Livestock producers who find organic production an entirely different animal than what they're used to can now turn to a Purdue University resource for help.
The Organic and Alternative Livestock Production Systems Web site provides a wealth of management and production tips for transitioning into the growing industry segment.
The Web site is located at www.ansc.purdue.edu/poa.
"This Web site is geared toward providing producers the information they need to get started in not only organic livestock production, but also grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and poultry, as well," says Paul Ebner, Purdue Extension animal sciences specialist and the Web site's coordinator. "Producers will learn what changes they will need to make to their existing practices to raise U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic livestock, the kinds of feed that are allowable under the USDA standard and how to properly process organic livestock.
"In the consumer section we talk about reading organic food labels and the differences between organic and grass-fed livestock," he says. "There's also a featured producer section, where Web site visitors can watch a video documentary about a producer using organic or alternative production methods."
Visitors can download fact sheets, Extension publications, PowerPoint presentations and videos through the site's YouTube channel PurdueOrganic, Ebner says. The Web site also has a weblog that provides daily news from around the world on organic and alternative livestock production.
The USDA defines organic livestock as animals that have consumed feed or grass grown without certain fertilizers and chemical applications, given access to the outdoors and not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Food products carrying a USDA organic label can consist of between 70% and 100% organically produced ingredients, and are labeled as such.
The ag census reported 20,437 farms with organic production in the United States, with total sales of $1.7 billion. "It takes some work but organic and alternative livestock production can be very rewarding. These types of products usually demand premium prices," Ebner says.