How to become a Pasture-Fed Approved Supplier
The standards that define Pasture-fed farming are firmly rooted in the practical experience of our members and provide a clear definition of what we mean by Pasture-Fed. They are the foundation underpinning the PASTORAL collective mark and the Pasture-Fed Certification mark, which clearly identify to consumers food produced this way.
When drawing up the rules we tried to strike a balance. We do not want to burden farmers more than necessary in terms of inspections for compliance. But it is essential that we provide clarity and transparency, so customers who buy pasture meat and dairy can have full confidence in what it represents.
Pasture-fed systems of raising livestock are not suited to every farm or set of circumstances. However, for those farms that can produce food this way successfully, Pasture-Fed provides an important distinction over food produced by more intensive methods. As such it may attract a price premium when sold.
The right foundations
We know from our members that Pasture-Fed farming can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience if the foundations are right.
The three key elements are:
- Understanding what the grass is capable of producing and improving it where necessary
- Matching the breed of animals to the available grassland
- Ensuring the produce meets the requirements of the available markets
What can animals eat?
Animals must only eat grass and forage throughout their lifetime, with the exception of milk consumed by young stock prior to weaning.
Permitted feeds include grass (both annual and perennial species) and legumes such as clover, trefoil and vetches. Herbs can also play an important part within pasture leys, providing drought resilience, a source of minerals and self-medication, as well as aiding digestion and reducing methane emissions from the animals.
Brassicas such as kale and turnips are permitted as part of a rotational farming system, provided the intake is properly balanced with grass or conserved forage. It is important that brassicas are managed responsibly and that they should be used to complement, rather than replace feed from pasture.
Wholecrop silage made from the early vegetative stage of cereal crops, is not excluded from the standards. However, there are strict limitations to ensure this provision is not seen as a way to feed grains via the ‘back door’.
Straw is a natural and useful source of feed for ruminants. Since it is a by-product of grain production, and its use as an animal feed does not conflict with food for human consumption in the way that grain does, it is compatible with Pasture-Fed principles and allowed under the Production Standards. We recommend straw as one of the feed sources to complement grazing on brassicas to ensure there is sufficient fibre intake within the animals’ diet.
Where forage crops are grown on arable fields, they should be part of a rotation and their inclusion should not adversely affect the potential for growing crops for direct human consumption.
Within the Pasture-Fed Standards, a guide is provided to ensure that stocking rates are appropriate for the climate and capacity of the land to grow forage.
There is no restriction on the use of artificial fertilisers. However, it makes good financial and agronomic sense to use the nitrogen-fixing abilities of legumes like red and white clovers to get the best out of grassland. The most successful Pasture-Fed farms have completely eliminated the need for chemical fertilisers.
Similarly, there are no restrictions upon the use of herbicide sprays to control weeds. However, these products may also kill out desired species within botanically-rich swards, and the cost of using a chemical sprays may outweigh any potential benefits.
Veterinary treatments for internal parasites may be used, just as they are in organic systems. However good rotational grassland management and the use of clean grazing for youngstock should help eliminate the need for such treatments.
Ewes with multiple lambs
The standards recognise the potential problems that can arise for ewes carrying multiple lambs. Provision is made for supplementary feeding in these specific cases, so that animal welfare is not compromised. The production standards provide advice about the timing of lambing and the use of suitable sources of supplementary feed, such as lucerne nuts.
Becoming an Approved Supplier
Anyone wishing to become a Pasture-Fed Approved Supplier should first read the full Production Standards carefully. If you feel you can comply with all the requirements, the next stage is to become a member and then register your interest via our contact page, after which a self-assessment form can be completed.
Once provisional approval is given, arrangements can be made to co-ordinate a Pasture-Fed farm inspection with an existing one such as Farm Assurance or organic certification.