|dc.description.abstract||The aims of this study were to identify a) the main issues faced by some organic livestock farmers, b) the management strategies adopted by them to deal with those issues and c) the economic incentives associated with organic farming. A qualitative case study approach was chosen and data collected from semi-structured interviews with six organic farmers running sheep and/or cattle and/or deer from Canterbury, New Zealand.
Knowledge and experience, animal health, market premiums and management approach were identified as the main issues faced by the farmers. The lack of research and specialised advice plus the individualistic behaviour of many farmers within the organic community limit the effectiveness of the present information network. Of all three types of livestock, sheep faced the most health problems as a result of internal parasites, while cattle were least affected. Young deer were generally affected by lungworms but less so when they were on well established organic farms. Managing the farm as a whole system was an issue considered by the experienced farmers, which was reflected in the strategies implemented.
The management strategies used were long term and preventative, rather than short term and remedial. They included reduction of stocking rates, changing animal species and/or breeds, multiple species systems, breeding for resistance, double shearing, drenching and quarantining, rotational grazing, crop-pasture rotation, supplementation, and soil fertilisation. A combination of these strategies was used in anyone situation. Sheep were the most problematic type of livestock, and therefore, stocking rates were reduced when conversion to organics took place. In some cases, deer and/or cattle replaced sheep. To improve sheep health, animals were farmed with other types of livestock, or crossed with breeds resistant to parasites. Occasional drenches, combined with quarantining, were used in bottom line stock. Providing clean pastures was a priority in order to reduce parasite infestations. Feed was based on species diverse pastures, and in some cases supplemented with grain, specialist forage crops or natural products (e.g. seaweed). Soil fertility was the main focus of farmers and seen as the answer to most problems. Balanced soils were maintained through permanent pastures, crop rotations, crop residue incorporation, green manure and organic fertilisers. In general, small quantities of organic fertilisers were used. High amounts of fertilisers and intensive irrigation were applied on the dairy farm.
All farmers saw the conversion period as particularly difficult. During this period, no quick responding inputs (e.g. synthetic chemicals) are allowed. In addition, full premiums are not available, thereby making it a vulnerable period for farmers.
The general management approach was holistic in that the farm was seen as an organism in which all components interact and balance each other. The experienced farmers, in particularly, practised this approach.
Economic incentives were found in lower cost of production, diversification of enterprises and market premiums, which were variable depending on products. Organic farmers found it easier to capture premiums for crops and vegetables than for livestock products. Price premiums ranged from over 100% for eggs, 30% for full organic certified lambs and 15% for transition lambs. Venison, and most of the beef, were sold through conventional channels at conventional prices. Distribution channels for organic meat appeared to be underdeveloped.||en