agriculture पशुपालन

Basics of Organic Animal Husbandry in India



Organic animal husbandry is defined as a system of livestock production that promotes the use of organic and biodegradable inputs from the ecosystem in terms of animal nutrition, animal’s health, animal housing and breeding. It deliberately avoids the use of synthetic inputs such as drugs, feed additives, and genetically engineered breeding inputs.

Organic Animal husbandry is as a system designed to provide livestock with comfortable and stress-free living in accordance with their natural needs, that promotes the use of certified organic and biodegradable inputs from the environment in terms of animal nutrition, animal’s health, animal housing and breeding and deliberately avoids use of synthetic inputs such as drugs, feed additives and genetically engineered breeding inputs.


Organic Animal husbandry is one of the areas where the skills of organic farmers are most important and most frequently called upon.

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  1. To raise animals in a system that takes into consideration the wider issues of environmental pollution, human health on consumption of animal products allowing them to meet their basic behavioral needs and reduce stress.
  2. Diversify in keeping as many types of livestock on the holding as each furnishes different nutrients at the household level. For example, special attention should be given to rabbits and poultry as income generated from this enterprise goes directly to the disadvantaged segments of the population e.g. women and children. Their nitrogen-rich manure is used to increase vegetable production in the kitchen gardens thus improving the family diet.
  3. Exploit the natural behavior of animals in their production systems to reduce stress e.g. chicken like perching at night and perching rails should be provided for this purpose. They should also be raised in deep litter system that allows them to scratch for ants and worms and dust bathe. The dark secluded nest should be provided as the like laying in dark secluded places. Goats being browsers in nature like having their forage suspended high enough so that they can attain an upright posture e.t.c.
  4. Use of low external input which lessens the cost of production and allows for a sustainable system of production since most materials can be recycled in the farm and also locally available
  5. Bridging of nutrients gap in the soil, crops and animals i.e. animals feed on crops and cultivated crops by-products. The animal’s waste in form of farmyard manure is composted and taken back to the soil to replenish the lost soil nutrients through cultivation. This ensures the completion of the nutrient cycle in the ecosystem.

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Need for organic farming:-

With the increase in population, our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in a sustainable manner. The scientists have realized that the ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use has reached a plateau and is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends. Thus, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for the existence of life and property. The obvious choice for that would be more relevant in the present era when these agrochemicals which are produced from fossil fuel and are not renewable and are diminishing in availability. It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future.

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The key characteristics of organic farming include:-

  • Protecting the long-term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention.
  • Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms.
  • Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures.
  • Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention.
  • The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behbehavioraleds and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing.
  • Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats

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The four principles of organic agriculture are as follows:-

  • Principle of health
    • Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.
    • This principle points out that the health of individuals and communities cannot be separated from the health of ecosystems – healthy soils produce healthy crops that foster the health of animals and people.
    • Health is the wholeness and integrity of living systems. It is not simply the absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social and ecological well-being. Immunity, resilience and regeneration are key characteristics of health.
    • The role of organic agriculture, whether in farming, processing, distribution, or consumption, is to sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the soil to human beings. In particular, organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food that contributes to preventive health care and well-being. In view of this, it should avoid the use of fertilizers, pesticides, animal drugs and food additives that may have adverse health effects.
  • Principle of ecology
  • Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
    • This principle roots organic agriculture within living ecological systems. It states that production is to be based on ecological processes, and recycling. Nourishment and well-being are achieved through the ecology of the specific production environment. For example, in the case of crops this is the living soil; for animals, it is the farm ecosystem; for fish and marine organisms, the aquatic environment.

    • Organic farming, pastoral and wild harvest systems should fit the cycles and ecological balances in nature. These cycles are universal but their operation is site-specific. Organic management must be adapted to local conditions, ecology, culture and scale. Inputs should be reduced by reuse, recycling and efficient management of materials and energy in order to maintain and improve environmental quality and conserve resources.

    • Organic agriculture should attain ecological balance through the design of farming systems, establishment of habitats and maintenance of genetic and agricultural diversity. Those who produce, process, trade, or consume organic products should protect and benefit the common environment including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodiversity, air and water.

  • A principle of fairness.
  • Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.
    • Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings.
    • This principle emphasizes that those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels and to all parties – farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers. Organic agriculture should provide everyone involved with a good quality of life, and contribute to food sovereignty and reduction of poverty. It aims to produce a sufficient supply of good quality food and other products.
    • This principle insists that animals should be provided with the conditions and opportunities of life that accord with their physiology, natural behavior and well-being.
    • Natural and environmental resources that are used for production and consumption should be managed in a way that is socially and ecologically just and should be held in trust for future generations. Fairness requires systems of production, distribution and trade that are open and equitable and account for real environmental and social costs.
  • Principle of care
  • Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.

    • Organic agriculture is a living and dynamic system that responds to internal and external demands and conditions. Practitioners of organic agriculture can enhance efficiency and increase productivity, but this should not be at the risk of jeopardizing health and well-being. Consequently, new technologies need to be assessed and existing methods reviewed. Given the incomplete understanding of ecosystems and agriculture, care must be taken.
    • This principle states that precaution and responsibility are the key concerns in management, development and technology choices in organic agriculture. Science is necessary to ensure that organic agriculture is healthy, safe and ecologically sound. However, scientific knowledge alone is not sufficient. Practical experience, accumulated wisdom and traditional and indigenous knowledge offer valid solutions, tested by time. Organic agriculture should prevent significant risks by adopting appropriate technologies and rejecting unpredictable ones, such as genetic engineering. Decisions should reflect the values and needs of all who might be affected, through transparent and participatory processes.

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Basic Steps of Organic Farming:-

The organic farming approach involves following five principles:-

  • Conversion of land from conventional management to organic management.
  • Management of the entire surrounding system to ensure biodiversity and sustainability of the system.
  • Crop production with the use of alternative sources of nutrients such as crop rotation, residue management, organic manures and biological inputs.
  • Management of weeds and pests by better management practices, physical and cultural means and by the biological control system.
  • Maintenance of livestock in tandem with an organic concept and make them an integral part of the entire system.

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  1. They provide food to a human in forms of meat, milk, and honey.
  2. They utilize lands that are not suitable for cultivation to produce animas product foods of high value e.g. arid and semiarid areas, rocky and hilly topographies. Ruminants are able to convert waste crop by-products into high-value human food.
  3. They can be used to generate income when their surplus products are sold for cash. They also play the role of insurance in families where they are sold in case of emergencies like sickness and other eventualities that require immediate funds that may not have been planned for.
  4. They play a social-cultural role in terms of wealth expression, prestige, payment of dowry and other social obligations like worship.
  5. They provide energy through the draft power and domestic fuel e.g. dry cow dung and biogas.
  6. They play an essential role in closing the carbon and nitrogen cycle in the ecosystems by provided in manure used for fertilizing the soil. The ash obtained by burning dung is incorporated in compost manure to provide nutrient for crops.

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Farm animals require a good diet for efficient production of the intended products, growth and maintenance.

Organic Farming systems aims at growing and producing most of the animal feeds in the farm to enable sustainable production and minimize the risk of contamination of these feeds by chemicalswhich may be in use at other sources where such where such feeds may be procured. Farm production of animal’s feeds also promotes the achieving of the basic objective of organic farming which is the use of low external inputs.

The daily ration for all farm animals should contain an average of 70% carbohydrates, 25% proteins and 5% vitamins, minerals and oils.

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Provide the animals with energy for maintenance of body health such as during work, gestation, production of meat, milk, and eggs. Ruminants are able to obtain their basic carbohydrate requirements from forages and pastures by use of rumen microbes, which enable them to break down fibrous cellulose into energy giving units. This is however not possible in non-ruminant animals like pigs and poultry. Donkeys, however, do well on a ruminant diet.


Are needed in the animal’s body for growth and repair of tissues. The lack of proteins in the diet rations lead to poor growth rate, reduced production of milk, eggs e.t.c, loss of weight and late maturity for growing animals. Leguminous fodder is a good source of protein for most livestock.


Are only needed in a small amount in animals mainly for prevention of diseases. They are plentiful in young green pasture or fodder, kales, and young amaranth which has not seeded residues of fruit peels from the kitchen may also act as a good source of vitamins.

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Provided essential minerals in the animal body such as calcium and phosphorus, which are necessary for eggshell formation, bone formation, muscle contractions, synthesis of hormones and enzymes e.t.c.Their deficiency from the body results in rickets, reduce growth, soft brittle bones that fracture easily, difficult birth, low egg and milk production, retained afterbirth e.t.c. Animals also develop the ‘Pica’ habit, which leads to eating strange things like clothes, rags, bones, soap, metal sheets e.t.c.Minerals are available from some plant like amaranths (pigweed), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), Solanum nigrum (Black nightshade), ox gonium sinnathuum (conge – KIK), Cucurbita spp (pumpkin leaves).

Mixing equal parts of dry leaves from these plants and grinding them to a smooth powered will provide for most minerals in livestock when placed in a mineral box and fed ad-labium.

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Fats and oils:-

provide a layer of insulation below the skin for protection against cold. They also facilitate the absorption of vitamins in the body. Sunflower seeds provide a good source of fat for cattle, pigs, poultry, and rabbits. Seeds of croton tree are also a good source of fat.


While water may not be treated as a true nutrient, it is essential for providing a medium through which other nutrients are absorbed and assimilated in the body. It is also responsible for giving shape and turgidity to most tissue of the body. Clean water which is free from contamination with chemicals and disease-causing agents should be provided to the animals ad-labium. Salty water with a lot of natural minerals is not suitable to livestock as it limits the intake.

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Appropriate housing for livestock aims at achieving the following basic requirements.

  1. Space large enough for sufficient free movement.
    2. Sufficient fresh air and natural daylight through adequate ventilation.
    3. Protection against the vagaries of the weather e.g. excessive sunlight, heat, rain, and wind.
    4. Enough lying and resting area according to the species and the size of the animals.
    5. A natural bedding material for large animals should be provided.
    6. Freshwater and feed should be provided for when designing livestock houses by incorporating feed rough and water troughs.
    7. The housing should be designed in a way to allow for the easy and efficient collection of manure for composting.
    8. A gentle slope is essential in livestock houses to facilitate drainage.
    9. Livestock housing should be able to keep away predators while not compromising the ventilation aspects, especially for poultry.
    10. Use of cheap locally available materials is especially emphasized in organic animal husbandry.

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6sq.m per dairy cow
10 sq.m per breeding bull
1.5sq.m per young stock up to 100kg
2.5 sq.m per young stock up to 200kg
5 Sq.m per young stock beyond 350kg.

Walking space:-

Breeding bull 30sq.m
Young stock up to 350Kg 3Sq.m
Maximum number of animals
Dairy cows 1.8 per Hectare
Young stock Up to one year 10 birds/sq.m
Turkeys 2 birds per sq. m
Ducks 10 birds per sq.m
Geese 2 birds per sq.m

Animals should be allowed to conduct their basic behavioral needs.
All management techniques, including those where production levels and speed of growth should be concerned, for the good health and welfare of animals.

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Sufficient free movement, Ventilation, Protection against climatic variation, enough floor space, Access to open air/grazing, Bedding with natural materials, Adlibitum water and feed according to needs and Facilities for behavioral expression according to biological and ethological needs.
Standards, which affect animal welfare measures
Poultry and rabbits should not be kept in cages
Herd animals should not be kept individually
Sick animals can be separated.
Conversion period-Standards
Animal products may be sold as a product of organic agriculture only after the farm or relevant part of it has been under conversion for at least 12 months and provided the organic animal production standards have been met for the appropriate time.
The certification programme shall specify the length of time for which the animal production standards shall have been met. With regard to dairy and layers, this period shall not be less than 30 days.
Animals present on the farm at the time of conversion may be sold for organic meat when organic standards have been met for 12 months.

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Brought in animals-

When organic livestock is not available the certification programme shall allow brought in conventional animals according to the following age group.

2-day-old chicken for meat production
18-week-old hen for egg production
2 weeks old for any other poultry
Piglets up to 6 weeks
Calves up to 4 weeks old, which have received colostrum.

Certification programmes shall set time limits not exceeding 5 years for implementation of certified organic animals from conception for each type of animal.
Breeding stock may be brought from conventional farms with a yearly maximum of 10% of the adult animals of the same species on the farm.
Artificial insemination is allowed
Hormonal therapy and use of genetically engineered species or breeds are not allowed.


Allow castrations, tail docking of lambs, dehorning, etc

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Fed 100% organically grown feed only. It should be in accordance with the natural feeding behavior.
Coloring agents should not be used in feeds.
Prevailing 50% of the fee shall come from farm unit itself. It can be modified according to Local conditions.
Dry matter intake- Ruminants-15%
Non Ruminants-20%
Within 5 years it will be reduced by 10% and 15% respectively.

Following products are not allowed-

Growth promoters or stimulants, Synthetic appetizers, Preservatives. Artificial coloring agents, Urea, Farm animal by-products, Dropping or dung, Feed subjected to solvent extraction, Pure amino acids, and Genetically engineered organisms or products.
Vitamins, trace elements and supplements from the natural origin can be used. All ruminants shall have daily access to roughage

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Veterinary medicine-

Herbal, homeopathy, ayurvedic, unani medicines, and acupuncture can be used.
Conventional veterinary medicines will not be used. If used withholding period will be double the legal period.
Synthetic growth promoters, hormone, antibiotics, etc will not be used. Vaccinations can be used when the particular contagious disease is a problem.
Transport and slaughter should not lead to stress. Animals should be watered during transportation. Moreover, they need enough resting time. Contact by eye, ear or smell of animal with dead animals or animals in the killing process should be prevented. The animal should be stunned before being bled to death. A person should look after the well being of the animals. No tranquilizers should be given. Journey time to slaughterhouse shall not exceed 8 hours. Suitable mode of transportation should be used.
Food products need controlled atmosphere, cooling, freezing, drying and humidity regulating systems. It should not be transported along with non-organic products.

For cleaning and disinfection-

Sodium hypochlorite, sodium hydroxide, water and steam, formaldehyde, organic acids, natural plant extracts, hydrogen peroxide, sodium carbonate, potassium and sodium soap can be used.

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Accreditated inspection and certification agencies-

Association for the promotion of organic farming, Bangalore
Bioinspecta, Switzerland
Ecocert international, Germany
Indian organic certification agency-INDOCERT, Aluva, Kochi
SGS India Pvt Ltd, Gurgaon
Skal international, Netherlands- Bangalore
Naturland, Germany-Gurgaon
LACON-GMBH, Germany –Aluva, Kochi, Kerala
Low productivity, emerging diseases, unavailability of land, strict quality norms in the export market and poor market support are some of the major limitations of livestock based organic farming in the country. Since the productivity is too low, in order to make the system sustainable organic livestock products need better price structure than conventional products. So our strategy should be market-oriented and need-based in nature. Initially, traditional livestock farms can be converted to organic on an experimental basis.


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The following impact points must be considered when converting to an organic system of production for live:

  1. Animals shall not be fed with feeds, which incorporated feed additives like growth hormones, bacteriostats e.t.c.
  2. Animal waste e.g. poultry manure shall not be used to feed livestock.
  3. Animal manures require to be handled properly, removed from animals housed regularly and be composted before taking them to the fields to kill harmful organisms that may be present e.t.c nematodes.
  4. The health of animals shall be paramount selection for breeding animals should be based on the resistance to diseases and pests. The farmer should administer only the herbal and natural treatment conventional drugs may only be used as a last resort to save the life of the animals will not be certified as from an organic source for the next three (3) months.
  5. The farm should strive to produce most of the feeds from the farm to avoid procurement of contaminated feeds from other sources.

INDOCERT provides organic Animal Husbandry certification as per following world wide accepted standards:

(i) National standards for organic production (NPOP), Govt. of India
(ii) European Union regulations for organic production as per rules equivalent to EC.No.834/2007
(iii) United States organic standards USDA NOP (National Organic Programme).

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About the author

Rajesh Kumar Singh

I am a Veterinary Doctor presently working as vet officer in Jharkhand gov.
, graduated in 2000, from Veterinary College-BHUBANESWAR. Since October-2000 to 20O6 I have worked for Poultry Industry of India. During my job period, I have worked for, VENKYS Group, SAGUNA Group Coimbatore & JAPFA Group.
I work as a freelance consultant for integrated poultry, dairy, sheep n goat farms ... I prepare project reports also for bank loan purpose.
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Mob- 9431309542