Ecological Livestock Production Systems: The New Farm Analysis

Topics: Livestock, Domestic sheep, Organic food Pages: 8 (2421 words) Published: April 3, 2013
ACE8063 Ecological Livestock Production Systems
Livestock management plan - New farm

Location: South west of England
Farm size: 36 ha.

The New farm is a small traditionally run, sustainable organic farm located in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, which has a diverse range of habitats including woodland, pasture and ponds, providing a haven for wildlife and the perfect place for organic sheep. An unusual geographical feature on the farm is a dry valley. This was probably carved out in the ice age by a river rushing over frozen ground. Wiltshire has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom. The average rainfall in the area is around 700 mm. The soil type in the farm is deep fine loamy soils with slowly permeable subsoils and slight seasonal waterlogging.

The source of stock can be existing stock, replacements, store lambs, rams and non-organic stock. The Soil Association organic standards require producers to source organic livestock for breeding purposes in the first instance. However, if producers are unable to source suitable organic replacements they are permitted to introduce up to 10% of the flock as non-organic female replacements on an annual basis with the prior permission of Soil Association Certification Limited. Any non-organic replacement ewes will be managed to full organic standards as soon as they are brought on to the holding. As it is a new farm, having no exciting flock. Therefore, non-organic ewes will be used to set up a new flock and, once the land is organic, they are managed to full organic standards from tupping.

To produce an organic lamb the ewe will be managed from tupping to full organic standards, including feed and veterinary treatments. This is usually from the end of the second year of conversion, as lambs must be born on organic land to maintain their status. Lambs will be raised to full organic standards throughout their life in order to be sold as organic. Non-organic rams can be used as long as they are kept to full organic standards while on the holding.

Breed choice
At present, organic farmers worldwide keep livestock according to circumstances where breed selection has been based on information from conventional production systems. Such livestock may not be optimally adapted to an organic, low-input farming system (Weigel et al., 2001). ‘Genotype x environment’ interactions are important, especially when animals are reared under specific environmental conditions. Considering this situation, some local/native breeds seem to adapt well to these systems since they utilise lower quality feed, are more resilient to climatic stress and are more resistant to local parasites and diseases. In addition, local and native breeds represent a unique genetic resource for improving health and performance traits in future. Furthermore, while the consumption of meat and milk is rising, farm animal biodiversity is at risk. Selection of native breeds for use in organic systems is important and may stop/reduce the mass extinction of breeds. The unique characteristics of the native breeds can also help to meet future challenges and the demands of the market. The main sheep breeds used in south west of England have been described by Roderick and Burke (2004), in which a summary of sheep breeds are listed below: [pic]

After synthesizes each kind of situation, the Manx Loaghtan, one of the oldest and most striking breeds of sheep in the UK, has been chosen. It is categorised as "at risk" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. It is lower in fat and cholesterol than commercial breeds, is slow maturing producing lamb with a great depth of flavour and splendid mutton. It produces a great quality carcass, with a good meat to bone ratio (RBST). Also, it is prized for its fleece and...

Bibliography: ADAS (2006). A farmer guide to organic upland beef and sheep production
ADAS (2007)
DEFRA (2003). The breeding structure of British sheep industry 2003.
Roderick, S and Hovi, M. (1999). Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Livestock Systems: Identification of Constraints and Priorities (Contract ref: OF0172)
Roderick, S and Burke, J (2004) Organic Farming in Cornwall
Soil Association (2008). Organic Beef and Lamb: Feeding to succeed
Weigel, K.A., Rekaya, R., Zwald, N.R
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