Organic systems encourage positive and dynamic animal health by taking into account the behavioural patterns and basic needs of animals. Animals should be sustained in good health by organic management practices rather than relying on veterinary medicine.
Our ability to do this is largely the result of lower stocking rates out in the fields. For example, where conventional farming suggests having between six and eight ewes per acre, we only have four ewes to the acre.
Conventional beef suckler herds are stocked at one and a quarter acres per animal, but we allow two acres.
This lower stocking density helps reduce stress, there is less competition for food and space, and low stress results in good health. It makes good sense.
Indoor SpaceAt lambing, our ewes are housed at a maximum of forty ewes in a lambing pen. This is only in a shed environment, but as we lamb the vast majority of our sheep outside, the stocking rates are massively lower.
Lower stocking rates result in a greatly reduced or none existent veterinary bills because animals with space are less stressed, and this means they are less likely to get ill than those who are kept in close proximity. If illness does occur the aim is to complement the animal’s natural powers of recovery, and correct the imbalance which created the disorder, rather than simply deal with the symptoms alone.
Conventional treatment is never withheld if an animal is ill, suffering or considered by a veterinary surgeon unlikely to recover without treatment. We act quickly when intervention is needed, and that aids recuperation. It's all about observation and good husbandry.
We rarely use antibioticsAntibiotics are seldom used in organic farming, because they're not needed! We rely on health promotion to counteract risk of illness. We plant medicinal herbs in our pastures so livestock can 'self-medicate' as necessary and the sward (the grass growth) is as diverse as possible so the animals have variety and balance in their diet.
By being observant and promoting a natural lifestyle we negate the need for antibiotics, which have sadly become 'the norm' on some conventional/intensive farming systems.
The standard withdrawal period for any prescribed treatment is trebled for organic animals. For example, if a manufacturer recommends a withdrawal period of 28 days, an organically reared animal will be withheld from consumption for 84 days.
Complementary therapies such as homeopathy are also practised to boost the animal's immune system to aid healing.
The great thing about having very high welfare standards and being organic is that we rarely have to treat our animals.
It's just good husbandry and common sense.
Excellent animal welfare - Organic standards and beyondSheepdrove Organic Farm reaches the very highest organic standards for animal welfare - those of the Soil Association. We also go beyond those standards, striving to do the best we can for our livestock.
Over the years the the farm has worked with vets, researchers and animal behaviour experts to develop best-practice.
We have a number of unique approaches to create a happy and healthy environment for the farm animals. For example, the Poultry Agroforestry System is lined with woodland edge habitat and herb strips designed to support self-medication, balanced diet and foraging behaviour.
Cattle and sheep have unique scratching posts and hedges or trees around their fields for windbreaks and to encourage browsing, or '3D grazing' as it's now known!
We also use chicory fields for young sheep and cattle to naturally prevent parasite worm problems, and enhance the other fields with herbs such as birdsfoot trefoil to prevent bloat, a common gut problem.
If you care about how farm animals are managed, we recommend you look at the enlightening information on the website for Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).
Here at Sheepdrove Organic Farm we continue to research husbandry methods and come up with new ideas, mixing both traditional and the most modern of organic farming. So when you buy Sheepdrove meat, you can be happy in the knowledge that your purchases sustain some of the very best livestock farming standards there are.
- Growing pigs are handled minimally – perhaps only twice during their whole rearing period - to minimise stress.
- We keep sows and piglets in small groups/tribes until they are weaned, which makes for group bonding and less conflict between pigs later on.
- In summer the Soil Association requires either wallows or shade – we always have both.
- Long stays with the mother and natural nursing are Soil Association standards
- Sheepdrove provides unique pyramid shaped rubbing posts.
- We provide herbs with medicinal and nutritional benefits within the fields.
- Periods of protected mother-young bonding (starting straight after birth) promotes health, and teaches feeding behaviour, respect for the herding dogs, etc.
- Sheepdrove chickens benefit from woodland edge habitat supporting forage instincts and adding more wild food, like insects, to their diet.