It has been know for some time now that organic livestock production standards would be revised following the publication and adoption of new European Union regulations on organic livestock. The new standards were adopted in the United Kingdom on 24 August, 2000. This will result in some changes for organic producers in Northern Ireland. Because of these changes, anyone interested in converting to organic production should find out about the implications of the revised standards.

Whilst we might often expect new standards to mean a tightening of the requirements this is not always the case. Some of the modifications will make it a little easier to meet the new organic standards. A few of the topics addressed by the standards are summarised briefly and will be discussed fully at meetings during November.

Housing

The new organic standards now allow housing for organic livestock to have up to half of the floor area slatted. This will make it easier for many producers currently using slatted accommodation to adapt buildings to meet the new standards. Previously the slatted area was limited to one quarter of the floor area. Stock must have access to generous space whilst housed and the areas are now specified for all stock.

Feeding

Whilst it is desirable for all of the feed for organic stock to be organically produced the limited availability of some feeds can sometimes make this very difficult to achieve. Consequently organic producers can feed a small quantity of approved non-organic feeds for the next five years. For ruminant stock this allowance is 10% and for pigs and poultry 20% of the annual dry matter intake, although up to 25% of the daily dry matter intake may be fed over a short period of time. For example, a weaned suckled calf, which is eating organic silage, could be fed up to 1 kg of permitted non-organic meal each day from October to April. The meal must be free from any genetically modified feeds or their derivatives, solvent extracted feeds, fishmeal and certain preservative and additives.

Simultaneous conversion

Simultaneous conversion of livestock and land enables organic stock to be sold two years after the start of conversion. Where it is possible to manage the stock organically from the start of conversion calves born three months after the start of conversion may be sold as organic as soon as the land is converted. Lambs can be sold as organic if born to ewes mated after the start of conversion and sold after the land is converted. Land conversion generally takes two years.

Livestock manure

Farm yard manure and slurry along with clover form the backbone of soil fertility on an organic farm. Livestock manures should be managed to reduce the loss of nutrients and recycling them around the farm is vital to maintain soil fertility. However, the total amount of Nitrogen must not exceed 170 kg / ha of agricultural area used. As this is equivalent to about two livestock units per hectare this is not likely to pose a problem where ruminant livestock are kept. Any excess manure from organic pig or poultry units must be spread on other organic land.

Parallel production

Organic holdings must be separated from non-organic holdings by physical, operational and financial means.

Poultry

Perhaps the greatest area of change has been with the poultry standards. Although the sector bodies now have similar standards for livestock production there are still quite big differences between them with regard to poultry standards. It is now possible for land used for poultry to gain organic status after one year.

MEETINGS

The organic sector bodies will have representatives in Northern Ireland to explain the requirements for organic livestock production over the next few weeks. Anyone who would like to find out more is invited to attend the meetings which will be held in the Conference Hall, Greenmount College, Antrim.
  • Wednesday 8 November 8pm New organic livestock standards
    Speaker: Organic Farmers and Growers, John Dalby, Certification Manager

  • Thursday 9 November 10.30 am New organic poultry standards
    Speaker: Organic Farmers and Growers, John Dalby, Certification Manager

  • Wednesday 29 November 8 pm New organic livestock and poultry standards
    Speaker: Soil Association, Phil Stoker, Producer Services Manager