Organic agriculture in the Philippines is still in its embryonic phase when compared to agricultural sectors of other countries. However, organic agriculture in the country is fast gaining ground. Though organic agricultural production is limited, it is steadily growing, between 10-20% annually.
The organic market in the country is currently considered as a “niche market.” But producers need not be discouraged. Top marketing experts have predicted that in the coming trends, it is in the niche markets where profits lie. Organic products are also penetrating the major supermarkets with a price premium ranging from 20% to 50% over non-organic products.
Executive Order 481 “Promotion and Development of Organic Agriculture in the Philippines” in 2005 recognizes the marketability potential of organic agriculture in the country and also provides government support to the development of the organic sector of agriculture. EO 481 also hopes to establish an organic agriculture program that will adopt and develop organic product markets, the education of more farmers, the extension of assistance to individuals and groups who are practicing and promoting these methods, and documentation and evaluation of the programs.
By August 2006, the Department of Agriculture (through the BAFPS), formulated and issued the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) to carry out the provisions of EO 481.
Poultry and livestock in organic farming systems
Poultry and livestock play an essential part in the operation of an effective and profitable organic farming system. Here are the four primary contributions of animals in the balance of an organic farm:
1. Nutrient cycling – when animals consume Nitrogen fixed by legumes as well as other nutrients during grazing, these nutrients are restored into the soil through urine and manure. This process can be an opportunity for effective nutrient cycling on the farm. However, urine and manure should be handled in an environmentally acceptable manner in feedlots.
2. Pasture and crop establishment – poultry and livestock can help in preparing the soil for planting by grazing and stamping on ground stubble.
3. Weed control – animals can be sent to graze on weeds before sowing crops or after crop establishment. This greatly aids in weed control and tillage. To do so, select crops for animal palatability such that the animals graze out weeds and avoid the elss palatable crop.
4. Insect and disease control — as animals are sent to graze on the fields for cropping, potential build up of insects and diseases of crops is interrupted.
Organic poultry and livestock farming
There are four important things to remember when managing an organic livestock farm:
- Use only organic stock sources;
- Use only organically produced feeds;
- Provide a holistic health management for the stock;
- Provide humane living conditions.
Organic animals must be raised organically from birth in order for the livestock’s products to be sold as organic.
The general NOP rules for livestock:
- Poultry: Stock may come from any source. However, they should be raised organically beginning day one.
- Non-poultry: Slaughter stock should come from organic breeding stock and must be raised organically from the last third of gestation.
- Animals for milk and dairy products: Continuous organic management is necessary for at least twelve months. The exception is only for entire new herds to be converted to organic production. It is also important to note that breeder stock can be brought into the organic operation at any time before the final trimester of gestation. Livestock, edible livestock products, breeder, or dairy stock are not permitted to be represented as organic if the animals are not under continuous organic management for the specified time requirements.
Feed and nutrition
Feed for organically-raised animals should be a complete and balanced ration of organically produced agricultural products, including forage and pasture. Organic livestock production is ideally integrated into the whole organic farming system. This requires a poultry and livestock connection to the land and surrounding vegetation. Range and pasture -Pasturing animals generally improves nutrition and health care. Crop-livestock
operations may rotate pasture feed with crops. This method of feeding organic animals, especially on well-managed pasture for grazing livestock, can help in the nutrient cycle and also in controlling weeds for subsequent crops.
The NOP Rule:
- Ruminants (even-toed hoofed mammals) must have access to fresh pasture.
- Non-ruminant livestock, however, may also garner nutritional, health, and crop benefits from pasturing.
- Feedstuffs – Wheat, barley, triticale, and berseem clover and hays are preferred over corn, soybeans, and alfalfa for feeding rotation with pasture.
To provide a balanced diet, all nutrient requirements must be met. Generally, all feed, feed additives, and feed supplements must comply with government regulations. Natural feed additives and supplements such as mined minerals, enzymes, and probiotic organisms may be used in animal feeds. Synthetic vitamins and minerals that are government-approved may also be used as additives. These additives should be documented and included in the Farm Plan, and the amounts fed must be for adequate nutrition and health maintenance for the species. Supplements of non-organic origin must constitute only less than 5% of the ration and must not contain any additives of GMO origin.
Animal drugs, including hormones, to promote growth, however, are prohibited. Supplements or additives should only be administered in amounts above those needed for adequate nutrition and health maintenance for the species at its specific stage of life. Also, plastic pellets should be fed as a source of roughage. Also not allowed are feed formulas that contain urea or manure. It is also imperative that organic mammals and poultry are not fed mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products.
It is important to note that organic animal farming practices should prioritize the overall health of the animals over weight gain. A diverse diet is the foremost factor in providing the animals a balanced nutrition. Crop rotation is an essential part of this process. Having deep-rooted and shallow-rooted crops also ensures that the animals are provided with the nutrients they need. Legumes, as mentioned earlier, provide nitrogen and thus aids in the recycling of deep nutrients.
The nutrient balance of the soil may be upheld when there is organically raised livestock to balance the soil fertility and biological activity.
Feeds for organically grown poultry and livestock must be 100% organically produced. Thus, the animals must be given free access to mineral supplements like mineral licks, shell-grit and trace elements from mineral origin.
Soil management for Pastures
Soil management for healthy pastures includes crop rotation, use of organic matter, and
cultivation. It is important that soil aeration is enhanced. Biological activity of the soil is encouraged to build up a store of humus. Since synthetic pesticides are not allowed to be used on the soil, cultural practices are encouraged to ensure healthy plant growth and to control pests on the pasture.
Organic farmers should promote animal well-being throughout the farm. This may be done by minimizing physical and psychological stress on the animals and reducing the incidence of disease. Also, when animals are not stressed, veterinary bills are reduced and meat tenderness is maintained.