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Research in Organic Animals and Livestock Production

By Mette Vaarst

Abstract

Over the last 80 years a wide range of diverse organic livestock systems have developed. The driving force behind these developments has mainly been the farmers, consumers and various movements; and it has happened more “despite research” than “because of research.” Most production methods have developed in Western Europe and USA, where they are primarily niche products for consumers who give priority to environmental and animal welfare concerns. In these countries organic livestock production offers the option of establishing a niche product that can be sold at a higher price, e.g. as for milk and eggs. In some cases, the potential of organic farming is associated with the adoption of organic principles into existing systems with the aim of improving sustainability, and achieving environmentally friendly production, food security and good food quality. In the US, government support for organic research, some of which was for livestock studies, increased from 15 million dollars in 2002 to 78 million in 2008. In Australia where more than 95% of the certified organic land is pasture, government-supported research tends to focus on organic dairy and meat production. In addition, research into agro-forestry systems is also of potential interest to the Australian organic sector. In many African and Asian countries, organic livestock plays a very minor role compared with production of high value organic crops, and hence is not covered specifically in research initiatives. A recent survey on African organically-oriented research projects concluded that no significant research focuses on organic livestock. In South America, a number of research projects have been carried out on integrated agro-ecological farming, which includes livestock. These are not necessarily certified organic systems, as “organic” is often perceived as high value products, while “agro-ecological farming” is basically the application of the fundamental organic principles, so research in these systems provides valuable insights for organic research in general. Research is necessary for many reasons, but at a fundamental level it is relevant to both provide specialised knowledge relevant to organic situations (e.g. feed stuffs) and to take a systems approach through interdisciplinary research (e.g. how grazing systems integrate good animal welfare aims with environmental care). A third aspect important to consider is the human and social structures around organic livestock systems, e.g. farmer attitudes, actions, practices and interactions with advisory services

Topics: Farming Systems, Animal husbandry
Publisher: IFOAM
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:orgprints.org:16486
Provided by: Organic Eprints

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