The conversion to organic must be well planned

If a conventional farm converts to organic farming, higher requirements must be observed.

If a conventional farm converts to organic farming, higher requirements must be observed.

Andreas Müller, Deputy Head of agriculture division
bio.inspecta AG

 An overview of the Bio-Suisse standards.

Even on an organic farm, the requirements of animal welfare apply as a basis. In most cases, additional higher requirements must be met. The following article by Bio Inspecta AG is intended to provide a rough overview of the differences for farms willing to convert. The information is not exhaustive. For comprehensive advice, it is recommended to contact the cantonal organic advisory services.  

RAUS is compulsory
The Organic Farming Ordinance requires compliance with the RAUS programme for all animal species. For cattle, compliance with the RAUS basic programme is sufficient. The exception is rabbit husbandry. In this case, the BTS requirements must be met, not the RAUS requirements.

Summering on organic alps
The summering of organic animals must take place on organic alps or SöBV-Alps (SöBV: Sömmerungsbeitragsverordnung).

100 % Swiss bud
The animals must always be fed organic feed. Bio Suisse requires 100 % Swiss bud feed in ruminant feeding. Compliance with the requirements for grassland-based milk and meat production (GMF) is compulsory for ruminants, and the use of concentrated feed may not exceed 5 %. Pension horses may be fed with 10 % non-organic feed. There are individual exemptions, especially in non-ruminant feeding.

Use of medicines
According to veterinary prescription, all medicines are allowed. However, a double withdrawal period must be observed. The prophylactic use of chemical-synthetic medicines and performance enhancers is prohibited. Drying agents and other antibiotics from critical groups of active substances may only be used after bacteriological examination and antibiogram.

Origin of the animals
Purchased animals must come from organic farms. Male breeding animals are an exception. These may come from conventional farms. Animals of the cattle species may be accepted with breeding contracts from non-organic farms. The cattle must return to the farm of origin before the first calving. Conversion to organic farming is also possible from the point of view of animal husbandry. In any case, prior advice is helpful and should be provided by an organic advisory centre.  

Please read the requirements for selected animal species in the boxes. The list is not exhaustive.

Requirements Cattle husbandry 

  • Tethering allowed according to animal welfare requirements.
  • Prohibition of cow trainers. 
  • Embryo transfer prohibited. 
  • Suckling period with unchanged mother's milk: 3 months.   
Requirements Poultry husbandry
In poultry husbandry the differences are fundamental. As in the case of pigs, the need for priority advice is almost imperative. The possibility of gradual conversion exists here as well.

The following differences exist: 
  • Maximum stock of flocks and max. proportion of house units. 
  • Light phases and access to the outdoor climate. 
  • Proportion of litter per unit area. 
  • Dust bath: for 150 pullets and 100 laying hens 1 m2 dust bath area. 
  • Organic straw. - Structure on pasture: 50 % natural structures such as bushes, trees.
  • Compulsory grazing. - Feeding regulations: at least 5 % grain content, 90 % bud feed + 10 % BioV feed.  

Requirements for pig husbandry
In the case of pigs, the differences in husbandry conditions are great. It is absolutely worthwhile to obtain advice in advance. There is the possibility of a gradual conversion to organic farming.

 There are the following differences: 

  • Different barn mass: e.g. perforation percentage of the floors. 
  • Access to the exercise yard: e.g. permanent access to the exercise yard for breeding sows, rearing piglets, fattening pigs, remonts, boars; access to the exercise yard for lactating pigs is optional for the first 24 days. 
  • Pasture for sows to graze on. 
  • Roughage available daily (whole crop). 
  • Suckling period with unchanged mother's milk: 42 days.  
Requirements for sheep and goat husbandry  
  • Docking the tails of lambs is generally prohibited; only permitted in individual cases and under painkilling according to veterinary orders. 
  • Suckling period with unchanged mother's milk lambs/ little goats at least 35 days. 
  • Deworming only permitted on veterinary prescription and after faecal sampling.   

Requirements Horse husbandry  

  • Riding and draught horses as well as hobby and boarding horses may come from non-organic farms. 
  • At least 90 % bud feed. 
  • Suckling period with unchanged mother's milk at least 3 months.   

This article was published in the BauernZeitung on 17 February 2023.