What Can and Cannot Be Done in “Organic” Goat Production

The main stipulations as to how to produce “organic” livestock are contained in the regulatory language of the Final Rule. As previously discussed, some states may use more stringent regulations than the federal regulations and producers should contact local officials to get the most current and applicable information.

A brief description of the sections of the regulatory language most relevant to livestock production follows. The section number and title have been provided so that the reader can go back and read the original language of the regulations, if desired. This discussion is not meant to be an exhaustive interpretation of these rules and regulations; rather, it is to provide basic information to meat goat producers contemplating a switch to organic production.

§ 205.100 What has to be certified

Anyone who wishes to sell goats or goat meat that will be represented as “100 percent organic,” or “organic.”

§ 205.101 Exemptions and exclusions from certification

A producer that sells goats or goat meat as “organic” but whose annual gross income from such sales totals $5,000 or less is exempt from certification and submitting a certification plan. However, these producers must follow all organic production requirements and regulations.

§ 205.102 Use of the term, “organic”

Goats to be sold as organic must be raised following all regulations of organic production. To sell goat meat as “100 percent organic” or “organic,” the animal must be raised in an organic manner and be processed through a meat processing facility certified as “organic.”

§ 205.100 Recordkeeping by certified operations

Full, complete records must be kept on any animals, or products thereof, sold labeled or represented as “100 percent organic” or “organic.” These records must include all activities of the operation and be readily understood. Records must be available for inspection and kept for a minimum of 5 years.

§ 205.105 Allowed and prohibited substances, methods, and ingredients in organic production and handling

There are few exceptions for synthetic or non-natural substances and feedstuff ingredients that can be used in organic livestock production. Most of these applying to livestock production are covered in subsequent sections of the regulations.

§ 205.201 Organic production and handling system plan

Producers wishing to be certified as “organic” must develop and submit a production plan that meets all organic production requirements. This plan must be approved by the certifying agent. The plan should include descriptions of all production practices, feedstuffs used and their source, monitoring procedures to be employed, recordkeeping system to be used, and practices that prevent commingling of organic and non-organic livestock, feedstuffs and other items used on farm.

§ 205.202 Land requirements

Any land on which goats may be grazed or where feed for goats, e.g., hay, grain, etc., is harvested must be organic. This means that no prohibited substances such as pesticides and herbicides were applied to the land during the past three years. There should also be distinct boundaries or zones that prevent contact with prohibited substances that may be applied to adjacent lands and that could be contained in runoff or sprayer drift.

§ 205.204 Seeds and planting stock practice standard

Any seeds planted on organic land must be organically produced if the variety and quantity is commercially available. As an example, if a producer wishes to grow and feed alfalfa to his organically produced goats, the alfalfa seed he plants should be organically produced if commercially available. The production practices in producing the alfalfa must also meet all other organic regulations.

§ 205.236 Origin of livestock

Only kids from does under continuous organic management no later than the last 1/3 of gestation can be classified as organic. Thus, if you purchase a pregnant doe to include in your organic operation, the kid born to that doe would qualify as organic if the doe is managed under organic conditions at your farm for a minimum of the last one-third of gestation. If a normal 150-day gestation period is assumed, then the doe would have to be raised in an organic manner from day 100 of gestation onwards. The doe may be purchased from a non-organic producer. A doe purchased from a non-organic producer may never be sold as “organic,” although her offspring can be “organic,” if the above conditions regarding gestation period and organic raising are met. For breeding stock to qualify as “organic,” those animals must have been born and raised under organic conditions. Records on the identity of all “organic” animals raised on farm must be kept.

§ 205.237 Livestock feed

Only organically produced feedstuffs can be fed to animals that are to be sold as “organic.” If goats are grazed, then the land must be certified as “organic” as described in § 205.202 Land requirements. There are some substances allowed for use in organic production and those are described in a later section, § 205.603 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production. No animal drugs or growth hormones can be used in organic production. The use of urea, mammalian or poultry by-products, and all other substances outlawed by the Food and Drug Administration is prohibited.

§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard

Producers must supply a nutritionally adequate ration to all goats. All animals should have appropriate housing to minimize disease spread. Goats should have freedom of movement and access to exercise. Management practices such as castration, dehorning, etc., must be done in a way that minimizes pain and stress. Vaccines are permissible for use.

In general, drug treatments cannot be used and any animal receiving antibiotics cannot be labeled “organic.” Growth hormones are prohibited from use. Anthelmintics cannot be administered on a regular basis and no anthelmintics can be used on slaughter stock. Parasite treatment can be used on breeding stock if organic system plan-approved management does not control infestation. Treatment cannot occur during the last one-third of gestation if the resulting offspring is to be labeled “organic” nor can treatment occur during lactation.

It is not permissible to withhold medical treatment from an animal in an attempt to preserve its “organic” state.

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions

Living conditions must reflect the natural behavior of goats. Goats should have access to pasture. They should also have shelter that maintains appropriate temperature, air ventilation, and does not have any potential for injury. If any bedding is used that could be consumed by the animal, then that bedding must conform to organic feed requirements. Manure must be managed in a way that does not contaminate water, soil, or plants, by any organisms or substances that the manure may contain. Animals can be temporarily confined due to weather conditions, stage of production, and health and safety issues.

§ 205.400 General requirements for certification

Persons wishing to be certified as “organic” meat goat producers must develop and follow an organic plan for their operation. This plan must be updated annually. Producers must also allow on-site inspections of all facilities and maintain records for a minimum of 5 years and make those records available for inspection. Producers must also immediately notify their certifying agent should any non-organic substance come in contact with their land or animals.

§ 205.401 Application for certification

It is best to contact your state certifying agent or a private certification firm for current application rules for your state. A list of certification agents can be found at the National Organic Program website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/CertAgenthome.html

As an example of certification procedures, the State of Oklahoma lists the following requirements for producers wishing to become certified, taken from Oklahoma Organic Products Act Fact Sheet http://www.oda.state.ok.us/forms/food/ocifs.pdf.

The basic requirements for initial certification are:

  • Completion of a producer/processor application form available from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry that includes an Organic production or handling system plan.
  • Descriptions of practices and procedures to be performed and maintained.
  • A list of each substance to be used as a production or handling input, indicating its composition, source, and location(s) where it will be used.
  • A description of the monitoring practices and procedures to verify if the plan is effectively implemented.
  • A description of the recordkeeping system implemented to comply with requirements.
  • A description of practices or procedures to prevent commingling of organic products and nonorganic products.
  • Organic production practices verified by an on-site inspection, and exit interview of the Organic production or handling operation.

§ 205.403 On-site inspections

An initial on-site inspection must be performed by the certifying agent. Thereafter, inspections occur at least annually to determine if an application for re-certification should be granted. Interim inspections may occur to evaluate compliance with organic production guidelines. Contact local certifying agents for more detail.

§ 205.404 Continuation of certification

Certification must be renewed on an annual basis. In addition to paying applicable fees, the producer is required to submit an updated organic production plan that includes any changes or deviations from the previous approved plan, report on actions taken on any noncompliance issues, and any other information deemed necessary. As mentioned in the previous certification sections, contact your local certifying agent for more specific requirements.

§ 205.603 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production

This section lists synthetic substances that can be used in an organic livestock operation. Many of these are disinfectants or sanitizing agents; others include items such as electrolytes, glucose, iodine, and some other treatment items. Food and Drug Administration-approved trace minerals and vitamins can be fed, but an organic producer cannot provide feed supplements and additives in amounts above those needed by animals for adequate nutrition and health maintenance at the specific stage of production. Milk replacers without antibiotics are approved for emergency use only. Oxytocin can also be used post-partum in therapeutic applications. For a complete list, refer to this section in the regulatory language found at the websites listed at the beginning of this article.

Of main interest to many producers would be the allowed use of paraciticides, or anthelmintics, in emergency situations. However, no use of anthelmintics is allowed in slaughter stock at any time. Non-organic, pregnant does can be treated and their kids could still be considered organic if the treatment occurred prior to the last one-third of gestation. If in doubt concerning a substance, contact your certifying agent.

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