Organic livestock producers provide living areas that encourage the health and natural behavior of their animals. They use only certified organic feed, provide year-round access to the outdoors and access to pasture for ruminants and don’t use antibiotics or growth hormones.

NRCS can help organic livestock producers with practices such as pasture and grazing management, diverse pasture plantings, fencing, and walkways, watering facilities, and shelters for animals.

“Rotational grazing is in essence mimicking what herbivores do in the wild. If you have a group of caribou, elk or bison in a natural setting, they graze a location then move on, so the forage can have a chance to regrow. That’s what we’re trying to do with our herd here, giving our paddocks an adequate rest period until we bring the cattle back again.”

MARC CESARIO
Certified Organic Farmer
Meeting Place Pastures
Cornwall, VT

“With a comprehensive nutrient management plan, livestock producers can use a system of practices to manage livestock waste on the farm. In particular, soil health practices in the plan include Rotational Grazing, testing soils and placing nutrients as fertilizer as to minimize effects to sensitive areas such as adjoining streams, habitats, and buffers.”

JOSEPH HELLER
USDA-NRCS District Conservationist
Rockland County, NY

Pastures, regardless of organic status, can become overgrazed, which can harm animal health and damage natural resources. USDA organic standards require producers to maintain pasture in a state of good health through management strategies that promote good forage quality and quantity, weed control, infiltration of precipitation, and erosion control.

One key practice is rotational grazing. This approach separates open fields into a series of closed paddocks that regularly directs animals to fresh pasture. The size of these paddocks is determined by the number of animals, time of year, grazing duration, and quality of available forage. Proper fencing and adequate water supplies are features of these intensively managed grazing systems.

 

Fences can control erosion or impede animal access to sensitive areas like ponds, streams, wellheads or protected habitat, while gated paddocks can be opened and closed to provide cattle access to fresh pasture. Diverse pasture plantings on provide livestock with well-balanced, nutritious forage that keeps them healthy. Using season-specific plantings is also good for the entire ecosystem.

NRCS CAN WORK WITH FARMERS TO DEVELOP GRAZING SYSTEMS THAT BUILD SOIL ORGANIC MATTER WHILE REDUCING THE TRANSPORT OF NUTRIENTS INTO LOCAL WATERWAYS.

DOWNLOAD THE "GROWING ORGANIC: PASTURE MANAGEMENT" EBOOK

THE NRCS HELPS MARC AND CHERYL RAISE GRASSFED CATTLE USING CONSERVATION PRACTICES THAT REDUCE THEIR DEPENDENCE ON OFF-FARM INPUTS WHILE ENHANCING SOIL HEALTH.

“A lot of people see cows eating grass and think this is easy, but it’s not. There’s a lot that goes into making sure you’re capturing as much solar energy as you can and converting it into grass. I would say rotational grazing is definitely a more economic way to raise cows, especially compared to ‘continuously stocked pasture’, where animals are always there.” Cheryl observes. “You’ll have 40% MORE yields in a six-week period by moving cows around. Plus, if you start feeding hay to your animals in the middle of summer, that’s $30 dollars a bale. Maybe you have to put out three or four a day; that’s a lot of money if you look at the cost of purchasing instead of producing feed.”

DIVERSE PASTURE PLANTINGS

Diverse plantings on grazing lands provide livestock with a well-balanced, nutritious diet and keep them healthy. Using season-specific plantings is benefits the entire ecosystem.

ROTATIONAL GRAZING

Intensively managing the movement of animals from one paddock to another prevents overgrazing, optimizes the growth of pasture grass and accelerates these plants absorption and retention of carbon.

THE USDA’S NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS) CAN HELP ORGANIC FARMERS BUILD HEALTHY SOILS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY COWS.

They can provide guidance on range and pasture management methods that enhance sustainable livestock production while preventing erosion, increasing water infiltration, improving soil health in rotational grazing systems. In addition, they can provide assistance to improve plant production, resilience, diversity, and enhance wildlife habitat. All are vital tools for conserving and restoring our natural resources.

“Organic farming means practicing what’s necessary for the health of the land. It’s something to sustain us in the long term.”

ROSS NELSON
Organic Farmer
Flavor Ridge Farm
Altura, MN

“I live in this community and drink the same water, so I want to see our resources protected.”

SUE GLENDE
NRCS District Conservationist
Winona County, MN

THE DISTRICT CONSERVATIONIST

Works directly with farmers and ranchers by providing technical assistance through conservation planning and conservation practice implementation.

AS MORE CONSUMERS LEARN ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD, CAN ORGANIC POULTRY PRODUCERS KEEP UP WITH DEMAND? JESSE SAYS, YES! THE SECRET? FAMILY SCALE FARMS.

The USDA organic standard requires producers to provide all poultry with year-round access to the outdoors, sunlight, shade, shelter, fresh air, exercise areas, clean water, and adequate nutrition. Temporary confinement is allowed under certain circumstances such as severe weather.

“A family scale farm — they know where their livelihood comes from. There’s a relationship there that’s different than having a factory scale farm where you might have many employees taking care of your animals. It’s going to take a lot of family farms, but I think that’s what our country needs right now. We don’t need farms going away. We need more farms coming into organic.”

JESSE LAFLAMME
Co-Owner and CEO
Pete and Jerry’s Organic Eggs
Monroe, NH

NRCS can help producers implement livestock watering facilities and pipelines, windbreak planting, silvopasture, and livestock shelter structures, composting facilities and waste management plans to meet USDA organic requirements and protect soil and water quality from animal waste.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC

A labelling term for food or other agricultural products produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity in accordance with the USDA organic regulations.