Farmer perceptions of organic livestock farming in Europe

In recent years, there has been significant growth in organic livestock farming (Table 1.), but the amount or research into organic systems has not kept pace with this. The growth of organic along with forthcoming new regulations, motivated Organic-PLUS to produce a description of the current situation and explore the future needs of organic livestock farming in Europe. This was done by way of an online survey of farmers’ concerns around: medication administration, vitamin supplementation, bedding materials and the marketing of their products.

Table 1. Organic livestock production in Europe 2018 (data from Willer et al. 2020)

The online survey was conducted among organic livestock farmers in 13 European countries (7 EU, 4 non-EU) and included 426 participants (Figure 1). Characteristics of the participants and their farms represented a broad cross-section of the European organic livestock sector (Figure 2). Results showed that feeding/nutrition, animal health and welfare were the issues seen as most relevant, yet, for farmers transitioning to organic farming systems, production costs, access to the organic market and animal health were most important.

Figure 1. Responses per country (n = 426)

In terms of the use of alternatives to ‘contentious inputs’ (antibiotics, antiparasitics and bedding from non-organic sources), farmers reported some difficulties in finding information, particularly for alternatives to antiparasitic and antibiotic treatments. Farmers reported that the use of alternative therapies depended on the health issue and 64% of the organic farmers did not treat their animals in the last year. The three main sources of information on alternative treatments were through veterinarians, other farmers and the internet. Despite the increasing popularity of using plant extracts to promote health (phytotherapy), conventional treatments are still the predominant form of therapy.

Figure 2. Participants’ characteristics

Results of the survey were presented at the EAAP 2021 in Davos (Switzerland) and more details are in previous news articles on the Organic-PLUS website. Results from France available at: (n 9). Results from Spain available at:

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