There are many practices and principles involved in this field, all of which are designed to provide livestock with comfortable and stress-free lives in accordance with their natural needs.
An important concept in organic animal husbandry is the creation of an environment that is appropriate to the species. Within this concept are a few common practices, including:
- Permanent access to open air
- Appropriate pasture and forage to meet nutritional and behavioural needs
- Prohibition of permanent tethering or isolating of animals
- Appropriate bedding and litter
- Low stocking rates
- Efforts to limit transportation times
A general organic principle also prohibits slatted floors from being used in resting areas.
Organic farming restricts the removal or reduction of:
- Tails – from sheep, pigs etc.
- Beaks – from chickens, turkeys etc.
- Horns – from cattle, sheep etc.
It is also common for management practices to be adapted to each individual species. For example, poultry might be allowed long idle periods between egg laying periods. They might also be kept in small groups to establish social hierarchies that would occur in nature.
The new EU Regulation on organic farming makes direct reference to husbandry practices in several points, including that: Personnel keeping animals shall possess the necessary basic knowledge and skills as regards the health and welfare needs of animals.
Organic agriculture stresses that pain and suffering must be kept to a minimum throughout the entire lifespan of an animal. Therefore, transport times are strictly controlled and methods of slaughter are designed to be as quick and as painless as possible.