Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center
Title: Obstacles to organic and grass fed small ruminant production in the U.S Author
Submitted to: Joint Meeting of the ADSA, AMSA, ASAS and PSA
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2009
Publication Date: July 1, 2010
Citation: Burke, J.M. 2010. Obstacles to organic and grass fed small ruminant production in the U.S [abstract]. Joint Meeting of the ADSA, AMSA, ASAS and PSA. 87:(E-Suppl. 2):344. Technical Abstract: Certified organic livestock must align to standards set forth by the National Organic Standards. Grass fed ruminant production follows a voluntary standard, both programs implemented by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. There is very little research being conducted on organic livestock systems in the U.S. by land grant colleges or federal research agencies. The demand for organic, grass fed, locally-grown, and ‘natural’ products is strong and there is a desire to increase the sustainability of farming systems, which is perceived to occur by using organic and grass fed management.Obstacles to becoming certified organic include increased record keeping, increased risks, limited awareness of organic farming system practices, lack of processing facilities, lack of certified organic feeds, and inability to capture market share. In many environments, internal parasite control remains a large barrier. Small ruminants must be managed to minimize internal parasite infection. Also, growing animals must only graze certified organic pastures or feed. The latter is limited by availability and may not be sustainable because of use of fossil fuels to transport to farm. Optimal growth of unsupplemented young ruminants may only occur when pastures are vegetative. These same obstacles do not necessarily apply to grass fed management. Grass fed ruminants are defined as those provided a diet solely from forage with the exception of milk before weaning. This standard applies to animals destined for slaughter, but not necessarily breeding animals. Both management systems are in need of basic and applied research to optimize production and maximize profitability. Research should follow a systems-oriented approach that applies organic or grass fed principles. Priorities have been identified and include development of effective parasiticides, parasite management strategies, development of emergency and preventative health care strategies, development of improved genetics to fit the system, and environmental impact studies. In addition, research is needed on forage management to optimize growth of weaned animals. A case study will be presented.