Organic animal husbandry

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Biological agriculture

LIFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, defines organic agriculture as follows: All agricultural systems that promote the production of food and fiber in a healthy way socially, economically and from an environmental point of view. These systems have as their basis of production capacity the intrinsic fertility of the soil and, respecting the nature of the plants of the animals and the landscape, optimize all these interdependent factors. Organic farming drastically reduces the use of external inputs through the exclusion of fertilizers, pesticides and synthetic chemical medicines. Instead, it uses the power of natural laws to increase yields and disease resistance.
With the biological term, in Italy, Greece, France, Holland and Portugal, or with the ecological term, in Spain, Denmark, Germany and Sweden, or organic in the English-speaking countries, we mean what is obtained, plant or animal, through a production method that does not use synthetic products and that respects a series of rules that bind the manufacturer in the way of operating.
The concept of organic agriculture originated in the early 1900s especially in central Europe. There are three main movements:
- in Germany, for the inspiration of Rudolf Steiner, who developed the anthroposophical doctrine, Biodynamic Agriculture was born;
- Organic Agriculture was born in England immediately after the Second World War and originates mainly from the ideas of Sir Howard;
- in Switzerland, in the 1940s, Hans Peter Rusch and H. Muller defined the method of organic agriculture.
Organic agriculture develops spontaneously without regulatory references and released from market laws.
From the sixties onwards, the growth of the movement accelerated: the growing environmental damage and a different awareness of how and what to eat, alone are sufficient to push towards agriculture where the use of chemistry is reduced and more controlled. In those years a true organic market was born, ever wider, differentiated, aimed at the big cities of Northern Europe that stimulates agriculture in those countries. Spain, Portugal and Italy begin to become suppliers of these markets.
In the seventies, control and certification systems developed, initially in a somewhat chaotic way, then with increasingly clear and complete rules. LIFOAM was born in France in 1972 and brings together over 500 movements of organic operators from all five continents, for a total of 90 countries.
Only in 1991 with the EEC Reg. 2092 (entered into force on 1st January 1993) there is the official recognition and regulation of the production method as well as the transformation and marketing of the organic product. The zootechnical sector, which will be regulated by the EEC Reg. 1804/99 which entered into force on 24/8/2000, was excluded, with the exception of some points (prohibition of the use of genetically modified organisms and their derivatives in animal feed) which became mandatory by immediately.

Since 1 January 2009, the EU regulatory framework relating to agri-food production obtained with the organic method has profoundly changed. The EEC Reg. 1804/99 was repealed by the EC Reg. 834/07

Reg. 2092/91 - Reg. 1804/99 (Repealed by Reg. 834/07)

The commitment to launch specific and complementary legislation for organic animal husbandry had already been made with the first regulation (1991). The 8-year delay is explained by taking into account two facts:
- Lecturing difference of zootechnics (not only biological) at European level as regards climate, structural factors (size of farms) and socio-cultural factors (history, tradition);
- the presence in many northern member states (Austria, Denmark; France, Great Britain) of national legislation on organic animal husbandry also issued previously to regulation 2092/91, while in others (including Italy) directives and addresses enshrined in IFOAM were followed but not officially ratified by the European Union.
Within the Community, therefore, very diversified situations took place which sometimes led to operational difficulties and controversial measures such as, for example, the occurrence or threatened seizures of organic livestock products for objective or presumed irregularities.
Another moment to remember is 1992 with the EEC Reg. 2078 through which support measures are introduced in the CAP reform to companies that are committed to reducing the use of numerous synthetic products.
The concept of organic animal husbandry is to lead a farm that is respectful of the animal, the environment and the consumer. Farm animals are important because:
- close the ecological cycle of the company;
- they supply manure, soil conditioner and main source of organic substance in organic agriculture;
- produce milk, meat and their derivatives;
- require fodder areas preventing too tight crop rotations and promoting soil fertility.
An important aspect sanctioned by Reg. 1804/99 and confirmed by the ministerial implementing decrees is the criterion of kilograms of nitrogen per hectare per year of animal origin. Made equal to 170 kg per hectare, this element affects the number of animals that can be reared according to the category (see table below).
Another point sanctioned by the regulation concerns animal welfare (an aspect increasingly considered by consumers) and the use of historical or improved breeds, but always well adapted to the environment. The obligation to control the entire supply chain through a certifying body is sanctioned and finally, windows are left open, either temporary or definitive, so that local or regional adaptations are possible. In case of conversion from a commercial breeding to an organic breeding it is necessary to wait a certain period of time before being able to declare the productions organic.
Reg. 1804/99 was implemented in each member country by ministerial decrees, as foreseen in the community. In Italy, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policies, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, traced the guidelines for the application of the regulation through the Ministerial Decree of 4/8/2000 followed by a second decree n. 182, published on the G.U. on August 7, 2001.

Maximum number of animals per hectare per species

Equine animals over 6 months old2
Calves for fattening5
Other cattle5
Male cattle from 1 to less than 2 years old3,3
Female cattle from 1 to less than 2 years old3,3
Male cattle aged 2 years and over2
Breeding heifers2,5
Heifers for fattening2,5
Dairy cows2
Dairy cows for reform2
Other cows2,5
Breeding rabbits100
Breeding sows6,5
Fattening pigs14
Other pigs14
Table chickens580

In case of conversion from a commercial breeding to an organic breeding it is necessary to wait a certain period of time before being able to declare the productions organic. The times are:

  • 12 months for equines and beef cattle

  • 6 months for small ruminants and pigs (4 months until 2003)

  • 6 months for dairy animals (3 months until 2003)

  • 10 weeks for broiler poultry of less than 3 days

  • 6 weeks for laying hens

On the other hand, if you start from scratch and the stable wants to be born organic, you should resort to animals whose parents are already biological. However, given the current limited consistency of organic livestock, derogations are already foreseen, the most important being that which allows the purchase of conventional animals as long as they are old:

  • less than 18 weeks for chickens for egg production

  • less than 3 days for broilers

  • less than 6 months for buffaloes

  • however less than 6 months for foals and calves that have just finished weaning

  • always after weaning and within 45 days for sheep and goats

  • immediately after weaning and under 25Kg for piglets.

By 2003 the availability of organic animals will have to be checked and, therefore, the derogations may have to be adjusted.

Food must be strictly organic. That said, there are no limitations and the power supply can be of any type. As a temporary derogation until 2005, 10% are admissible for herbivores and 20% for monogastric foods of conventional foods with the characteristics that we will see later. These percentages are expressed on the dry matter of agricultural product on an annual basis and keeping a maximum of 25% on the daily ration. The product in conversion can be used up to a maximum of 30%, which can be increased to 60% in the case of company production. For polygastrics, at least 60% of the ration must be made up of fresh, ensiled or dried fodder. The ration for fattening poultry must contain at least 65% cereals. The percentage of conventional product used cannot be of any type but a long list of admitted products is reported, which in a nutshell are all vegetable products, as long as they are not treated with solvents, and in some animal products (milk and by-products). The lists of usable mineral substances, silage and feed additives and other specific products are also listed, among which the vitamins also of synthetic origin stand out as long as they are identical to the natural ones (only for foodstuffs).

2-3 cycles of treatment with allopathic medicines are allowed in one year or in one cycle if it is animals with life less than a year. The use of allopathic medicines obtained by chemical synthesis in preventive form is not allowed in organic farming. Another big chapter is that relating to the ban on the use of anything that contains or derives from genetically modified organisms with the sole exception of veterinary drugs. The use of substances intended to stimulate growth or modify the reproductive cycle of animals are not compatible with the principles of organic agriculture. In principle, the reproduction of animals must be based on natural methods, however artificial insemination is allowed while embryo transplantation is prohibited. All mammals must have access to pastures or open spaces whenever conditions permit. Only the final fattening phase of cattle, pigs and sheep for meat production can take place in the stable, for a period of less than one fifth of their life or in any case for a maximum of 3 months. It is forbidden to breed calves in individual boxes after one week of age. For poultry and bees, detailed rules are provided on the breeding conditions, but also on the minimum age before slaughter. The identification of animal products must be guaranteed throughout the production, preparation, transport and marketing cycle.

The housing conditions of the animals must meet their biological and ethological needs. Housing in regions with climatic conditions that allows outdoor living is not mandatory. The stables must have minimum covered and uncovered surfaces. Fixed housing is normally prohibited

Video: #30, Diversification of agricultural activities. sustainable development. organic farming (January 2022).