- freely available
Sustainability 2013, 5(7), 3009-3034; https://doi.org/10.3390/su5073009
1. Introduction: Organic vs. Non-Organic Cattle Feeding Practices
1.1. The Pasture Rule
1.2. Dairy Feeding Practices
1.3. Beef Feeding Practices
2. Organic Pasture Management
2.1. Soil Fertility in Organic Agricultural Systems
2.2. Soil Organic Matter
2.3. The Impact of Grazing Management on Forage Plants
3. The Effect of Grazing on Ruminants
- Variation in the extent of absorption from the digestive tract.
- Variation in the extent of excretion via the feces.
- Variation in the extent of excretion via the urine.
- Deposition of an excess in the tissues in harmless and/or reserve forms.
- Variation in the extent of secretion into milk.
3.1. Forage Plant Nutrition in Pastures
3.2. Vitamins and Minerals in Organic Cattle Systems
3.3. Treatment of Parasites in Organic Cattle Systems
4. Grazing Impacts on the Nutritional Quality of Milk and Meat
4.1. Quality Differences of Dairy Products
4.2. Quality Differences of Beef Products
5. Greenhouse Gas Implications of Organic and Non-Organic Production
5.1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Dairy Systems
5.2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Beef Systems
6. Economics of Grazing-Based Cattle Systems
6.1. Economics of Dairy Systems
6.2. Economics of Beef Systems
7. Social Implications of Organic vs. Non-organic Cattle Production Systems
- The Principle of Health—Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.
- The Principle of Ecology—Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.
- The Principle of Fairness—Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.
- The 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.
- Rural Communities: Organic agriculture strives to be sustainable and therefore to protect the whole of the environment , including workers, owners, and the rural communities to which they belong. The greater use of pasture in organic dairy and beef production systems due to the pasture rule has the potential to influence farm size, which may be more important than farm type in predicting community participation and involvement. The premium that consumers are willing to pay for organically produced food allows small, labor-intensive businesses to prosper. Additionally, the use of locally available inputs is encouraged in organic agriculture, which in turn increases demand for other local businesses. Sustaining smaller organic dairies and beef producers by enforcing the pasture rule and supporting a premium price for organic beef should result in more farm residents, which should benefit communities . However, the total number of organic producers within dairy or ranching communities is small, making the impact of this factor difficult to quantify.
- Land Stewardship: Protecting and enhancing soil fertility by adding manure, compost or by growing and plowing under cover crops is important in organic agriculture, not only to improve the current land productivity, but also to ensure production for future generations. Where perennial pastures replace cropping systems, there will be a decrease in soil erosion, cultivation and harvesting, and an increase in organic matter and (where nitrogen-fixing legumes are used) an increase in the nitrogen content of the soil, supporting productivity and the cycling of mineral nutrients through forage use and the return of nutrients to the soil as urine and dung.
- Human Health: Organic dairy and beef products are not contaminated with pesticide, hormone or antibiotic residues, and have been shown to have improved nutritional content, including increased beneficial nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids . A strongly positive public perception of the perceived benefits results in increased consumption of organic foods by consumers.
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