritional needs to a large extent by grazing, that co-grazing sows with heifers can diminish the parasite burden of the heifers, and that the pig inclination for rooting can be managed in a way that makes ploughing and other heavy land cultivation more or less superfluous. As regard poultry, there is an indication that quite big flocks can be managed efficiently in a way where the flock act as weeders in other crops or fight pests in orchards. These elements need to be further explored as a basis for future system development.
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28 October 2010
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