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Optimising the production and utilisation of forage for organic livestock (CTE0202) - OF0328

On most organic farms in the UK, forages are is integral to the application of organic farming techniques. Methods used for the production, storage and utilisation of forage have a major influence on the performance and efficiency of organic farms, animal health, and environmental impact. Impending changes in the standards for organic production (EU Directive 1804/99) will reduce flexibility in formulating livestock diets, place greater emphasis on home-grown organically produced feeds, and increase the importance of improving all aspects of forage production and utilisation. For many years, MAFF/DEFRA have funded extensive studies on forage production and utilisation in conventional systems. While the performance of conventional and organic systems have been compared, relatively little work has been carried out to identify relevant management practices from conventional farming, and translate these to an organic farming context. The purpose of this study is to extrapolate, and further develop this information, to aid understanding of underlying mechanisms, assist in policy formulation, and improve practical management on organic farms. The results from the study will be made widely available through the publication of a booklet that will provide practical options and techniques to assist farmers in improving the efficiency of their systems. Funding from DEFRA is appropriate to further its objective to promote economically and biologically sustainable food production, which meet consumer demand, improve animal welfare, reduce pollution and encourage better protection for the environment.

The overall objective is to review existing information on forage production and utilisation in order to deliver more efficient, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly output from organically managed livestock. A database model will be developed using results from conventional studies to predict the net gains and losses from different organic systems and management strategies.

Specific objectives;

1. Extrapolating from published data, to review the requirements for energy and protein across the production cycle for organic milk, beef, lamb, pig and poultry production.

2. To predict the likelihood of meeting all or a minimum proportion of these requirements from a range of organically produced forages.

3. To examine the potential to adjust management or production system to achieve a better balance of nutrient supply and demand

4. To consider likely contribution from alternative forages, and protein sources, as home-grown feeds

5. To assess likely effects on animal health and product quality

6. To develop a database model to predict the potential output and benefits for organic farmers of implementing different options and strategies for forage production and utilisation

7. To determine the environmental losses and gains at each stage of production and utilisation

8. To provide specific guidelines for use by farmers, advisers and policymakers to maximise efficiency in the production and utilisation of forages within a range of organic livestock production systems
Project Documents
• Final Report : Optimising the production and utilisation of forage for organic livestock (CTE0202)   (167k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2004

Cost: £59,798
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Animal Production              
Organic Farming              
Fields of Study
Organic Farming