Organic livestock specifications : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Science in Agribusiness at Massey University

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Massey University
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Globally the organic market now comprises approximately 2% of the total food market and is growing in the order of 20% - 30% pa (Meat NZ 2000). Pasture based agriculture in New Zealand is in an ideal position to take advantage of this growth. BioGro New Zealand and AgriQuality New Zealand are currently the two dominant organic livestock specifications that farmers must produce to. The AgriQuality standard is based on the new European Union standard recently released. This study will investigate the requirements, implications and issues pertinent to a group of New Zealand livestock growers contemplating conversion to organic livestock production for the European market. A detailed literature review, multiple case study analysis of three BioGro farms and focus group discussion was conducted. The major distinction between the two standards is in the animal welfare and conversion period requirements. The AgriQuality standard permits up to three medical treatments per year, per animal without loss of organic status and the conversion can be quicker. Motives for the case study farmers converting to organic included, environmental, market opportunities and a desire to bring the soils, pastures and animals into 'balance'. Best management practice of the soils, pastures, animals and water on the farms was about accepting and minimising where possible the production risks through timing and proactive management with a preventative focus. Sourcing information, developing new skills and a drive to find new and different ways of answering conventional problems is critical. A lot of thought and energy goes into off farm marketing and value adding projects for market control and personal satisfaction. These differences in the standards could provide opportunities to farmers keen on a more environmentally friendly farming system that don't want to go to the full BioGro standard and conversion process. There may also be the opportunity to attain organic premiums from moving to the EU standard. Opinion on the EU standards was mixed. Some saw the EU standards as an easier option that gave the 'organic brand' a bad name. They felt having more than one organic label would confuse the consumer and be of detrimental value long term to the New Zealand organic industry. None of the case farmers would revert back from their BioGro Standards. Financial performance measures were not defined in this research. It would be unwise for a conventional farmer to convert to an organic system for financial reasons. Non-financial drivers such as the environment and social indicators are important measures. For progressive farmers that are after a more sustainable farming system the EU standard offers an opportunity. For these farmers financial and non financial performance measures will be important and attainable. The EU standard has the potential to 'out perform' conventional and BioGro systems - proving the hypothesis.
Organic farming, Standards, Livestock systems, Livestock