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9545 TEAG ORGANIC COVER JUNE08 05/06/2008 16:55 Page 1

Guidelines for Organic Farming

Published by:
Head Office
Oak Park

JUNE 2008
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Introduction to organic farming 2

The two-year conversion 5
Soil fertility 8
Grassland management 10
Beef production 16
Sheep production 19
Dairying 22
Tillage 25
Horticulture 29
Introduction to poultry production 33
Returns from organic farming 37
Market prospects for organic food 39
Teagasc services for organic farmers 41
Useful contacts 43
chapter 1
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Introduction to Organic A major factor distinguishing organic
Farming farming from other approaches to
sustainable farming is the existence of
Organic farming can be a profitable internationally acknowledged
alternative to conventional farming. standards and certification procedures.
At EU and global level the industry is The standards for organic production
experiencing rapid growth. Currently within the European Union are
more than 31 million hectares of defined and enshrined in law by
farmland are under organic Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91.
management worldwide. The EU land
area under organic management With effect from 24 August 2000,
stands at 4% or six million hectares of Council Regulation 1804/99, which
the total area farmed. In Ireland the supplemented Regulation 2092/91,
sector is growing steadily, yet remains brought organic livestock and
relatively underdeveloped with less livestock produce within the ambit of
than 1% of the total farming area EU rules. These standards have been
now farmed organically. At the end of developed to provide organic
2007 1,121 organic operators were producers with clear rules as to how
registered with the Department of organic food should be produced to
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and meet consumer demand.
the area farmed organically was
approximately 40,000 hectares. Regulation 2092/91, which is backed
up by Statutory Instruments 112 of
What is Organic Farming? 2004 and 698 of 2007, creates a
Organic farming is a system of framework defining in detail the
farming which avoids the use of requirements for agricultural products
soluble fertilizers, pesticides, growth or foodstuffs bearing a reference to
regulators, feed additives and other organic production methods. The rules
chemicals. The organic farmer relies not only define the methods of
on the use of crop rotations, animal production for organic crops and
manure, clover, low stocking rates and livestock but also regulate the
good animal husbandry for producing labelling, processing, inspection and
outputs. The natural immunity of marketing of organic products within
plants and animals are used to the European Community and the
combat disease whenever possible. importation of organic products from
non-member countries.
The organic tillage farmer and
vegetable grower aim to have a high In Ireland, the Department of
level of organic matter and a high Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is the
level of biological life in the soil. competent authority for regulating
Excellent husbandry, farm the organic sector and ensuring that
management and planning skills are the obligations and requirements of
required, as quick fix chemical and Regulation 2092/91, as amended, are
pharmaceutical solutions are no adhered to. The EU legislation allows
longer an option.

chapter 1
Introduction to Organic Farming

Member States to use private Ruminant livestock must be fed a

inspection bodies to carry out the diet which is at least 60% roughage.
inspection and licensing system of Tillage crops should be considered
organic operators. Two certification on organic farms as it may be
bodies carry out this work in Ireland: cheaper to grow than to buy-in
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers concentrates. Cereals also produce
Association (IOFGA) and Organic Trust straw for bedding, provide an
Ltd. opportunity to re-seed ground to a
clover lea and to have clean grazing
Farmers considering the organic for young stock.
option should read the standards The highest standards of animal
relating to their farming enterprises in welfare are obligatory. Housed
detail and discuss the options with an animals must be provided with
agricultural adviser. By studying the bedding. Good ventilation and a
standards, farmers and growers will generous floor area for each animal
be able to see which practices on their are required.
farms do or do not meet the organic Routine preventative treatment of
regulations. To avail of the price healthy animals is not allowed. The
premiums and financial supports for emphasis is on prevention rather
organic produce, a farmer must have than cure, through management
his farm certified by one of the techniques. Obviously, sick animals
Organic Certification Bodies (OCBs) must be treated, and treatment is
and must farm in accordance with also allowed in the case of a known
organic standards. Some of the main farm problem e.g., blackleg
requirements of these standards are (permission is required in this case).
outlined below.
Applying the Standards
The Standards for Organic Food While the organic standards may
and Farming in Ireland appear difficult at first glance, there
A two-year conversion period is are many farms that could change to
required before a farm is given organic production without much
organic status. difficulty. Mixed farms with suckler
Soluble mineral fertilizers are cows, sheep and some tillage are
prohibited, but some fertilizsers are ideally suited to organic farming.
permitted, such as lime and rock The most critical element in a
phosphate. successful organic farm is the farmer.
Clover and other legumes supply He or she will need excellent livestock
nitrogen. The balance between and crop husbandry skills, have good
fertility building crops, such as grass, foresight and planning ability, keep
clover lea and exploitative crops good records and successfully market
such as cereals and potatoes is the farms produce.
critical in a tillage rotation.
Most manufactured agro-chemicals Getting Information
(e.g., herbicides) are prohibited. Information on organic farming is

chapter 1
Introduction to Organic Farming

obtainable from any of the OCBs and and Food (DAFF) to provide a licensed
your local Teagasc adviser. It is inspection and certification scheme,
advisable for farmers to visit organic under Council Regulation (EEC)
farms in their area first, to learn from 2092/91, as amended. Farmers,
the experience of other farmers and growers and processors must register
to see the changes required to with one of the two organic
convert to organic farming. Details of associations in order to produce and
organic farms to visit can be obtained market a product to organic
from the OCBs or the Teagasc organic standards. This is also a requirement
advisers. There is a series of organic under the Organic Farming Scheme.
demonstration farms walks each
summer and short courses in organic 2. Department of Agriculture,
farming and growing are provided by Fisheries and Food (DAFF)
Teagasc, the Organic Centre in In Ireland the Department of
Leitrim, County Wexford Organic Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is the
Centre and An tIonad Glas in competent authority for regulating
Limerick. the organic sector and ensuring that
the obligations and requirements of
Relevant Organisations Regulation 2092/91 as amended, are
adhered to. The DAFF Organic Unit is
1. Organic Certification Bodies based at Johnstown Castle Estate.
Ireland has two Organic Certification Applicants must register as organic
Bodies: operators and complete the DAFF
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Form ORG 1. DAFF also operate the
Association (IOFGA); and Organic Farming Scheme and the On
Organic Trust. Farm and Off Farm Schemes of Grant
Aid for the Development of the
These bodies are approved by the Organic Sector (outlined in Chapter 2).
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries
3. Teagasc
Details of services provided to organic
farmers by Teagasc are outlined in
Chapter 13.

4. Producer Support and

Marketing Groups
There are several groups of producers
who aim to promote and support
organic farming. Some also market
their own produce. Such groups are a
valuable support for those involved in,
or considering, organic production.
(See Chapter 14 for contact details of
relevant organisations)

chapter 2
Guidelines for Organic Farming

The Two-Year The Conversion Plan

The conversion plan should be drawn
Conversion up in consultation with an agricultural
adviser who is familiar with organic
One of the specifications of the standards. The plan should include:
Standards for Organic Food and A detailed description of the farm
Farming in Ireland is that a two-year and management practices;
conversion period is required before a The changes required to meet the
farm is given organic status. In standards;
exceptional cases the Organic An animal health plan;
Certification Body may, with the Livestock housing and feeding
approval of the Department of system;
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Details of crop and grazing
decide to extend or reduce the rotations;
conversion period. In all cases at least Soil analysis results;
12 months of the conversion is subject Details of soil fertility maintenance
to inspection. During the conversion plan;
period the rates of payment under Faecal analysis from 10% of the
the Organic Farming Scheme are herd/flock;
doubled. This is to take account of Farm maps plus sketch of buildings,
costs associated with converting and the plan, application form, ORG
the fact that the produce is not yet 1form, accompanying documents
certified for sale with an organic and licensing fee must be submitted
symbol. Some of the main changes to the OCB of your choice, and an
required when converting to organic inspection of your farm will be
farming are as follows: arranged soon afterwards. Following
successful inspection, a conversion
Introduce additional clover into the licence is issued.
Modify existing buildings or add Each year the farm is inspected by an
new buildings; inspector from the OCB and a licence
Cease using chemical fertilisers and is granted, provided that the
sprays; and standards are adhered to. The OCB
Avoid routine veterinary treatment charges an annual fee for this service.
of animals. After two years of successful
conversion the farm is granted a
Good management is crucial to symbol (organic) licence. Crops
becoming a good organic farmer. harvested and sold in the first year of
Planning in advance and paying good conversion must be marketed as
attention to detail are important conventional. In the second year of
factors. The Standards require the conversion the produce may be sold as
drawing up of a detailed conversion in-conversion to organic production.
plan. No livestock or livestock products may
be sold as organic until the land has
achieved full organic status.

chapter 2
The Two-Year Conversion

Maximising Payments REPS and the Organic Farming

Practically all those converting to Scheme
organic production will either join the The relationship of REPS and organic
REPS scheme or already be in the payments has changed under the NDP
scheme. Under the National 2007 -2013. Under the old NDP, the
Development Plan 2007- 2013 (NDP), Organic Scheme was part of REPS, now
The Organic Farming Scheme is now a it is separate. Under the NDP 2007 -
stand alone scheme. The On-Farm and 2013 if a farmer is already in REPS 3
Off-Farm Schemes of Grant Aid for and wants to join the Organic Farming
the Development of the Organic Scheme, he must now change to REPS
Sector are also run by the DAFF to 4 if he wants to continue in REPS. If a
help fund developments for producers farmer is already in REPS 4; he can join
and processors. the Organic Farming Scheme at his
Horticulture Only Holdings Under the Organic Farming Scheme
Organic horticulture only producers, there are some minimum
with one hectare or more, are eligible requirements:
for the following payments provided A minimum stocking rate of
that at least 50% of the area eligible 0.5LU/ha is required to avail of full
for organic payment is cropped each payments (otherwise payment is
year (excludes green manure): pro rata);

Table 1: Rates of payment for horticulture holdings

Horticulture Horticulture Area Horticulture Area

Area > 6 ha and up to >55 ha
< 6 ha 55 ha

In conversion 283/ha 212/ha 30/ha

Full organic status 142/ha 106/ha 15/ha

On all other holdings, applicants with 3 hectares or more of utilisable agricultural area
are eligible for the following payments:

Table 2: Payment rates for other holdings

Farmed Area of > 3ha up to 55ha Farmed Area > 55ha

In conversion 212/ha 30/ha

Full organic status 106/ha 15/ha

chapter 2
The Two-Year Conversion

For crop production (non-livestock Additional Option

systems) at least 50% of the area Stockless non-REPS farmers applying green
eligible for payment must be cover during the conversion period may
cropped each year. For mixed qualify for an additional payment of
farming systems, payment for crop 240/ha per year up to a maximum of 40
production will be based on the ha.
area cropped;.
The maximum stocking rate is Grant Aid
limited to the terms and There are now two grant schemes available
conditions of the Nitrates to help the development of the organic
Directive; sector:
Farmers with commonages or 1. The On-Farm Scheme of Grant Aid for
grazing rights may be allowed to the Development of the Organic Sector;
participate in the Organic Scheme and
but will not get organic payments 2. The Off-Farm Scheme of Grant Aid for
on the commonage; the Development of the Organic Sector.
Partial conversion is allowed, thus
giving more flexibility; and The schemes aim to promote the
In REPS 4, participation in the development of the organic sector. These
Organic Scheme will now be paid schemes provide 40% funding for on farm
on land that is also attracting and off farm facilities, and equipment for
payment for Conservation of production, grading and storage of organic
NATURA 2000 and Other Priority products. The schemes also fund the
Sites (formerly Supplementary modification of existing livestock housing
Measure A). on the farm. For further information
contact a local Teagasc adviser.

Table 3: Accumulation of aid under REPS 4

Organic Payment Plus REPS basic payment Plus Owned Natura or

Any one of:
Rare Breeds
Traditional Orchards
Riparian Zone

Table 4: Total payments on organic farms also in REPS 4

Area Basic REPS Payment REPS + In conversion REPS + Full


20 ha 4,680 8,920 6,800

40 ha 8,780 17,620 13,020
55 ha 10,010 21,670 15,840
85 ha 10,310 22,870 16,590

chapter 3
Guidelines for Organic Farming

grassland. Soil testing indicates the

Soil Fertility amount and frequency of lime
application needed. There are
Appropriate soil management and the
situations where this ruling on pH
maintenance of soil fertility are
should be modified:
fundamental to the success of organic
Lime use should be restricted on soils
farming. Management of organic
with high molybdenum status;
farms should ensure regular inputs of
pH should not be raised above 5.5 in
manures and a level of microbial and
peat soils;
earthworm activity sufficient to
On very extensively run organic
breakdown organic matter and
farms with very low stocking, little
ensure continuous and efficient
or no lime may be needed; and
nutrient cycling. Keeping soils at a pH
On heavy carboniferous soils lime
that facilitates organic matter
must be used very sparingly in order
breakdown and nutrient recycling is
to avoid poaching.
essential for successful organic
Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K)
Phosphorus is an essential element for
plant and animal life. In animals
Many Irish soils are naturally acidic.
phosphorus is essential for bone
Our high rainfall makes surface acidity
formation. Low phosphorus levels in
very common. Liming is the best way
the diet can cause depraved appetite
of keeping soils at pH 6.0 6.5. Lime
in cattle and are also associated with
provides the very basis of soil fertility
poor fertility. Recent research at
and works in a number of ways:
Johnstown Castle suggests that low
Lime corrects soil acidity. Acid soils
soil phosphorus can lead to poor and
generally tend to be unproductive;
very slow establishment of cereal and
Liming leads to the release of
grass crops. A satisfactory potassium
nutrients in the soil such as
level in soils is essential for nutrient
nitrogen, phosphorus and
movement within plants and when soil
potassium. In acid soils these
levels are low the productive grasses
nutrients are in forms that are
tend to die out. Clover is particularly
unavailable to plants; and
sensitive to low soil potassium and
Lime is a soil conditioner allowing
where levels are low clover can
the breakdown of organic matter. It
become very scarce in the sward. This
increases microbiological and
means nitrogen (N) supply could be
earthworm activity and improves
very poor. The target for soil P and K
soil structure, which leads to
levels are outlined in Table 5.
increased soil pore size which in
turn allows air and water to pass
through the soil more freely.

Lime requirement is the amount of

lime required to change the pH of the
soil from where it is to a pH of 6.5 for

chapter 3
Soil Fertility

Table 5: Target P and K levels in organic soils

Phosphorus (P) Potassium (K)

Soil Nutrient Index 2: Index 2: 51 100
Level (mg/l) Grassland: 3.1 5.0
Tillage: 3.1 6.0

Maintaining Soil Fertility can be used. In the Organic Standards

The aim of organic farming is to mineral fertilizers and supplementary
maintain soil fertility levels by nutrients are divided into two
efficient recycling of farmyard categories: permitted and restricted. If
manure, slurry and or compost that is the product does not appear on either
normally generated on the farm. The list (e.g., CAN, super-phosphate,
efficient storage and spreading of 10:10:20) farmers can assume it is
farmyard manure, slurry or compost is prohibited. A full list of these is
vital to organic farming. On available in the organic standards.
productive organic farms, significant Examples of permitted products
quantities of milk, meat and or include rock phosphate, limestone,
cereals are sold off the farm. These ground chalk, calcium sulphate, epsom
products contain nutrients, for salts and herbal sprays. Examples of
instance: 1,000 litres of milk or 100 kg restricted products include rock potash
of beef contain approximately 1 kg of (subject to chlorine analysis) basic slag,
phosphorus. If this phosphorus is not seaweed, fish meal and trace elements
returned to the soil it will become (boron, copper, iron, manganese,
impoverished over time. This must not molybdenum and zinc), following the
be allowed to happen. It is this logic submission of soil, leaf or blood
that led to the allowance of limited analysis. In all cases permission from
fertiliser use in organic farming. the OCB must be gained before
restricted products can be used.
Use of Fertilizers
Fertilizers are a nutrient and should
be regarded as a supplement to, and
not a replacement for, nutrient
recycling within the farm. They should
be used only to replace the nutrients
that are removed by the farming
system. The first option for replacing
these nutrients is to bring in manures
from other farms and compost them
on the users holding. These manures
must be declared GMO-free and must
come from non-intensive production
systems. After these options are
exhausted, certain types of fertilisers

chapter 4
Guidelines for Organic Farming

can greatly increase sward

Grassland Management productivity by providing up to 100
kg N/ha. A sward without clover or
While many of the basic principles of artificial nitrogen can grow
farming organic grassland are the approximately 5,000 kg of grass dry
same as for conventional grassland matter (DM)/ha/year, which could
there are some important differences support a little less than one
which influence organic grassland livestock unit. On the other hand, a
management. Most fertilisers familiar good clover sward will support a
to the conventional farmer and stocking rate of 1.5LU/ha or more.
routine worming of livestock are not
allowed nor are herbicides for weed Red clover can fix up to 200 kg N/ha,
control. Management practices must twice the potential of white clover.
be adapted to suit the system. When sown with perennial ryegrass
it can achieve yields of 11,000 kg to
Fertility 13,000 kg DM/ha/year. When used
The three main nutrients needed for a for silage it can lift the stocking rate
productive sward are nitrogen, as high as 1.7LU/ha or more. It is a
phosphorus and potassium. short-term crop, producing well for
Phosphorus and potassium have been two to four years after which time it
dealt with in the previous chapter. is generally followed by a cereal or
root crop or reseeded. Grazing
Nitrogen (N) can come from three doesnt suit red clover and it will die
main sources on organic farms: out of a sward much more quickly
Clover; under grazing than when used for
Microbiological activity in well silage.
managed soils can provide
60kg80kg N/ha/year by releasing Clover-Rich Swards
nitrogen from decaying organic On many farms it is difficult to
matter; and achieve adequate levels of white
Farmyard manure/slurry can contain clover in the swards. In mid-August
considerable quantities of nitrogen 50% of the dry matter should be
but much of this can be lost made up of clover. This will appear
depending on spreading time and as almost 100% ground cover. The
method. advantages of a clover-rich sward
Clover in Organic Grassland Clover maintains its digestibility
Clover drives successful organic throughout the grazing season;
farming by fixing nitrogen from the Intakes by stock are higher than on
atmosphere and is therefore the key nitrogen-based swards;
way for the organic farmer to get Mineral content is significantly
more nitrogen into the soil. There are higher than in high nitrogen
two main types of clover that are swards; and
most useful on Irish farms: white Clover enhances biological diversity
clover and red clover. White clover in the sward.

chapter 4
Grassland Management

Establishing Clover-Rich Swards under-sown into a cereal crop or arable

There are several ways to establish silage crop in the spring or sown
clover-rich swards, including directly in spring or autumn.
ploughing and reseeding, minimum
cultivation and surface seeding. Minimum Cultivation
In conventional agriculture, the
Plough and Reseed principal way of reseeding without
This is the most reliable method of ploughing is to kill the existing sward
establishing clover. It has several with a herbicide, prepare the seed bed
advantages: with a power harrow or tilling
Pests and diseases at or near the equipment of various kinds, and add
surface are buried; the seed. As herbicides are not allowed
The existing sward is buried and this in organic farming, it is critical to
allows the sown sward to establish establish the seeds rapidly before the
without competition from the old existing sward or weeds can compete
sward; with the new seedlings; this is difficult
The ploughed soil can be easily to achieve.
cultivated to provide the ideal seed
bed; Management must be geared towards
The opportunity can be taken to minimising the growth of the existing
level land during the tillage sward and encouraging the growth of
operations; and the new seedlings. One method of
Organic manures and lime can be doing this is to take a high yielding
worked into the rooting layer of the silage crop off the site immediately
soil, rather than just placing them prior to reseeding, so that the seeds are
on the surface. being sown into a brown stubble, as
opposed to a green stubble. regrowth
However, there are also some of the existing sward after silage
disadvantages to ploughing. Deep harvesting is always slower than
ploughing can bury soil nutrients, regrowth after grazing. Cutting the
especially phosphorus, which tends to sward close to the soil surface slows the
remain near the surface of the soil. regrowth of the existing sward. Liming
Ploughing should only be to a depth improves the chances of success as it
of approximately 15cm. In grassland, neutralises acidic conditions due to the
ploughing can leave furrows that are decay of the old sward. After the silage
difficult to level out afterwards. As is removed, the soil can be tilled with
the seeds are small a firm, fine power machinery. The seeds can also be
seedbed is essential to ensure close drilled directly into the soil, using
contact between the soil and seed. A specialist equipment, such as the
light harrowing and firm roll will Moore,Aitcheson, or Hunter drills.
ensure that the seed is in close contact
with the soil, it also presses down Surface Seeding
stones and helps retain soil moisture. White Clover can be successfully added
The grass/clover seed mixture can be to existing swards in the conditions

chapter 4
Grassland Management

listed below: significantly above 1.5lu/ha does red

Presence of bare ground and clover become justifiable as part of a
absence of a dense mat of grass on two or three cut silage system.
the soil surface. For successful
establishment, there must be Perennial Ryegrass
contact between the seed and soil; Perennial ryegrasses have been proven
The existing sward needs to be to be well suited to Irish conditions as
curtailed for as long as possible they:
after clover addition. A heavy, Produce in early spring and late
closely harvested cut of silage is the autumn;
surest way of ensuring this; Grow rapidly in the April to July
Reseeding in damp weather period to give high silage yields;
increases the chances of success; Produce large quantities of leafy
Use 4 kg to 5 kg of clover seed/ha; grass in mid-summer without too
Lightly roll after sowing to ensure much topping;
seed soil contact; and Are persistent and high tillering, yet
Graze regularly after sowing in are compatible with clover thus
order to prevent the existing sward giving a good long-term sward; and
from competing with the new Are palatable to animals thus giving
seedlings. good intakes and high production.

Timing of Sowing Given these strengths perennial

A warm soil and sufficient moisture ryegrass should be included in all
are necessary for seed germination. mixtures and a strong case must be
The optimum time for sowing is from made to include other grass species at
early April to the end of May and its expense.
from mid-July to mid-August. Sowing
of grass or clover seeds during the
months of June and early July should
be avoided, as the risk of drought is
considerable during this period. In
organic farming spring sowing is more
successful than autumn sowing.

Seed Mixtures
Farmers must make every effort to use
only organically certified seed. Where
such seed is unavailable specific
derogations for use of untreated non-
organic seeds may be sought.
Perennial ryegrass and white clover
will make up the most part of seed
mixtures for Irish organic grassland.
Only when stocking rates are pushed

chapter 4
Grassland Management

Other Grass Species drought resistant than grasses and

Apart from perennial ryegrass some may lead to a more open soil
other grass species may have a role on structure. They tend to be overlooked
organic farms. in practice, however, as they tend not
to last in good swards due to
Timothy produces leafy grass in mid competition from dense grass/clover
summer but has poor spring growth. swards. Because of this some farmers
It is very palatable if not let go to grow them in herb strips at field
seed. It is well suited to wetter margins. The upright growth habit of
heavier land and if used should be Timothy makes it a good companion
included at a rate of 2 kg/ha. grass for forage herbs. Forage herbs
are very palatable and are selectively
Meadow Fescue is slow to establish grazed by livestock which may be part
but performs well when successfully of the cause of their poor persistence.
established. It can be quite leafy in
mid-summer and combines well with Since herb seeds add extra costs to
Timothy in wetter areas. reseeding and limited mineral
Cocksfoot is deep rooting which supplementation is allowed for
makes it drought resistant and livestock under organic standards
beneficial to soil structure. It becomes herbs may not be as important in the
very fibrous when mature which sward as once thought. It should be
reduces its feeding value and regular noted that grass clover swards tend to
topping is necessary to maintain its be higher in mineral content than
feeding value in grazing. high nitrogen pure ryegrass swards.
Italian Ryegrass is suited for short-
term leys which will be cut for silage General Purpose Grazing/Silage
three to four times per year. It doesnt Mixtures
fit in well with other grass species as it Grass seeding rate should be in the
reaches cutting stage mush quicker order of 20kg/ha to 22 kg/ha, while
than they do. the white clover seeding rate should
Hybrid Ryegrass is a cross between be 3kg/ha to 4kg/ha. Many grass seed
perennial and Italian ryegrass and mixtures have only 1kg/ha of white
offers some of the advantages of both clover, which is much too low. Red
species. It is best suited to short term clover may be included at 1kg/ha.
leys for silage but is not as short-lived
as Italian and more productive than Red Clover Silage Mixtures
perennial ryegrass. Red clover can be sown as a mixture
with perennial, Italian or hybrid
Forage Herbs ryegrass. For leys intended for less
Forage herbs are deep-rooted, mineral than two years Italian ryegrass may
rich plants which can increase the suit but for longer than that perennial
mineral intake of livestock as well as or hybrid will suit best. Red clover
enrich the upper layers of the soil. seeding rates vary from 3 kg/ha
Their tap roots make them more ryegrass to 13.5 kg/ha. Higher rates

chapter 4
Grassland Management

will give good production for longer. Clover survives better in a rotational
At Johnstown Castle13.5 kg red clover rather than set-stocked grazing
plus 13.5 kg perennial ryegrass per regime.
hectare were sown and gave good
silage yields for four years. White Silage
clover can be added to the mixture at Cutting dates for organic swards will
a rate of 4.5 kg/ha and often becomes generally be later than for
dominant when the red clover dies. conventional swards to allow for later
growth. The yield of a white
Management of Organic Swards clover/perennial ryegrass sward cut in
mid-June would be expected to be 70
The following management hints can to 80% of a high nitrogen perennial
help achieve the best from organic ryegrass sward cut at the end of May.
swards and maintain high productivity Digestibility should be about the same
and high clover levels: for both silages, however. This is
Aim to have a 28-day rest period mainly because clover tends to hold its
between grazings rather than the digestibility at a higher level and for
21 days commonly used for longer than grass. Both red and white
conventional swards; clovers are lower in sugars than
Maintain soil pH between 6.0 and ryegrass and are, therefore, harder to
7.0; ensile. This means extra care has to be
Maintain soil phosphorus taken to ensure that high clover
(phosphate) levels between 3.1mg/l silages are well preserved. A pre-cut
and 6.0mg/l soil; test for sugars is a big help in deciding
Maintain soil potassium (potash) if wilting or additive is needed.
levels between 75mg/l and 120mg/l Molasses is the only freely available
soil; additive which is permitted.
Graze bare (5cm) in autumn;
Do not poach, as poaching damages
the clover stolons, which ensure Weed Control
survival from one year to the next; Herbicides are prohibited in organic
Alternative cutting and grazing farming but most weeds can be
helps clover survival by: controlled to a reasonable extent by
ensuring a relatively open sward careful grassland management. Listed
which greatly benefits clover below are some of the more
prevents the build up of too much troublesome weeds and the control
nitrogen in the soil which can measures that can be used against
discourage clover; them.
Tight grazing in spring ensures that
the emerging clover plants are not Docks rarely make up more than
shaded by the rapidly growing 5% of herbage mass and their
grass; impact is therefore mainly visual.
Use a mixture of medium and large They flourish in high potassium,
leaved clovers; and often compacted soils and are

chapter 4
Grassland Management

therefore often found in fields

which receive slurry in the winter.
Good slurry and FYM management
can therefore reduce dock build-up.
The root reserves of established
dock can be exhausted by topping
at flowering but before seeding.
Thistle and nettles should be
topped at flowering as for docks.
Drainage should be considered
where rushes and creeping
buttercup are a problem.
Bent grass infestations can be
reduced by more sequence of silage
cuts or severe grazing. Under the
low soil nutrient status common on
organic grassland these measure
eliminate the growth point of the
bent grass and open up the sward.
Ragwort is poisonous to animals
and should not be allowed to seed.
It should be removed from the field
by pulling or cutting and gathering
for safe disposal.

chapter 5
Guidelines for Organic Farming

affect the choice of breed. Traditional

Beef Production low maintenance breeds are well
suited to poorer soil types while
Beef systems on organic farms vary.
better soils with more productive
Suckler farms, particularly along the
grassland can suit continental breeds
western seaboard, tend to produce
better. Animal performance should be
weanlings for sale. These weanlings
as good on a well run organic farm as
are bought by finishers either through
on a conventional one. When
farm to farm sales or through organic
breeding suckler cows the organic
marts. Depending on breed these
standards recommend the use of easy-
cattle may be finished between 20
calving bulls. Problems at birth may
and 30 months of age. Some beef-
give rise to delayed re-breeding and
only producers buy stores for finishing
the use of hormones is prohibited.
over the summer grazing period. This
Artificial insemination is permitted.
saves on housing costs but good
linkages are needed to ensure a
supply of organic animals when
It is preferable that all feed be
buying-in. Many organic weanlings
produced on the farm.
are sold as conventional and leak out
Notwithstanding this, a minimum of
of the system. Some organic farmers
50% of the annual feed must be
operate a suckler to beef system
obtained from the unit or in
taking their own calves to finish.
cooperation with other organic
farms. Derogation from the 50%
This system has a number of
may be permitted in exceptional
The farmer has complete control
Post weaning, at least 60% of the
over the calving time and breed
daily dry matter intake must consist
type of his/her stock;
of fresh or dried fodder, roughage
A closed herd policy can be
or silage
operated, thus allowing the herd to
build up resistance to the pathogens
on the farm and reducing the
Housing can be the most expensive
chances of bringing in disease;
part of converting to organic beef
The farmer gets the full benefit of
production depending on the farm
any premium for organic beef ; and
The stress of transport, marts and
introduction to a new farm is
eliminated thus reducing the
likelihood of stress-related health

There is a market for both traditional
and continental animals and most
breeds are suitable for organic
farming. Soil type and location will

chapter 5
Beef Production

situation. It must meet the animals animals depending on weight.

behavioural need as regards Approximately two and a half times
appropriate freedom of movement more space is required per animal
and comfort. It is not compulsory to compared to conventional housing.
house animals under organic Therefore, if it is intended to retain
standards, and where soil conditions existing animal numbers on the farm
are suitable, animals may be then existing farm buildings will
out-wintered. Out-wintering animals require extensions. Straw-bedded
is subject to the restrictions of the extensions may be added onto
Nitrates Directive. Having only slatted existing slatted houses allowing the
housing on the farm is not permitted; animals to be fed on the slatted area.
at least half of the total floor area If stock numbers are to be reduced to
must be solid and bedded. Straw, accommodate the existing shed then
rushes or untreated wood shavings half of the slatted area must be
are acceptable bedding materials and replaced with solid floor such as
these need not be organic. All animal reinforced concrete slabs. A grant is
housing is subject to inspection and available for these alterations through
approval by the OCB. Table 6 shows the On-Farm Scheme of Grant Aid for
the minimum area per head for Development of the Organic Sector.

Table 6: Minimum housing area per head and by weight.

ANIMAL Minimum Indoor Areas
(net area available to each animal)
Live Weight Minimum m2/head
Calves; Beef Cattle; Up to 100kg 1.5
Bull Beef; Suckler Up to 200kg 2.5
Cows Up to 350kg 4.0
Up to 500kg 5.0
Over 500kg min. 1 m2 /100kg
Up to 600kg 6.0
Dairy Cows
Over 600kg min. 1m2 /100kg
Breeding Bulls 10m2; (plus 30m2
separate outdoor
exercise area)

chapter 5
Beef Production

Animal Health

A healthy herd is achieved by a

combination of good management,
sound nutrition and good animal
husbandry skills. Veterinary treatment
is considered an addition to and not a
substitute for good management.
Homeopathic and naturopathic
treatments are preferred to
conventional drugs. Where there is a
known farm problem, permission may while two courses are allowed for
be obtained from the OCB to treat breeding. Any more than this and the
the animal, for example for animal must either re-enter a
vaccination for blackleg. Five-year conversion period or be sold
permission may be granted for such conventionally. In general the
vaccinations. withdrawal period for most
treatments is twice the legal
Good management and planning of withdrawal period. For mastitis
grazing rotations will generally treatment it is three times the legal
control stomach worms by ensuring withdrawal period. Where no
that younger animals are given the withdrawal period is specified on the
cleanest pasture which is fully grazed product a 48-hour withdrawal is
after them by the older stock in a imposed.
leader-follower system. The older
stock has a higher level of immunity
and help to reduce the numbers of
worms at pasture and thus allow a
gradual build-up of resistance by the
young stock. If conventional
treatment is required for worms or
fluke then either a veterinary
certificate or laboratory analysis
showing proof of a problem is
required to get permission for
treatment. Where individual animals
require a treatment then permission is
not required, but the treatment must
be recorded and withdrawal periods

In any 12-month period only one

course of antibiotic treatment is
allowed for meat producing animals

chapter 6
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Sheep Production advantage to have Suffolk cross ewes.

To produce lambs to sell as carcases
Sheep production can fit in well on a suitable for the French market, the
mixed organic farm but can prove ram can be Suffolk, Texel or Charollais.
difficult, or even impossible, if run as
the sheep-only unit. This is because Breeding own replacements and thus
parasites will be very difficult to keeping a closed flock is of great
control where clean grazing is not benefit as it reduces the chances of
available for at least part of the introducing disease into the flock and
production cycle. If sheep are run as a helps build up resistance to pathogens
minority enterprise on the farm, with on the farm. If replacements with a
the larger proportion of the land high lambing rate are required, a
taken up with cattle and/or tillage, Belclare ram should be used on about
they will be much easier to manage 40% of the flock. However, the
successfully. progeny will have slower growth rates
compared to those from Suffolk, Texel
Sheep can help improve the or Charollais rams.
performance of beef and dairy
enterprises by improving sward Grazing
quality and helping to control weeds. Grass on its own is a complete feed
In mixed grazing with cattle they also for ewes and lambs and is a small
improve overall efficiency by eating fraction of the cost of organic
grass which cattle leave behind, i.e., concentrates. The most common
around dung pats. system of sheep farming in Ireland is
mid-season lamb production, that is,
Breeds and Breeding ewes lambing in March, and the aim is
A crossbred ewe is ideal and a cross of to sell all lambs off grass. If lambing is
any two existing breeds can produce earlier, such as in January, it will result
good quality ewes. If a farmer is in a lower stocking rate, more
aiming for a high lambing concentrates being fed to ewes and
percentage, the Belclare breed has a more consumption of creep feed by
big advantage. Research has shown lambs, all of which increase costs.
that the Texel breed has substantially
better resistance to parasites than the For March lambing ewes, grass is the
Suffolk. This gives the Texel a distinct cheapest and best diet for a suckling
advantage in organic production and ewe. It is uneconomical and inefficient
the breed also produces a lean carcass. to feed concentrates to a suckling ewe
The Belclare breed carries a on good grass. However if grass is
proportion of Texel genes and scarce, concentrates should be
therefore also has advantages over introduced. In most cases it is
the Suffolk in parasite resistance. uneconomical to creep feed lambs on
good grass.
If aiming to lamb ewes early
(December to January) it is an A rotational grazing system is

chapter 6
Sheep Production

preferred to set stocking as it is easier adequate to satisfy the extra demands

to control grass quality; a rotation of the ewe due to the rapidly growing
with three to four paddocks or fields, unborn lambs. During this period feed
which need not be the same size, is 25 kg of an 18% crude protein ration.
best. Start at 0.1 kg/ewe/day six to seven
weeks pre-lambing and gradually
After weaning, lambs should continue build up to 0.7 kg/ewe/day at lambing.
to graze good quality pastures, This is critical to avoid weak lambs,
preferably silage aftermaths, which ewes with no milk and to prevent
provide clean grazing. Lambs perform twin lamb disease. High crude protein
excellently on pastures with high intake in the last three weeks of
clover content. pregnancy is essential for a good
supply of quality colostrum and milk.
Two-thirds of the weight gain of the In the case of ewes lambing from early
unborn lamb takes place during the March onwards it is hoped that grass
final seven weeks of pregnancy. This would be available making meal
means that from four weeks after feeding unnecessary and
mating to week 14 of pregnancy, the uneconomical. In general December
ewe will get by on a maintenance diet and January born lambs should be
of silage or hay. A lowland ewe will creep fed, do not creep feed lambs
eat 5.5 kg of silage per day or 1.5 kg after early February.
of hay per day. The quality of the
silage does not have to be excellent; Housing
silage with a DMD of around 65% is Sheep housed for the winter must be
adequate so this can be easily provided with a bedded solid floor
obtained from one cut of silage taken area. Up to 50% of the total area can
in early June. be slatted. Plenty of straw should be
used to keep the lying area for the
There is no difference between pit ewe dry at all times. The space
silage and baled silage as a feed for required per ewe is 1.5m2
in-lamb ewes. However, ensure that (16 sq. ft) minimum. Adequate
baled silage is adequately wrapped ventilation is essential, if not, sheep
and that bales are not damaged as are liable to get pneumonia. Also
this could result in mouldy silage. This make sure there is no draught under
causes a disease known as listeriosis in the sheep. A minimum of 50cm of
sheep. If troughs are used for feeding trough space per heavily pregnant
it is good practice to clean them out ewe must be provided. Any house
every 10 days to avoid the build up of type is okay provided it meets the
mouldy silage. above requirements.

Concentrates Flock Health

In the final six to seven weeks of Disease prevention is the key to good
pregnancy, silage or hay alone is not flock health. Measures such as

chapter 6
Sheep Production

operating a closed flock, double prevention and deltamethrin as well

fencing boundaries and good general as shearing affected areas and
hygiene will reduce the risk of removing maggots is the
infection from various sources. Stress recommended treatment for cases of
is a big cause of ill health in sheep, so flystrike.
at all times try to avoid anything that
stresses your sheep. Vaccines are not recommended but
permission may be given for their use
Stomach worm infestation in lambs following a written confirmation by a
during their first summer is the veterinary surgeon that there is a
biggest health problem, in particular known farm problem.
nematodirus in May. Grazing new
pastures each year gives good control
of nematodirus. Weaning the lambs in
late June onto silage aftermath will
greatly reduce or eliminate the
stomach worm burden in summer and

Regular foot-trimming and zinc

sulphate footbaths are the
recommended way to control
lameness. Other foot bathing
products, such as copper sulphate, are
permitted but formaldehyde is
prohibited. The foot rot organism will
only survive in the ground for about
12 days without sheep being present.
After foot bathing the flock should be
put onto ground where sheep have
not grazed for the previous 14 days.

Fluke should be controlled by

draining, planting or fencing off wet
areas but where fluke is a known
farm problem one fluke dose per
annum or a specific strategic fluke
control regime with veterinary
confirmation is permitted. Routine
regular dosing for fluke is prohibited.

Regularly dagging to reduce the risk

of flystrike is recommended.
Cyromazine is permitted for

chapter 7
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Organic Dairying silage system is most suitable. Because

clover is a late-starter in the spring
The organic dairying sector is at an this silage is not likely to be ready for
early stage of development in Ireland cutting before early June. Some
and anyone considering organic organic farmers graze all their
dairying should first ensure that they grassland in the spring before closing
have an outlet for their milk. There is the silage ground. This means they
one main processor handling most of can get cows out earlier and save on
the organic milk being produced and expensive concentrates. Also, cow
they have plans for substantial growth health will generally be better
in the volume of milk they are outdoors in the spring. Grazing silage
processing. For the foreseeable future ground will push back the silage
it is likely that organic dairy farmers cutting date but quality should not
will have to produce winter milk, with suffer as clover does not lose quality
most if not all cows calving in with age as much as grass. If a farmer
autumn, to ensure a premium price wants to push stocking rates beyond
for their milk. Important issues in 1.5LU/ha a multi-cut red clover system
organic dairying include grassland will almost certainly be part of the
management; concentrate feeding; plan.
housing, cow health and producing
replacements. Concentrate Feeding
Concentrates are the most expensive
Grassland Management part of a cows diet. Organic meal is
In Ireland we are in a good position to much more expensive than
produce milk off grass, and organic conventional so meal feeding must be
dairy farmers should make the best watched carefully and good
use of grazed grass and clover for as grass/clover swards and silage must be
much of the year as possible. Clover used to the maximum to keep costs
drives the whole system. The stocking down.
rate may be lower in organic than
conventional dairying but the output On some farms home-grown cereals
per cow need not be. may be feasible and could be a useful
way to establish clover/perennial
Cows must be kept well fed and at ryegrass swards as part of a rotation.
the right body condition score to Cereals will make up most of the
produce well and stay fertile. Keeping concentrates being fed but they are
enough grass/clover in front of the too low in protein on their own and a
cows during the grazing season and good protein source is essential to
extending it as far as possible is the balance the ration. Protein crops such
key to profitable organic dairying. as peas, beans and lupins can be
grown or bought in, but supply is
Silage limited at the moment and they are
If white clover/perennial ryegrass is more difficult to grow than cereals.
used over the entire farm a one-cut

chapter 7
Organic Dairying

Housing supply any shortfall in energy or

In organic farming cattle must be protein and may meet all the vitamin
allowed more floor space than on and mineral needs. In some cases, and
most conventional farms. At least 50% at certain parts of the production
of the floor area must be solid and cycle, essential minerals, trace
bedded i.e., not slatted. For many elements or vitamins may be lacking.
farmers a combination of a bedded Using a diverse range of plants in the
lying area and a slatted feeding area sward may solve some mineral and
may offer the best solution (see Table trace element problems as certain
6). plants have higher mineral levels than
perennial ryegrass/clover swards.
Cubicles However some soils are naturally
Cubicles are allowed if they are big deficient in particular minerals (such
enough. They should be made to fit as copper, iodine, selenium and cobalt)
the largest cow in the herd. For a or may have high levels of minerals,
600kg cow three square metres is which block the uptake of others
needed. A cubicle bed that is 2.5m (such as molybdenum). In these cases
long by 1.2m wide would be testing of blood, herbage or soil
adequate. Most existing cubicles on should be carried out and, based on
conventional farms are smaller and these and veterinary opinion, the
will need substantial modification. animals should be supplemented as
Sizes must be pro rata for smaller necessary.
stock such as weanlings. Cubicle beds
must be clean and dry and sufficiently Mastitis
well-bedded to give comfortable lying Mastitis is the single most frequent
conditions. Concrete beds are allowed animal health problem on dairy farms.
provided they are fitted with mats or Prevention should always be the first
other cushioning material and have a choice in controlling the disease. A
layer of bedding material on top. good mastitis control programme is
essential and its components are listed
Herd Health below.
The basis for a healthy herd consists Test the milking machine each year
of good nutrition, good conditions, and maintain it properly.
good hygiene and good management. Avoid stress on the cow and use the
Providing enough feed in a balanced correct milking routine.
diet, to meet the needs of the animal Teat dip immediately after milking.
at all stages of its growth and Ensure clean, dry, comfortable
production, is the first step to good housing, yards and roadways.
herd health. Dry off gradually not abruptly,
The main components of a balanced restricting feed, reducing milking to
diet are clean water, energy, protein, once-a-day and then to once every
minerals, trace elements and vitamins. two days. Keeping cows outdoors
Forage supplies most of the animals will reduce the risk of infection.
needs and concentrates will generally

chapter 7
Organic Dairying

Routine checking for infection at

milking time will ensure prompt
detection of clinical cases. A mild
case may respond to treatment by
stripping regularly between
milkings and massaging with cold
water. Various non-conventional
therapies have been suggested. To
avoid suffering in serious cases
treatment with antibiotics may be
necessary. Two courses of treatment
are allowed within a 12-month
period. If this is exceeded the
animal should be sold
conventionally or should undergo a
further 15 months conversion. for survival and calving interval should
All cows should be regularly tested be used for breeding replacements.
for Somatic Cell Count (SCC). Those Cross-breeding may also be useful in
with consistently high counts should producing replacements with hybrid
be culled. vigour.

Rearing Replacements
The recommended practice is for
calves to be suckled, but bucket
rearing is permitted. Calves should
receive colostrum as soon as possible
after birth and should be suckled on
the mother for at least five days. They
can then be trained to buckets or
artificial teats and must be fed milk
twice per day for at least nine weeks
or longer if they are not eating
enough solids to be weaned. A dry
clean bed must be provided and
housing should be well ventilated but
not draughty. Outdoor rearing of
calves will reduce the risk of infection.

Using the leader-follower system with

the calves grazing ahead of the one
to two year-old animals should control
parasites. Clean grazing should be
used for the younger stock as much as
possible. Bulls with good EBI figures

chapter 8
Guidelines for Organic Farming

made yearly according to field history,

Arable Production market demands and other factors.
In most cropping rotations, N supply is
Organic arable production represents a
the factor limiting crop growth. In the
significant step up in farm
majority of organic rotations legumes
management skills compared with non-
are the only practical means of
organic arable. This is because the
importing N onto the farm unless there
organic aim of preventing rather than
is a ready supply of off-farm certified
curing problems means that much better
organic manure. While green manures
integration of all the farms systems is
and leguminous cash crops do fix N,
required. This is mainly achieved
their short duration, removal of
through a well-designed and continually
considerable amounts of N in harvested
adjusted rotation, which in turn is
seed or overwinter growth period,
supported by specific practices. While at
means in practice only small, e.g., 50
first this can appear daunting for those
kg/ha of N are retained. In comparison
considering and/or starting organic
clover and grass pasture which is two
production, once the new systems have
years old or older can import large
bedded-in, day-to-day management can
amounts of N, with up to 300 kg/ha/year
be as straight forward as non-organic
N fixed by red clover. A two-year clover
systems, and, looking back, the process
dominated pasture is therefore
is often considerably easier than first
indispensible for maximising N imports,
and such pasture is also superior at
improving soil structure, organic matter
levels and general soil health than any
Rotations are the foundation of
short term restorative measure.
successful organic crop production. The
role of rotations is to:
Replenish soil N by growing legumes,
Soil Management
The foundation of maintaining a
principally clover, as part of pasture,
productive healthy soil is a two year or
but also green manures and cash
more clover and grass pasture phase in
the rotation. This is because grass roots
Manage weed, pest and disease levels
are the best at improving soil structure
by introducing ecological diversity in
while clovers provide the nitrogen to
space and time;
optimise growth and thus organic
Maintain soil organic matter and
matter production. This in turn is critical
structure, principally through a pasture
for maximising earthworm populations
phase, but also by using green
which are themselves immensely
beneficial for maximising soil quality. To
Allow a diversity of crop and animal
maintain the healthy soil produced by
enterprises to spread financial risk
pasture, tillage (cultivation) must be
(stress-proof the farm business); and
kept to the absolute minimum, as all
Rotations have traditionally been
tillage damages soil and reduces its
viewed as having a pre-ordained fixed
quality. This is principally through direct
order, but in practice, they are highly
disturbance effects, but also by the
flexible and adaptable with changes
compaction associated with soil traffic.

chapter 8
Arable Production

Ploughing is the most damaging form soil analysis results and nutrient
of tillage, followed by deep tillage, so budgets. Nitrogen is replaced by
non-inversion shallow (minimum) legumes, while phosphorous,
tillage is best as long as this is not to potassium, and all other nutrients are
the detriment of other aspects of crop replaced by importing, either,
husbandry e.g., crop establishment or allowable forms of mineral/rock
weed management. fertiliser, or organic matter. It is vital to
get up to date information from your
After pasture and minimising tillage, adviser and/or to check with your
the maintenance of green cover certification agent prior to importing
cover cropping, especially any nutrients.
overwinter, is the next most
important aspect of maintaining a Regular, field-by-field, soil nutrient
healthy soil. Cover crops can be any tests and nutrient budgets are
plant species that will grow enough therefore essential management tools
to cover the ground, and include cash for organic farming. The nutrient
crop species and crop volunteers. content of farm products and manures
Probably the most valuable effect of varies widely depending on a large
cover crops is to capture soil N that number of factors and there is
would otherwise be lost by leaching, increasing evidence that organic
but they also protect the soil from manures and products have different
rain impact and erosion and provide nutrient contents to non-organic
fresh organic matter, which, coupled equivalents. For the most accurate
with wet soil conditions, can result in information, testing of the nutrient
huge earthworm populations. Weeds content of your manure and farm
can be used as cover crops with two products is essential.
provisos: that they will not set seed
before they are killed and that they Weed Management
produce sufficient vegetation to Effective weed management in organic
effectively cover the soil. agriculture is achieved through a
whole system of preventative
Plant Nutrient Management approach, rather than the curative
Maintaining optimum soil approach of attempting to kill weeds
fertility/plant nutrients and hence soil that emerge in the crop, as is typical of
health is the foundation of organic non-organic production. There are
farming. Unlike non-organic four legs to this integrated weed
production where fertilisers are management stool:
applied to maximise individual crop Rotation design;
yields, organics aims to feed the soil False and stale seedbeds;
to feed the plant with soil nutrient In-crop weeding; and
levels maintained at optimum levels Minimising weed seed rain.
for healthy crop growth and yield. In
practice, this means that crop Rotations with a sufficiently long
nutrients are replaced according to pasture phase, ideally three or more

chapter 8
Arable Production

years, allows the weed seed bank to the soil for many years, even decades,
decline dramatically, with losses of up to while the plants live for just a few
95% of seed each year due to predation months. Therefore, preventing weed
and death. The cropping phase can also seed rain is a very efficient way of
help eliminate perennial pasture weeds preventing weeds in following crops.
such as dock, rush and buttercup as Unfortunately, in arable systems there
these cannot survive repeated tillage. are currently few economic means of
Therefore, rotations can control the preventing established weeds setting
overwhelming majority of weeds, even seeds so minimising the seed rain in
before they germinate, for little cost. arable systems is mostly dependent on
minimising in-crop weed populations,
False and stale seedbeds both initially i.e., the purpose of killing in-crop weeds
rely on creating a final planting tilth, is as much to manage weeds for the
but then delay crop establishment to following decades as it is to reduce
allow weeds to emerge. For a false competition with the current crop.
seedbed, the weeds are killed by
extremely shallow tillage, while in the While these are the four main legs of
stale seedbed they are killed by a non- the weed management stool there are a
tillage technique such as flame (thermal) huge range of supplemental and
weeding. Very importantly, both supporting techniques, for example
techniques are highly effective at ploughing, competitive cultivars and
reducing intrarow (with the crop row) sowing dates to name a few. All these
weeds which are the most difficult and must be understood and used to achieve
expensive to control and the most successful weed management.
competitive with the crop. Compared
with in-crop weeding, false and stale Pests and Disease Management
seedbeds can dramatically and cheaply Pest and diseases are generally not such
reduce in-crop weed populations and significant problems in organic as in
should be attempted whenever crop non-organic arable crops. The main
timing and weather permit. protection is by planting resistant
cultivars, rotations and targeted
Farmer experience indicates that biodiversity. The relatively low incidence
Irelands unpredictable rainfall means in- of diseases on organic cereals is also due
crop weeding tools that require dry in part to the hardier and more open
conditions to effectively kill weeds, e.g., type of growth due to the lower
spring tine harrows, do not achieve amounts of soluble soil N which in non-
sufficiently reliable results. Therefore, organic crops results in soft growth
more aggressive knife-blade interrow more prone to pests and disease. This
hoes are recommended. The last five effect can be bolstered by selecting
years has seen the emergence of cultivars with a high disease-resistant
computer vision guidance systems which rating from the main DAFF
have revolutionised in-crop hoeing as Recommended List.
this has permitted very large machines
which can achieve forward speeds and Natural predators, particularly insects
precision far greater than any human. such as beetles, ladybirds, lacewings, and
parasitoid wasps can also be highly
The seeds of annual weeds can survive in
chapter 8
Arable Production

effective at reducing insect pest the crop, position in rotation, land

populations. These can be encouraged type etc. Ideally this should be
by maintaining a metre wide strip of discussed with your Teagasc adviser
tussocky grass, e.g., Yorkshire fog and
coltsfoot, around field edges and Conclusion and Outlook for the
planting floral food sources such as Future
buckwheat and phacelia. To minimise The expansion of organic farming and
barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) the end of derogations for non-
infection in winter cereals, sow late in organic livestock feeds should ensure
the year, for example late a good market for organic grain and
October/early November and for seed will continue. Present ex-farm
spring cereals, sow early. prices are in excess of 350/t for
barley/wheat/triticale, which, with the
Crops and Yields ongoing demand means that organic
Farmer experience has found arable production should be a
considerable variation in how easy profitable enterprise for the
different crops are to grow organically foreseeable future. Conversion to
in Ireland. This has primarily been due organic arable production will be
to difficulties with weed easier for existing mixed farming
management, which the advent of systems, as fewer structural changes to
computer-guided hoes may well the farm will have to be made.
significantly improve. However, crops However, it is just as feasible to
that are poor weed competitors, such convert livestock or all arable holdings
as spring barley and many legume with the necessary alterations.
crops, (e.g., peas and lupins), are Organics requires a high standard of
avoided by experienced farmers unless management and husbandry - it is not
fields are particularly weed free. Crops the easy option, nor should it be
that are good weed competitors, such attempted if the underlying farm
as triticale, winter wheat and winter business is struggling. However, for
oats, can be kept as weed free as non those farmers with the necessary skills
organic crops. organic farming is a highly rewarding
and profitable enterprise.
Yields of organic arable crops,
particularly cereals are generally lower
than non-organic production,
primarily due to using legumes to
supply N rather than synthetic N
fertilisers. However, as for non-organic
agriculture, yields are quite variable,
both from year to year and farm to
farm. At present there is only limited
data on organic cereal yields.
Generally yields are 50% of
conventional crops but it depends on

chapter 9
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Horticulture have to be hot composted which

significantly reduces their N content.
Introduction In addition, most horticultural crops
The market situation for organic are similar in their weed ecology, even
horticultural produce is even more though they differ in their pest and
acute than organic arable crops as disease ecology, i.e. most are spring
there are very few Irish organic planted, so horticultural systems suffer
horticultural producers. This means from a build up of spring-germinating
nearly all produce is imported, annual weeds. Hence attempting to
especially that sold through the cut down on the restorative phase of
multiples, which, coupled with the the rotation is likely to be a significant
continued strong growth in demand false economy in the longer term.
and policy pressure represents
significant and ongoing business There is considerable value, therefore,
opportunity. in integrating horticultural crops into
arable and/or livestock based systems,
While there is great demand for as this will diversify the overall
organic horticultural crops, marketing rotation with many benefits for all the
of vegetables, fruit and ornamentals production systems.
is considerably more complex than for
arable crops. It is therefore essential Soil Management
to have a clear-cut market outlet Vegetable yield and quality are
before even considering growing a considerably more sensitive than
horticultural crop, especially as many arable crops to sub-optimum soil
have a narrow harvest window and types, structure, nutrient levels and
complex storage requirements which overall health. While vegetables can
means the whole crop could be lost if be grown on a range of soil types,
a purchaser is not ready and waiting. large numbers and/or sizes of stones
present a major impediment to
Rotations successful in-crop weeding. Heavy soils
With the greater production intensity such as clays can be fertile and
of horticulture-only operations there therefore productive, but when wet,
is often a desire to extend the field access can be impossible. Field
cropping phase of the rotation as operations often have very narrow
much as possible at the expense of time window so if wet weather
the restorative pasture phase, prevents field access then delays can
especially where land area is limited. be very costly. Nutrient tests should be
The higher value of horticultural crops conducted at a minimum of every
means that it can be economically three years, and a full horticultural
viable to import materials, such as analysis that includes all the minor
compost, as a substitute for putting nutrients should be purchased.
the land down to clover and grass
pasture. However, most imported The vegetable bed system is the only
biological (organic) materials will recommended form of field

chapter 9

traffic/compaction management and year (ideally red) clover based pasture

detailed consideration should be stage in horticultural rotations may
given to using specialist horticultural superficially appear wasteful, its
tillage equipment such as bed- value for importing N, as well as its
formers. While it is possible to adopt a myriad other benefits for soil health,
minimum tillage approach for foliage weed pest and disease management
crops, root crop production inevitably are a very valuable investment.
results in substantial soil disturbance,
particularly at harvest which in wet Pest and Disease Management
weather can easily result in major soil As for arable production, a good
damage. Detailed soil management rotation is essential for effective pest
strategies are therefore required to and disease management, especially
achieve optimum crop production. soil-borne pathogens such as club
root. Good on-farm biodiversity (such
Crop Nutrition Management as maintaining tussocky grass field
All crop nutrients apart from N should margins of a metre width and
be maintained though the use of providing a continual supply of
mineral fertilisers or imported organic flowers such as phacelia and
material according to the results of buckwheat), will increase the
soil analysis and nutrient budgets as populations and effectiveness of
described in the section on arable beneficial insects (e.g. carabid beetles
production above. and parasitoid wasps) by providing
them shelter and food. However,
If vegetables or other annual crops there are a small number of pests and
are included in a livestock or at the diseases that escape the control of
start of an arable rotation with good such broad-brush approaches and
clover based pastures, nitrogen levels will need specific intervention.
are likely to be more than sufficient
for optimum production. In a These include aphids, typically at the
dedicated horticultural rotation, start and end of the season,
especially if it is maximising the caterpillars on large areas of
cropping phase, then N may decrease cabbages/brassicas, carrot root fly and
below optimum levels, even for less some fungi such as potato blight.
hungry crops. Brought in organic Controls include physical barriers such
matter will help boost N supply, but as insect mesh crop covers which can
gains may be modest, as most be practically 100% effective, or
material will have to be composted. permitted sprays such as Bacillus
Leguminous green manures can help thuringiensis (BT) sprays for
increase N levels, but as most land will caterpillars, and copper and sulphur
be under cash crops during the based fungicides. However, permission
summer months this only leaves the to use allowable pesticides and
less productive winter months when fungicides will almost certainly have
biological N fixation will be lower. to be obtained from certification
Therefore, while a minimum of a two agents. In all cases, a detailed

chapter 9

understanding of the biology of the be an essential tool as it can kill large

pests and diseases coupled with a pre- weeds under very wet conditions
planned management strategy is making it a critical backup to the
essential. faster but less aggressive, knife blade
hoes. There are now also a small, but
Weed Management increasing, number of intrarow
In dedicated horticulture systems, the weeding tools. Finally, the cost of
similarity of crops in terms of their physically removing weeds from the
weed ecology (mostly spring sown, field just prior to setting viable seed is
autumn harvested with low weed likely to be considerably less than
competitiveness) and only short trying to control the weeds that
pasture breaks mean that rotations would germinate from such seeds,
can be considerably less effective therefore such activities should be a
means of weed management than in- regular part of weed management.
cropping systems. This means that
much greater effort needs to be put Plant Raising
into the remaining three legs of the For most organic horticultural crops,
weed management stool (see arable the use of transplants is highly
chapter) of false and stale seedbeds, beneficial, primarily due to the
in-crop weed control and prevention competitive advantage over weeds,
of weed seed rain. Fortunately the but also for ensuring correct
higher value and greater intensity of spacing/populations and optimum
horticultural crops means that the land use. Considerable management,
greater cost of such techniques planning and infrastructure are
represents a much lower proportion required to ensure its success. The use
of production costs compared with of approved/certified organic compost
arable production, therefore allowing is now mandatory and organic seed
considerably greater levels of weed must also be used where available or a
management than would be economic derogation obtained.
under all-arable systems.
Fruit Growing
Every effort must be made to There is a vast difference between
maximise the use of false and/or stale growing a few fruit or other perennial
seedbeds as far as weather and crop crops as part of a widely diversified
timing will allow. For in-crop weeding, holding compared with a specialist
precision is the key, with all aspects organic fruit production enterprise.
of tillage, sowing and planting being For diversified holdings, fruit can be
meticulously implemented so to grown in most parts of the country
minimise the intrarow (unweeded but areas with low summer rainfall
crop row) area. Computer vision and are considerably more favourable as
GPS systems are a major advantage in fungal diseases thrive under wet
achieving this. With Ireland's conditions. For dedicated perennial
unpredictably wet climate the crop production units only the best
horizontal axis brush hoe is likely to soils and climates are recommended.

chapter 9

Perennial crops also present unique

soil, nutrient, pest and weed
management issues that require
thorough planning and advanced
crop husbandry skills.

Protected Cropping
Irelands wet and cooler climate
makes protected cropping, e.g.,
polytunnels and glasshouses, an
attractive option. These structures can
greatly enhance and stabilise the
financial returns of any size holdings
due to reduced risk of crop failures
because of the weather, although
they are particularly valuable on
smallholdings. They also provide a
means of extending the season for
produce and thereby provide a
continuity of supply for customers and
an improved cash flow for the grower.

Conclusion and Outlook for the

Vegetables and fruits are the main
consumer entry point for purchasing
organic produce and they continue to
be the area in shortest supply with no
imminent change in sight. Marketing
opportunities vary from direct-to-
customer sales, e.g., farmers markets,
all the way up to multi-year contracts
with wholesalers and the multiples.
Fruit and vegetables are therefore an
ongoing profitable business sector,
which, for those horticulturalists with
the requisite skills, offers a financially
and professionally rewarding

chapter 10
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Introduction to Poultry products and fishmeal from the diet,

the standards for organic production
Production are somewhat more demanding on
the producer than those for free
Overview range.
For full interpretation of the rules and
regulations governing organic poultry General Guidelines
farming it is essential for prospective Organic poultry must have continuous
producers to study the full text of the and easy daytime access to
standards document. pasture/range for at least 1/3 of their
lives. Range shelters must be provided,
The poultry industry is divided into either natural (such as trees and
two distinct production sectors meat shrubs) or artificial or a combination.
and eggs. Within these areas there Feed must be certified organic. Non-
are several separate enterprises organic feedstuffs may be fed, with
including breeding, fattening, pullet permission, up to 10% of annual
rearing and egg production under intake with a maximum daily intake of
intensive, barn, free range and 25%. This will decrease to 5% by 2010
organic systems. and by 2012 non-organic inclusions in
the diet will be completely prohibited.
Organic production is a very small All organic operators must apply for
part of total poultry production. The permission to purchase and feed non-
conundrum is whether lack of supply organic feedstuffs. No synthetic amino
inhibits demand or lack of demand acid inclusions or genetically modified
inhibits supply. Reading the signs raw feed ingredients are permitted.
seems to indicate that a promotion Beak trimming of birds is not allowed
and marketing effort would generate as a routine management procedure.
an increase in demand. The permitted numbers of birds in a
housing unit are 3000 for layers and
While the standards for conventional 4,800 for broilers and 2,500 for
commercial production and free turkeys. It is still permitted to use
range production have been conventional straw and non-treated
controlled to exclude all animal by- wood shavings as bedding.

Organic Egg Production

Free range production now accounts
for over quarter of the market. Within
this sector there is a market for
organic eggs. The management of a
laying flock does not vary significantly
from one system to another. Nutrition,
lighting, health, welfare, egg quality
and biosecurity are the main issues of

chapter 10
Poultry Production

Table 8: Housing and Facilities for Organic Egg Production abbreviated

Maximum stocking rate 6 birds/m2
Maximum slatted floor area 2/3 of floor area
Perch space 18cm/bird (30 cm apart)
Feeding space 10cm trough space
Drinkers 1 circular drinker/100 birds
Nest boxes (individual) 8 birds/nest
Communal Nests 120cm2/bird
Range Area 4m2/bird available in rotation
Pop-holes to exterior 4m/100m2 floor area

Sourcing Stock organic egg production can be

It is important to state at the outset brought onto an organic holding.
that certified organically reared
pullets are not readily available. To For holdings undergoing a two-year
surmount this problem conversion period, existing layers fed
derogations/permission protocols are on a certified organic diet for the last
in place. Put simply, when organic six weeks of their conversion period
pullets are not available, then, subject may produce organic eggs from the
to prior authorization from the date organic status is awarded to the
certification body, conventional land.
pullets for egg production, not more
than 18 weeks old, can be brought Vaccination is permitted in organic
onto an organic holding provided farming systems where it is known
they have been reared in such a way that a disease risk has already been
that their feeding and veterinary included in the animal health plan for
routine was in full conformity with the organic holding.
the standards for organic production.
This assurance as regards conformity Management of Layers
with the standards for organic Keen observation of bird behaviour
production can take the form of a will tell a story.
written statement from the Bring pullets into lay only when they
conventional pullet producer to the have reached a level of physical
organic egg producer. The above maturity capable of supporting good
derogation will remain in place until egg production coupled with
such time as organic hatchery marketable egg size. This
standards have been agreed at EU bodyweight will vary with the strain
level. Work on these standards is at an but will not be much less than 2kg
advanced stage and it is anticipated for organic production.
that the derogation will be removed Observe the basic two-part
as soon as these standards are commandment as regards lighting
introduced. Thereafter, only for layers:
organically certified pullets for Never increase day length for

chapter 10
Poultry Production

growing pullets; and

Never decrease daylight hours for
pullets once they have been
stimulated into production.
As feed is 70% of direct production
costs, use well designed feeders to
prevent wastage.
Keep vermin under control they
eat, feed and carry disease.
Wet litter increases ammonia levels
set drinkers to avoid water
spillage and have adequate
ventilation and insulation.
Maintain clean nest boxes, collect
eggs frequently and store below
15oC in dedicated storage area.
Damaged and dirty eggs are second
quality and of little value. The productive laying cycle is
Have fresh, good quality water approximately one year and
available to the flock at all times . termination will often be governed
The range should be divided into by egg shell quality.
rotational paddocks to minimise
ground wear. Land selected for Observations and Experience
range should be free draining. While the organic requirement for
Keep summer grass growth under nest boxes is one nest box per eight
control by topping if necessary. hens, our recommendation for good

Table 9: Housing and facilities for organic meat production - abbreviated

Broilers Turkeys Ducks Geese
Max. stocking rate 10 birds/m2 2 birds/m2 10 birds/m2 2 birds/m2
(21kg/ m2
Max. slatted floor area 2/3 2/3 2/3 2/3
Range area m2 /bird 4 10 4.5 15
available in rotation
Pop-hole area (Length) 4m/100m2 4m/100m2 4m/100m2 4m/100m2
Minimum age at 81 days 140 days Depends on 140 days
slaughter for non-slow breed: Pekin
growing strains. 49 days;
92 days

chapter 10
Poultry Production

flock management is one nest box

per five hens. This has implications
for egg quality and flock welfare .
With regard to feeding layers, non-
supplemented diets cannot supply
the balance of nutrients that years
of scientific research has decreed as
optimum. This can lead to stress,
particularly in the 18 35 weeks
age period, when egg production is
expected to go from 0 90% +
peak production, egg size is
increasing and the birds body
weight is increasing by a further Sourcing Stock
25%. As with layers, supplies of organically
The extra stress on the birds can certified stock are not readily
cause feather loss and cannibalism. available. However, the standards
Feed consumption is significantly require that operators should
increased. endeavour to make use of slow
Hens perform best at a house growing, organically certified stock.
temperature of 20C. It therefore Non-organic chicks can be purchased
pays to insulate the poultry house. at less than three days of age and
Ventilation is essential to provide must undergo a ten-week conversion
air changes throughout the house, period.
to get rid of dust, vapour and
gases. Observations and Management
Egg Marketing Regulations There is no register/list/definition of
Under EU regulations, organic eggs slow growing strains. All except the
may only be sold to shops or two modern strains used in
wholesalers by registered packing commercial production are regarded
stations. The Department of as slow growing for organic
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food purposes.
registers and regulates production Experience at Mellows Centre shows
and marketing of all eggs. that meat birds perform well under
organic regimes.
Organic Poultry Meat Production Purchase stock from a reliable
In conventional production, growth source.
rates for table birds have increased Avoid feed wastage.
substantially due to the ease with Maintain dry litter.
which selection for body weight can Manage range area with rotation
be achieved and flocks are and topping long grass where
slaughtered by seven weeks. Where necessary. (Long grass is not
these bids are grown organically their conducive to range use and can
lifespan must be at least 81 days. cause crop and gizzard impaction).

chapter 11
Guidelines for Organic Farming

stocking rate there may be little or no

Returns from reduction in output following
Organic Farming conversion. On intensive cattle/sheep
farms stocking rates may have to reduce
Data from Organic Demonstration more. On intensive dairy and tillage
Farms suggest high margins are farms, the reduction in output can be
achievable where management is substantial.
strong in terms of efficiency and
marketing. As a guide, when converting to organic
farming the following reduction in
As with conventional farming, the output is likely:
financial return is dependent on the Beef 0%-20%
level of efficiency and the product Dairy 20%-30%
price received. Any farmer thinking Tillage 30%-50%
about converting to organic farming
must consider a number of factors: Costs
During conversion extra costs will be
The likely gross output; incurred especially with respect to the
The likely price achievable or the conversion of existing buildings and
price premium over conventional clover establishment. A number of
product; and capital grant schemes are available
The level of costs including including the On-Farm and Off-Farm
additional costs associated with Schemes of Grant Aid for the
conversion. Development of the Organic Sector.
When the organic system is up and
Reduced Output running, variable costs will reduce as
Normally gross output will fall as there are no fertilizer or chemical
stocking rates and crop yields will be inputs, but the cost of straw and
substantially lower. The level of concentrates will increase.
reduction in output will depend on
management and the existing level of Price Premium
output. On many cattle farms stocking There is wide agreement amongst
rates are already well below what is marketing agencies that the following
achievable in an organic system. Many premiums would fit market expectations
farmers have already reduced and leave the producer with a
stocking rates in response to the reasonable margin:
introduction of the decoupled Single
Farm Payment and participation in Meat and Dairy Products 20%-25%
REPS. Compliance with the Nitrates Cereals 60%-100%
Regulations may also have the effect Vegetables 40%-100%
of pushing stocking rates closer to a
level consistent with organic farming. In recent years this level of price
Many beef farms, especially those premium has been achieved or
participating in REPS, have a stocking surpassed. A variation in price premiums
rate of 1.4LU/ha or less. At this is to be expected and on occasions when

chapter 11
Returns from Organic Farming

an organic outlet is unavailable, some Over time techniques are developed

produce may have to be sold on to control weeds and conserve
conventional markets. The price nitrogen and result in a more modest
premium is often obtained by selling yield decline. With good husbandry
direct to the consumer. This means the price premium compensates for
that organic producers must put a the drop in yield. Yields can be quite
greater effort into marketing. Organic variable and organic tillage presents a
vegetables are not subject to the greater challenge than other
same price fluctuations as enterprises.
conventional vegetables particularly
in mid season. The Organic Farming
Scheme payments will contribute
substantially to profit. The payments
are worth up to 11,660 a year
during conversion and up to 5,830
when fully organic (see Chapter 2).

Examining the Enterprises

Cattle and Sheep Production
This sector has very good potential
particularly on suckler/sheep farms
where the progeny is carried to
slaughter. Extra REPS 4 payments and
the organic price premium for
livestock generate additional income.
A significant boost in net margin is
achievable where management is
good and a secure organic outlet has
been identified.

Organic Milk Production

A premium of up to 35% is currently
obtained for organic milk. While
output per cow can hold up
reasonably well with good
management, output per hectare
generally falls. The system is best
suited to dairy farms which already
have a low stocking rate and farms
with a low milk quota per hectare.

Crop Production
Yields can fall dramatically during the
conversion period due to the absence
of artificial nutrients and herbicides.

chapter 12
Guidelines for Organic Farming

per year. Germany is the largest

Market Prospects for internal market with a share of about
Organic Produce 30% of the total EU market; other
large markets for organic products are
The organic market offers a viable the UK, Italy and France. North
opportunity for both the Irish farm America dominates the market for
and food sectors. It is very important organic products outside Europe. Bord
that any farmer who considers Bia estimates that in 2007 the total
producing an organic product should Irish organic market is estimated to be
first of all identify a suitable outlet worth about 76 million with market
for the product. Organic products can growth estimated at 15 20% per
be sold directly to customers via annum. Approximately 70% of the
country markets, door to door selling organic food sold on the Irish market
or indirectly through speciality shops is imported; highlighting the fact that
or bigger retail outlets. demand for organic produce in Ireland
is far greater than domestic
Where direct selling is feasible it production.
offers the possibility of a higher
margin but there are many Fruit and Vegetables
limitations. All costs including the In Ireland the market for organic fruit
time and effort required in and vegetables is relatively well
marketing, distribution, promotion developed accounting for
need to be considered. Selling the approximately 45% of the total
product on for further processing may market. In the vegetable sector
be necessary as with meat or dairy produce is largely sold through local
products and it may be desirable in markets and through supermarket
terms of developing the business. chains. There are still considerable
volumes imported so there is an
If selling to a processor, it is important opportunity for Irish producers to
to discuss production plans and to get satisfy this market. Also, there is
some commitment from the processor potential for the production of organic
that it is possible to sell this product field scale vegetables.
into the future. While there is
considerable consumer interest, the Meat
development of the organic market Lamb and beef marketing is largely
will require more processing to conducted through the supermarket
achieve scale of economics and chains and through well established
greater retailer promotion. local butcher businesses. There are also
a number of prominent producer
World Market groups including SROM (Shannon
The total world market value of retail Regional Organic Meats) and North-
sales of organic produce in 2006 was West Producers Group who have
over $40 billion. Organic farming in organised a marketing promotion
the EU is rapidly expanding with through local meat companies. There
average growth rates of up to 25% is considerable opportunity for Irish

chapter 12
Market Prospects for Organic Produce

beef and lamb producers to develop

this market in consultation with both
processors and retailers.

Dairy Produce
The organic milk sector in Ireland has
been slow to develop with less than
30 substantial producers at present.
Growth in the sector is dependent on
growth in processing. Although
Glenisk, currently the main processor
of organic milk and a number of
smaller processors have indicated an
intention to expand none of the
major players in the liquid milk
industry to date have shown an
interest in processing organic milk.

Developing the Home Market in

Ireland at present, there is
considerable consumer interest in all
organic foods. However, there is a
need for the various outlets to drive
the development and marketing of
organic products if the growth rates
which are common in Continental
Europe are to be achieved here. If the
home market is to develop and if
Ireland is to develop a foot-hold in
the export market it is necessary to
have a minimum scale of production.

The Teagasc Taskforce Report on

Organic Farming in Ireland suggests
the scale of production to be as This scale will provide processors and
follows: retailers with the volume necessary to
A minimum of 160 milk producers drive the development of the industry.
with an average of 40,000 gallons; The Department of Agriculture,
2,500 lamb/beef producers selling Fisheries and Food will provide
an average of 20 finished cattle and producers and processors with
40 lambs each; and assistance in the form of grant aid
600 hectares of vegetables which schemes.
will provide 25% of the market.

chapter 13
Guidelines for Organic Farming

3. Organic Crop Production

Teagasc Services for This short course is aimed at people
Organic Farming producing crops and deals with the
principles of organic crop production,
Training, advice and research are rotations and management of
essential if organic farmers are to individual crops.
provide products efficiently and to a
high quality. In recent years Teagasc 4. Organic Dairying
has devoted personnel, land and time This short course is aimed at organic
to provide the backup needed by the dairy farms and deals with the
organic sector. Teagasc provides management of dairy farms, dairy cow
services in training, advice and management, pasture management,
research. winter feed production and parasite
Six training courses have been 5. Introduction to Organic Poultry
developed in consultation with the Production
organic organisations and have been This course looks at the essential flock
accepted for FETAC certification. Any management and the economics of
individual who completes these short the enterprise.
courses can apply for certification and
build up credits which can be added 6. The Rural Environment Protection
to when further courses are Scheme for Organic Farmers
completed. These courses can be This course deals with grassland
provided at any location where an management, nutrient management
interested group, with a minimum of plans, associated environmental
15 people, is prepared to attend. requirements and producing an agri-
environmental plan in the organic
The courses are: context.

1. Introduction to Organic Production Teagasc Trials and

This is a short course setting out the Demonstrations
principles of organic farming, dealing Three Teagasc research centres have
with organic standards and assessing farms involved in organic production.
the suitability of different enterprises These farms are at Mellows
for organic farming. Development Centre, Athenry, Co.
Galway; Johnstown Castle
2. Organic Drystock Production Environment Research Centre, Co.
This course is aimed at farmers who Wexford and Crops Research Centre,
are interested in organic drystock Oak Park, Co. Carlow. They will be
production and deals with the used in conjunction with courses and
principles applying to conversion as open days.
well as livestock management,
pasture management and parasite
control on drystock farms.

chapter 13
Teagasc Services for Organic Farming

Advisory Services
Each Area Unit has advisers who have
received training in the basic
principles of organic farming. These
advisers are available for consultation
with anyone interested in organic
farming and are backed up by
specialised organic staff, working in
organic advisory, training and
research. Specialist advisers are
located at Oak Park, Moorepark,
Grange and Mellows Development
Centre (see Chapter 14 for details).
The local advisers in each county act
as a first contact for farmers. The
specialist staff will provide advice to
farmers in production either on the
telephone or through individual visits.

Research on organic production is
conducted at three Teagasc centres in
conjunction with mainstream research
on enterprises and crops. Oak Park
conducts research projects on organic
cereals and pulse crops. The pulse
crops are grown to provide a cheap
source of protein for organic
concentrate rations. Research on
organic drystock and dairy production
is carried out at Johnstown Castle and
Mellows Development Centre.

Demonstration Farms
Teagasc deliver demonstrations
annually on 21 demonstration farms
strategically located throughout the
country. These farms are run in
partnership with the Department of
Agriculture and Food and details of
demonstration dates can be viewed
on the Teagasc website at and on the
Department of Agriculture and Food
website at

chapter 14
Guidelines for Organic Farming

Useful Contacts Department of Agriculture,

Fisheries and Food
Teagasc Advisory and Training Organic Unit
Service Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food
Pat Barry Johnstown Castle Estate, Wexford
Teagasc Tel: LoCall: (1890) 200 509
Moorepark or (053) 63400
Fermoy Fax: (053) 43 965
Co. Cork Email:
Tel: 025 42222
Mobile: 087-2138331
Email: Organic Bodies
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers
James McDonnell Association Ltd. (IOFGA)
Teagasc Main Street
Oak Park Newtownforbes
Carlow Co. Longford
Co. Carlow Tel: 043-42495
Tel: 059-9183502 Fax: 043-42496
Mobile: 087-3293820 Email:
Organic Trust Ltd.
Daniel Clavin Vernon House,
Teagasc 2 Vernon Avenue,
Mellows Development Centre Clontarf,
Athenry Dublin 3.
Co. Galway Tel/Fax: (01)8530271
Tel: 091 845200 Email:
Mobile: 087 9368506

Elaine Leavy
Co. Meath
Tel: 046-9026711
Mobile: 087-9853285

chapter 14
Useful Contacts

Course Providers Shannon Region Organic Meat Co-op

Business Centre
An tIonad Glas Francis Street
Dromcollegher, Ennis
Co. Limerick. Co. Clare
Tel: (063) 83604 Tel: (065) 6820166
Email: or mobile (087) 2718730 Fax (065) 6821234
The Organic Centre Website:
Co Leitrim Mr. Stan McWilliams
Tel: (071) 9854338 North West Organic Co-operative
Fax: (071) 9854343 Society Ltd
Email: Colpey Muff
Co. Donegal
County Wexford Organic Centre Tel: (074) 9384107
Cushenstown Fax: (074) 9384238
Foulksmills Email:
New Ross
Co. Wexford. Western Organic Network
Tel: (051) 428375/428392 Network Co-ordinator
Email: Tel: (071) 96 40868 Email:

Organic Groups Other Organic contacts

The Leitrim Organic Farmers Co-Op The Organic Guide to Ireland is a

The Enterprise Centre publication produced by the Organic
Hill Road Centre with support from The
Drumshanbo Organic Unit at the Department of
Co Leitrim Agriculture Fisheries and Food. This
Tel: (078) 40868 guide will include listings of
Fax: (078) 40869 producers, retailers, wholesalers and
Email: manufacturers of certified organic
Website: goods in the Republic of Ireland and
Northern Ireland. It will also include
certification bodies, organic sector
NGO's and relevant government
agencies. For a copy contact Organic
Centre Publications, The Organic
Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim.