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Organic beef and sheep production in the uplands OF0111

Keatinge, Mr Ray (1998) Organic beef and sheep production in the uplands OF0111. ADAS.

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Summary

The overall objective of the organic project at ADAS Redesdale is to evaluate the physical and financial implicattions of converting a hill and upland unit to an organic farming system. Conversion of 400 hectares, 600 breeding ewes (in 3 flocks) and 5 suckler cows was completed in 1993. The current evaluation (1995-1998) took place under full organic production. The assessmet is based on comparing organic and conventioanl farming systems, supported by data collected from commercial organic farms linked to the main project, and a number of replicated experiments.
Grassland management on the Unit integrates three distinct types of grazing; inbye fields (3%), improved hill (17%) and unimproved native hill (80%) for sheep and cattle production. Native hill receives no inputs under organic or conventional management, so that potential differences in output are very much reduced. Low levels of fertiliser and pesticide inputs are made to conventionally managed imroved hill land, with only small differnces in output ad livestock performance. The largest potential differences occur on the more productive inbye land, which receive a high level of inputs conventially. Relying mainly on clover organically managed swards, have been able to achieve 80%, or more, of the forage output from conventional swards receiving over 200 kg N ha-1. Newcastle University undertook an assessment of botanical composition on native hill, improved native and improved hill few changes have been detected, mainly due to the maintenance of comparable stocking rates on the organic and conventional systems. However in one flock, where stocking rate was reduced by 25% there were some indications of an improvement in heather cover.
Good levels of livestock performance have been achieved for a hill farming system. However at the same stocking rate, organically managed ewes were consistently lighter and leaner than those managed conventionally. Lambs in the conventional flock grew 5 to 10% and 2 to 17% faster for single and twin lambs respectively. In the organically managed suckler herd, high levels of fertility were achieved. Stocking rates were reduced by 15% and 25% in two further organic flocks, and as a consequence, individual performance remaiined at a high level for a hill system. Calf growth rates averaged 0.8kg from birth to sale, as forward stores at 16-17 months of age. Premium markets have been found for organic store labs and cattle, demonstrating th epotential for better integration of organic hill and lowland systems. The health status of organically managed stock has also been good. The main health issues were trace element nutrition and parasite control. A system of alternative sheep and cattle grazing has been implemented to give better control of stomach worms, reducing the requirement for anthelmintic use compared to the conventional flock. Observational studies using homeopathy for orf and pasteurella pneumonia have shown promising results.
Payments made under the Organic Aid Scheme, a premium of approx. 10% on the sale of organic store animals, and reduced forage costs have enabled an organic system to achieve similar, or improved, Net Farm Income relative to the conventional. At lower stocking densities, the individual performance of orgaic livestock animal was improved, and in appropriate circumstances the use of agri-environmental scheme payments can offset the reduction in output where stocking rates are reduced to accomadate an organic system.
The results continue to show that an organic hill and upland system can be competitive with conventional production. The unit is recognised as a valuable source of research and information on organic production. The next stage of the project will capitalise on this investment, using the resources available on the Unit to promote and further develop organic farming systems. further evaluation is planned (1998-2001) to take account of longer term trends in grassland and livestock performance, the continuing evolution of markets for organic produce and the development of production standards for organic livestock.


EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:conversion, organic, hill farming system, upland farming system, sheep, beef, livestock performance
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Animal husbandry > Feeding and growth
Farming Systems > Farm economics
Research affiliation: UK > ADAS
Research funders: UK > Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Project ID:OF0111
Start Date:1 April 1995
End Date:31 March 1998
Deposited By: Defra, R&D Organic Programme
ID Code:9900
Deposited On:13 Dec 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:34
Document Language:English
Status:Unpublished
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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