Organic Livestock and Poultry Farming (Part 2)
Here’s an in-depth look at the world of organic farming for both livestock and organic.
High production is the typical aim in conventional farming. In organic farming systems, the farmer chooses animals for a wider range of qualities. These qualities include the mothering ability and tolerance for pest and disease. Lifetime yield is given more importance, and the productive life of animals is given priority.
Longer life expectancy of animals has several advantages for the farmer. It allows the farmer to get to know his animals, including health and disease history. It also allows the herd to have a stable social order and health state. Because of their longevity, the animals become more adapted to the conditions, thus lessening the stress factors. For cows and other mammals, colostrums quality and quantity also increase over time.
Artificial insemination is generally discouraged except for cases where new genetic material is needed. Embryo transplant is prohibited because this practice requires hormone injection so that the breeding cycles of the animals are synchronized. Genetic engineering is also prohibited in organic farm operations.
There are five (5) important things to remember in organic livestock health management:
1. Selecting appropriate breeds and types
2. Balanced Nutrition
3. Adequate housing, access to the outdoors, and sanitation
4. Provisions for natural behavior and exercise, and stress reduction
5. Preventive measures such as vaccines and other inoculants
Prophylactic treatments, hormones, and antibiotics are prohibited. Animals should be treated with medications only when they are sick. But if the animals are treated with a prohibited substance, their products cannot be sold as organic. Veterinarians and other professionals who work with an organic farm operation should be aware of the limitations of an organic farm operation. Vaccinations may be administered to prevent endemic diseases like bovine diarrhea and vibriolepto. There are also alternatives that do not depend on synthetic chemicals for treatment of animal illnesses.
These options include acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, probiotics and traditional herbal medicine. These methods do not need to be mutually exclusive. Organic consumers expect organic animals to be both treated humanely and not treated with drugs. Organic producers may need to resort to allopathic methods in order to save the life of an animal. However, in cases of emergency, medical treatments should not be withheld when there is concern for the welfare of the animal.
An animal treated with a prohibited substance loses its organic status.
Acupuncture – This is also a long-established practice that is based on traditional Chinese health care. Needles are used to stimulate the body’s adaptive–homeostatic mechanism. This method may be used along with other forms of treatment. Veterinary acupuncture helps strengthen the body’s immune system. It is also used as a technique to relieve pain and to stimulate the body and improve the function of organ systems.
Chiropractic –This method may be used to treat different conditions in animals through the manipulation of their spine, bones, joints, and muscles. The practitioner makes specific adjustments to vertebra to restore homeostasis.
Homeopathy –This is the use of remedies that results in symptoms that the animal has been treated. It uses the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur” or “like cures like.” These remedies are based on plants, minerals, drugs, viruses, bacteria, or animal substances that are diluted such that they are rendered harmless.
Homeopathic remedies are believed to contain vibrational energy essences that match the patterns in the sick animal. This method is a widely accepted veterinary practice in the organic community.
Probiotics – Probiotics using naturally occurring live microorganisms may be administered to treat livestock. Probiotic organisms usually boost immunity, and also produce substances that are closely related to antibiotics, but in much lower concentrations. This method can also be used to fight pathogenic organisms. However, producers must ensure that the micro organisms in products are not genetically engineered.
Traditional Herbal Medicine – This method uses botanical preparations to cure ailments. There is a great number of documentation on plants with healing capabilities. These have been recognized by both practitioners and skeptics of modern medicine. The prophylactic and therapeutic benefits of many plants that commonly grow in pastures, on the edges of fields, and in rangeland, are recognized by both organic farm operators and veterinarians. Organically produced herbs usually comply with the NOP rule when used as feed or feed supplements; however, operators should remember that commercial preparations in the market with health claims may not be regulated.
Prevention is still regarded as the best course for disease management in the farm. Organic farmers are recommended to keep records and good observation of the animals to assess any possible origin of diseases and injury.
Parasite control should be done using cultural methods. Routine use of parasiticides is prohibited. Slaughter stock treated with parasiticides is not eligible to be sold as organic.
Ivermectin is the only internal parasiticide currently allowed for use in organic farming, and the use still has a number of restrictions. However, ivermectin is prohibited for use on slaughter stock.
Ivermectin is only allowed as an emergency treatment for dairy and breeder stock when organic system plan-approved preventive management does not prevent infestation. Also, milk or milk products from a treated animal cannot be labeled as organic if it is taken within 90 days following treatment with ivermectin.
If ivermectin is used on breeder stock, treatment must be provided prior to the last third of gestation for their offspring to be sold as organic. Young stock may lose their certification if nursing on an animal treated with ivermectin during the lactation period.
The ideal options for controlling pests are methods that disrupt the life cycle of the target organism outside the host. These include rotational grazing, fecal examination, spelled pastures, alternating sheep and cattle on pasture, or alternation between irrigated and non-irrigated pastures, culling heavily infected animals, selection of resistant breeds, biological control at susceptible (usually free-living) stages in the life-cycle. Providing a sufficient host-free period may break the life-cycle of parasites.
There are three systems of systems grazing commonly used to break the host cycle:
1. Deferred grazing. The pasture is rested for 6 months during the cool season and 3 months in the warm part of the year. Pastures are then tilled and replanted with infective larvae succumbing to the effects of UV light and desiccation.
2. Alternate grazing. This depends on the two or more species of grazing animals grazing on different parts of the forage and coincidentally ingesting each other’s parasite larvae. The animals should not serve as alternate hosts. Supplemental strategies should be in place when those species share common parasites.
3. Alternate Use. This system relies on intensive grazing of the pasture for a short period of time, then leaving that pasture to the production of harvestable hay. When this hay is baled and removed, parasite burden is consequentially removed. Animals may then be returned to the original pasture when new growth emerges after haying.
Botanical ectoparasiticides like pyrethrum are nonsynthetic. These are allowed for external application to livestock subject to the restrictions that they appear in the Farm Plan and as long as they are not used on a routine basis. External parasiticides such as Pyrethrum, copper sulfate, hydrated lime, and mineral oil may be used. However, external parasiticides used on organic animals must be formulated with only natural or minimum risk inert ingredients.
The use of anthelmintics is prohibited when controlling internal parasites. Routine drenching is also prohibited, but the practice is allowed on a needs basis. As with disease control, animal welfare should be given more importance over organic status if permitted practices do not treat the animal.
Drenches made from natural products can be used as organic treatments for internal parasites. These natural products include garlic, molasses, vegetable oil and cider vinegar. Farmers may also use Copper Sulfate, provided this is used only in very small doses. Other products also permitted are aloe vera, clay products, diatomaceous earth, and vegetable and tree products.
As the animals age, they develop a resistance to internal from previous exposure. Proper nutrition and grazing rotation also promote development and maintenance of resistance.
To put it simply, there are three things farmers must consider to reduce internal parasite infestation:
1. Promote good health and reduce stress.
2. Practice good grazing management.
3. Eliminate herd drenching. Drench only individual animals that are infected.
External parasites on the other hand, can be primarily avoided by observing the animals closely and initially selecting parasite-tolerant or resistant stock. Control of external parasites include observing proper sanitation, biological controls (animal or insect predators) and organic treatments like lime sulfur for itch mite and eucalyptus oil for fly strike. Facility adjustments such as double fencing can also prevent the spread of infestation between neighboring herds.
Sanitation, as previously mentioned, is an essential part in controlling and preventing parasite infestation, as well as other diseases. As with other equipment in an organic operation, teat dips and udder washes must be natural or on the National List. Commercial teat dips that contain synthetic antimicrobials are prohibited for use in organic farm operation. Iiodine, glycerin, and lanolin, and most vegetable oil bases are allowed. Chlorohexidine may be used as a teat dip only in the event that alternative germicidal agents and/or physical barriers have lost their effectiveness.
to be continued….
By Carmela Abaygar