Outdoor access, pasture and grazing

#Outdoor access and pasture

What are the outdoor access requirements for organic livestock?

The organic standards require farmers to establish and maintain livestock living conditions that accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals suitable to the species, stage of life, climate, and the environment.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Access to the outdoors
  • Shade
  • Shelter
  • Exercise
  • Clean water for drinking
  • Appropriate and clean dry bedding

Can I temporarily confine my animals due to pregnancy, inclement weather etc.?

You may be eligible to provide temporary confinement for animals if:

  • Severe inclement weather poses a threat to the animals
  • Stage of life requires protection or separation
  • Separation is the only protection for the health, safety, or well-being of the animals
  • Soil or water quality require protection

Short periods of confinement may also be allowed for health care practices, treatments, sorting, shipping, breeding, or youth projects.

All reasons for temporary confinement have a maximum length of time. You will need to provide detailed information regarding reasons and time periods for confinement in your OSP.

What documentation do I need for outdoor access?

You must provide documentation to demonstrate you’ve met all outdoor access requirements.

Recordkeeping is required for normal management activities as well as any deviation from standard practices. Some livestock operations maintain a standard operating procedure manual, noting changes or differences from your protocols. Inspectors and certifiers will review the documentation to confirm that you are meeting your outdoor access plan and all requirements.

#Requirements for ruminant grazing

Livestock farmers are required to demonstrate a functioning pasture management plan for all certified organic ruminant livestock.

How much of the year do my livestock need to graze?

Ruminant livestock must obtain no less than 30 percent of their dry matter intake from grazing over the length of the grazing season. The grazing season will vary depending on your region but must be a minimum of 120 days.

How much of the year do my livestock need outdoor access?

Livestock must have outdoor access year-round in addition to grazing season pasture management plans.

What if I do not meet the minimum grazing requirement?

If the required 120 grazing days minimum is not met during the grazing season, OTCO will examine your Organic System Plan (OSP) for information and confirmation regarding your location, seasonality, climate, and intended grazing season length. Usually, the grazing season is much longer than the 120-day minimum, but the length varies based on region.

We hold you accountable to the details of your OSP’s grazing plan. Please note, the grazing season may or may not be continuous due to weather conditions or climate.

How do I do dry matter calculations?

You must find an approach to calculate animals’ dry matter demand and dry matter intake. We will review your methods to determine appropriateness and accuracy.

In most cases, farmers use the “subtraction method.” The dry matter of consumed feed is subtracted from your livestock’s total dry matter demand. Your calculation must demonstrate that the amounts of feed for animals during the grazing season must be 70 percent or less for compliance. You must meet the dry matter intake — often much higher than 30 percent — threshold as outlined in your OSP.

A weighted average over the grazing season may be used to calculate that dry matter intake from pasture meets your OSP. Such an approach helps account for end of season decline in pasture nutrition or stunted growth from excessive heat.

#OPT Grass-Fed Organic Certification

OTCO, in cooperation with Earth Claims LLC and The Organic Plus Trust (OPT) provides OPT Certified Grass-Fed Organic certification to organic farmers and handlers with grass-fed livestock products.

What is OPT Grass-Fed Organic Certification?

OPT Certified Grass-Fed Organic is an optional service and built upon, but separate from, organic certification.

OPT Certified Grass-Fed Organic identifies farmers and businesses who are maximizing the use of pasture grazing, minimizing grain in all forms and maximizing animal well being. The program is underpinned by the National Organic Program (NOP) and builds upon the existing requirements.

What is the cost of adding OPT-Grass-Fed Organic on to my NOP certification?

OTCO-certified organic farmers and handlers are eligible to receive a flat rate fee ($350) in addition to annual certification and inspection fees.

What are the requirements for OPT Grass-Fed Organic certification?

The general requirements for all operations are:

  • Must be certified organic to USDA NOP standards by OTCO. If not already certified, Operations may seek USDA NOP and OPT Grass-Fed certification concurrently
  • Must be inspected annually, normally in conjunction with the organic inspection
  • Must implement sufficient segregation practices for the grass-fed supply chain and ensure prevention of contamination and commingling

The general requirements for producers are:

  • Be certified by an animal welfare program approved by OPT — currently, Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) is the approved program
  • Establish a minimum 150 day grazing season
  • A minimum of 60 percent of an animal’s dry matter intake (DMI) must come from grazing throughout the grazing season
  • Maximize the use of animal harvested forage in each animal’s diet and reduce the use of grain supplements
  • Supplementation with specific feedstuffs, as identified in the Standard, when necessary to maintain nutritional stability and optimal rumen welfare

Livestock operations wishing to apply for OPT Certified Grass-Fed Organic certification must complete the Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Plan (OPT-L) addendum, and operations further processing (including on-farm certified handling and processing) livestock products must complete the Certified Grass-Fed Organic Product Plan (OPT-P).

Certification is valid for one year and available for renewal upon inspection.

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