Transitioning to organic sheep and goat production
Transitioning to organicproduction of sheep and goatsSUSAN SCHOENIANSheep & Goat SpecialistWestern Maryland Research & Education Centersschoen@umd.edu - www.sheepandgoat.com
What is organic?• Organic refers to the way agricultural products—food and fiber—are grown and processed.• "Certified Organic" means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations.
Organic certification• In order to sell agricultural products in the United States as organic, they must be grown, handled, processed, and labeled in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (NOP) standards.• If you produce more than $5,000 worth of organic products each year, your operation must be certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agent.• There are two cost-sharing programs for organic certification.
Organic livestock standards• Has been harder to define organic standards for livestock. ▫ Differences in species. ▫ Disagreements about animal health and welfare. ▫ More issues (?). ▫ Open to interpretation. ▫ Fear of commercialization.
Organic sheep and goats• Not many sheep and goats in the U.S. are certified organic. Why? ? Standards are written more for mainstream animal agriculture than sheep and goats. Certified organic livestock, 2008 Other animals 6,860 ? Conventional sheep and goat Sheep 7,445 production has a better public Beef cows 63,680 image than poultry, dairy, beef, Other cattle 144,817 and pork production ? There is less of a demand for Dairy cows 249,766 certified organic sheep and Hogs and pigs 10,111 goat products. Poultry 15,518,075 1. Low demand for all products 2. Demand is mostly ethnic
Organic sheep and goats It is harder to raise sheep and goats organically than other animals. Example: controlling internal parasites (worms) Fiber production is not Organic sheep and lambs addressed in much detail 9,000 8,000 in NOP standards. 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 • No standards for fiber 3,000 2,000 processing. 1,000 - 1… 1… 1… 1… 2… 2… 2… 2… 2… 2… 2… 2… 2…
Why go organic?Economic Non-economic• Organic is one of the fastest • Because organic standards growing sectors of the food match your philosophy of and agricultural industry. agricultural production.• Retail consumer sales have been growing 20% per year.• Consumers are willing to pay premium prices for certified organic products.
Is organic going to be profitable?Organic farms were (on average) more profitable than the average of all farms in theU.S. (in 2008), according to results of the first-ever federal census of organic agriculture. Higher costs Higher and/or lower market production prices Do a business plan.
Before going organic• Decide which part of your sheep and/or goat enterprise is going to be organic: meat, milk, and/or fiber.• Identify a source of organic feed, supplements, and bedding.• Find a veterinarian who will treat organic livestock.• Identify a processing plant that is certified for organic slaughter.• Identify potential market(s) for your organic meat, milk, or fiber.
USDA Organic Standards for livestock1. Origin of livestock2. Pasture and living conditions3. Feeding4. Health care5. Management6. Transport and slaughter
Origins of livestock REQUIRED • Sheep and goats sold for organic meat must be raised under organic management from the last third of gestation through slaughter. • Fiber-producing animals must be fed and managed organically from the last third of gestation. • In order to sell organic milk, all production animals must be fed and managed organically for the previous 12 months.
Origins of livestock ALLOWED • Rams and bucks do not need to be certified organic unless they will be sold as slaughter animals or used for fiber production. • The offspring from females that are used to produce organic milk (or fiber) do not need to be raised organically. PROHIBITED • Organic breeding animals cannot be brought in and out of organic production.
Pasture and living conditionsREQUIRED• Access to outdoors• Assess to pasture • Minimum of 30 percent of DMI from grazing for at least 120 days in a calendar year. • Access to shade or shelterALLOWED• Temporary confinement• Feeding areas PROHIBITED (yards, pads, and lots) during • Continuous, total confinement non-grazing season.
Pasture managementREQUIRED PROHIBITED• 36-month transition period • Synthetic fertilizers• Organic seeds or plants • Synthetic pesticides• Crop rotation • Sewage sludge (biosolids)• Plant biodiversity • Residues of prohibited• Buffer zones substances exceeding 5% of EPA tolerance. ALLOWED • Lime (naturally-mined) • Organic fertilizers, including animal manures (with certain restrictions). • Organic pesticides
FeedingREQUIRED ALLOWED• 100 percent organic • Natural minerals [certificate of organic status] • Natural vitamins• Organic milk replacer • DFM - probiotics PROHIBITED • Non-organic feed or feed additives. • Non-organic vitamin and mineral supplements • Animal by-products • Urea or NPN • GMOs
Health care REQUIRED • Preventative health care practices: ▫ Selection of appropriate species and breed of livestock ▫ Meet nutritional requirements ▫ Appropriate housing, pasture conditions, and sanitation practices. ▫ Freedom of movement, exercise
Health careALLOWED• Natural therapies• Homeopathic remedies• Approved vaccines• Sample of other approved materials 1) Disinfectants 2) Electrolytes 3) Glucose 4) Dextrose 5) Iodine 6) Baking soda 7) Oxytocin (muscle relaxant) 8) Poloxalene (anti-bloat) 9) Aspirin (anti-inflammatory)
Health care PROHIBITED • Therapeutic antibiotics [Penicillin, LA-200, terramycin] • Sub-therapeutic antibiotics [coccidiostats, oxytetraclines] • Hormones (except oxytocin) • Anthelmintics (dewormers) [Exception: Ivermectin may be administered to breeding stock, except during their last third of pregnancy.] • Many conventional treatments [e.g. propylene glycol] • Withholding medical treatment to preserve the organic status of an animal is prohibited. However, if an animal is treated with a prohibited material, it cannot be sold as organic.
Transport and slaughterREQUIRED• Low-stress transport [?]• Organic slaughter [certified slaughterhouse]ALLOWED• Sell live animal as organic• Religious slaughterPROHIBITED• Non-organic slaughter
Timeline for transitioning to organic LAND Prohibited Certified materials 36 months organiclast applied pasture ANIMALS Organic slaughter Organic Conception Birth fiber First 2/3 Last 1/3 gestation gestation 12 months Organic dairy Adapted from ATTRA: Pastures: going organic
Selection of breeding stockfor organic production 1. Land resource • Improved pasture • Woodland, browse • Predator risk • Fencing 2. Intended markets • Meat • Milk • Fiber • Other 3. Adaptability • Climate • Diseases • Production system
Type of grazing landSHEEP GOATS• Type of ruminant: • Type of ruminant: roughage eater intermediate• Feeding behavior: • Feeding behavior: intermediate browser• Diet selection: • Diet selection: Forbs grass Browse grass Both species are susceptible to predation and require excellent fencing.
Intended markets• Sheep and goat breeds tend to excel in the production of either meat, milk, or fiber, seldom more than one.• There are no “best” breeds. Each breed has characteristics which make it suitable or unsuitable for a particular use or production system.• Crossbreeding balances the traits of different breeds and results in “hybrid vigor.” It is the recommended breeding practice.
Adaptability - climate• Breeds that evolved or were developed in similar climates will be best-adapted to Virginia and similar places. Sheep Medium wool sheep Hair sheep Goats Indigenous goats In general, goats are less-adapted to Kiko warm, moist climates than sheep. Dairy
Adaptability - disease resistance• Hoof problems ▫ There are differences between and within breeds with regards to hoof growth and health.• Internal parasites ▫ There are between species, between breed, and within breed differences with regards to resistance to internal parasites.• Scrapie ▫ Individual differences: genotype determines susceptibility of animal.
Breeds more resistant to parasitesSHEEP• Hair sheep (tropical origin) St. Croix Barbados Blackbelly Katahdin• Gulf Coast or Florida Native • Kiko • Indigenous goats ▫ Myotonic ▫ Spanish or brush GOATS [ ? less data]
Adaptability – production system Low intensity (mostly forage)• Large-to-medium frame size • Small-to-medium frame size• Higher reproductive rate • Low to moderate reproductive rate.• Higher milk production • Low to moderate milk• Higher growth potential production • Good mothering abilityIntensive or semi-intensive • Good foraging ability • Low to moderate growth rate • Parasite resistance
What about rare, heritage,and primitive breeds?May be particularly well-suited to forage-based organic production systems. St. Croix Myotonic
Forage-based livestock production• Conventional sheep and goat farming is already largely forage-based, especially in Virginia.• Concentrates and other supplements are fed to meet the nutritional deficiencies of forage diets. ▫ Late gestation ▫ Lactation ▫ Growth• Supplemental feeding is also used to increase productivity ($) ▫ Milk production ▫ Growth rates
The biggest difference is how lambsand kids are fed for marketGRAIN (+ FORAGE) GRAZING• Earlier weaning • Later weaning• Faster growth rates • Slower growth rates• Shorter time to market • Longer time to market• Heavier carcasses • Lighter carcasses• Reduced parasitism • Increased parasitism• Reduced predator risk • Increased predator risk • Less expensive [?]• Fatter carcasses • Leaner carcasses• Better “quality” meat • More omega-3 fatty acids [?]• Less omega-3 fatty acids [?]
Choosing the right geneticsfor pasture finishing• Pasture will more easily meet the nutritional needs of early-maturing lambs vs. late maturing.• Pasture will more easily meet the nutritional needs of meat-type and indigenous goat breeds than dairy kids.• In addition, some breeds are better-adapted to pasture-rearing.
The biggest challenge in organicmanagement of sheep and goats willbe dealing with internal parasites.
Sheep and goats can be potentiallyinfected by many internal parasites.HELMINTHS ABOMASUM• Nematodes - roundworms ▫ Strongyle-type Haemonchus contortus Trichostrongylus Teladorsagia ▫ Lung ▫ Meningeal Haemonchus contortus• Cestodes - tapeworms BARBER POLE WORM• Trematodes - flukes
Causes of parasite problems LESS PROBLEMS MORE PROBLEMS • Sheep • Goats • Resistant breeds • Susceptible breeds • Resistant animals • Susceptible animals • Mature animals • Young animals • Dry animals • Lactating females • Zero grazing • High producers • Supplementation • Pastured animals • Low stocking rates • High stocking rates • Winter, early spring, late fall • Summer
Traditional control of parasites hasrelied heavily on anti-parasitic drugs.ANTHELMINTICS DEWORMERS
What about natural “anthelmintics?” Withholding medical treatment to preserve• An anthelmintic acts to the organic status of an animal is prohibited. expel or destroy parasitic worms.• Using this definition, there aren’t any consistantly effective “natural” anthelmintics.• An animal that is clinically parasitized should be treated with a “chemical” dewormer. Bottle jaw
What about natural “anthelmintics?”• They may not treat a clinically-parasitized animal, but they may reduce the number of animals that require treatment. ▫ Disruption of parasite life cycle (on pasture) Eat larvae or eggs Inhibit larvae development Inhibit egg hatching ▫ Strengthening of the immune system. An increasing number of scientific studies are being conducted to identify compounds which may have anthelmintic-like properties. Current claims are largely antidotal.
Copper oxide wire particles (COWP)Currently not approved for worm control in organic production • Repackage copper supplement for cattle into smaller doses to treat lambs and kids for adult infections with the barber pole worm. As little as 0.5 g Up to 5 g (for adults) Though researchers haven’t experienced any issues with copper toxicity in sheep, the risk should always be considered.
Sericea lespedeza• Warm season legume that contains condensed tannins. ▫ Reduces pasture contamination by reducing fecal egg count and development of larvae into infective stage (L3). ▫ Animals consuming sericea lespedeza have higher packed cell volumes and fewer abomasal worms.• Efficacy not affected by form: 1) Grazed forage 2) Harvested hay 3) Leaf-meal pellet
What about coccidia?Another common and potentially deadly internal parasite• Single-cell protozoa ▫ Host-specific ▫ Sheep and goats affected by Eimeria spp.• Damages lining of small intestines.• Common symptoms: scours (diarrhea) and ill-thrift.• Adults animals are mostly immune, but serve as reservoir for infection.
Marketing organic food1. Direct to the consumer Farmer’s markets CSAs On-farm store Mail order/internet Whole carcasses2. Retail Grocery store chains Co-ops Regional grocery stores3. Food service Upscale restaurants Restaurant chains
Marketing direct to consumers• Tell consumers what’s different about your product that they can’t get in the local grocery store. ▫ To make specific nutritional claims, get samples tested at a lab.• Tell your “story” to consumers.• Provide cooking instructions.