19 January 2021
Intercropping for sustainability

Two-day Conference with AAB, DIVERSify and ReMIX at Reading University

6 September 2021
Organic World Congress 2021

New date! Postponed from September 2020

30 July 2020
ORC welcomes the National Food Strategy

The first major reviewof our food system in 75 years

24 July 2020
The future of organic farming and the environment

All to play for if full benefits of organic farming for wildlife, the environment and health are to be realised

29 April 2020
Tim Bennett is the new Chair of ORC

Former NFU president takes on chairmanship of Organic Research Centre

Livestock systems

Keeping livestock is an integral part of many organic farming systems. Ruminant livestock (in the UK mainly cattle and sheep) can utilise grass and roughage as a feed resource so they do not compete with human food needs. Forage is also important for building soil fertility. For monogastric livestock (pigs and poultry), the main challenges arise from securing sufficient supply of protein to meet their dietary needs without undue reliance on imported feedstuffs, particularly soya. Organic farming systems also aim to improve animal welfare through access to pasture and to promote health through good animal husbandry.

Our work in the area covers both ruminants (cattle and sheep) and non-ruminants (pigs and poultry) with particular focus on forage production and utilisation, including the role of legumes as a home grown protein feed resource and agroforestry for livestock.

Sheep and goats

The iSAGE project aims to make the European sheep and goat sectors more sustainable, competitive and resilient. ORC is responsible for sustainability assessment across the project and contributes to LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) to develop a toolbox for decision making. We also contribute to socio-economic aspects of sheep and goat farming, understanding and modelling the impacts of climate change on the sector and case studies testing innovative practices. We collaborate closely with the National Sheep Association and other stakeholders in the UK and beyond.


Our work on dairy production aims to find practical solutions to make organic and low-input systems more sustainable. In the Organic Plus project, we contribute to mapping the use of contentious inputs in organic farming in Europe and reviewing alternatives. We will also carry out on-farm trials of dairy heifer growth and health status, using plant based products. As part of the SOLID project, we covered forage production and feeding, soils and nutrient management, animal health, business and supply chain interactions, the assessment of sustainability and environmental impact as well as the use of agroforestry in dairy farming. All the studies have now been summarised and made available on farmadvice.solidairy.eu

Pigs and poultry

One of the biggest issues in organic pig and poultry production is meeting their requirements for protein from organic sources. Producers rely on a derogation to organic standards that has allowed the inclusion of up to 5% non-organic feed. OK-Net Ecofeed supports the aim to feed pigs and poultry a 100% organic and regional diet in future, looking into the inclusion of peas, faba beans, other protein sources and also into the role of forage in meeting the nutritional needs.

ORC staff involved

Marion Johnson, Lindsay Whistance and Bruce Pearce.

Current projects

Project title (acronym)FunderDescription
Organic Plus - Pathways to phase-out contentious inputs from organic agriculture in Europe (O+)EU H2020 Minimising the use of contentious inputs in certified organic agriculture in Europe by providing research based decision support for actors in the organic sector, including policy makers, and thus reach the next level of the organic success story
Organic Knowledge Network on Monogastric Animal Feed (OK-NET EcoFeed)Horizon 2020The project aims to help farmers, breeders and the organic feed processing industry achieve the goal of 100% use of organic and regional feed for monogastrics
Sustainable economic and ecological grazing systems- learning from innovative practitioners (SEEGSLIP)The project aims to evaluate the ecological, agronomic, economic and social impacts of the pasture fed livestock approach to grazing management and its potential as the basis of a sustainable GB-wide system.

Completed projects

Project title (acronym)FunderDescription
Innovation for Sustainable Sheep and Goat Production in Europe (iSAGE)Horizon 2020Innovation for Sustainable Sheep and Goat Production in Europe (iSAGE) is making the European Sheep and Goat sectors more sustainable, competitive and resilient. These improvements come from strong collaboration between industry and research institutions.
Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying (SOLID)EC FP 7Improving the technical performance and economic competitiveness of organic and low input dairy systems in Europe while maximising their potential to deliver environmental goods and enhance biodiversity. Includes a large component of farmer participation.
Improved contribution of local feed to support 100% organic feed supply to pigs and poultry (ICOPP)Defra for UK work as part of the Core Organic IIThe aim of ICOPP is to produce economically profitable feeding strategies based on 100% organic feed across Europe, which will supply poultry and pigs the required level of nutrients throughout their lives while supporting high animal health and welfare.
See all completed projects here.

Key publications

The SOLID Farmer Handbook (2016) is a series of technical notes, produced by ORC, presenting a selection of results and recommendations of the work undertaken in SOLID. Download the Farmers Handbook or individual technical notes from http://farmadvice.solidairy.eu/farmers-leaflets/

Crawley, Kenny and van Krimpen, Marinus (editor): Smith, Jo; Gerrard, Catherine L and Sumption, Phil (Eds.) (2015) Fulfilling 100% organic poultry diets: Concentrates. ICOPP Technical Notes, No. 1. Organic Research Centre.

Crawley, Kenny (editor): Smith, Jo; Gerrard, Catherine L. and Sumption, Phil (Eds.) (2015) Fulfilling 100% organic poultry diets: Roughage and foraging from the range. ICOPP Technical Notes, No. 2. Organic Research Centre.

Crawley, K. (editor): Smith, Jo; Gerrard, Catherine L. and Sumption, Phil (Eds.) (2015) Fulfilling 100% organic pig diets: Concentrates. ICOPP Technical Notes, No. 3. Organic Research Centre.

Crawley, Kenny (editor): Smith, Jo; Gerrard, Catherine L and Sumption, Phil (Eds.) (2015) Fulfilling 100% organic pig diets: Feeding roughage and foraging from the range. ICOPP Technical Notes, No. 4. Organic Research Centre.

  • Introduction to ICOPP project leaflet (PDF 1.7MB)

    Leach, Katharine; Barker, Zoe; Maggs, Clare; Sedgwick, Anouska; Whay, Helen; Bell, Nick and Main, David (2012) Activities of organic farmers succeeding in reducing lameness in dairy cows. In: Rahmann, Gerold and Godinho, D (Eds.) Agriculture and Forestry Research (362), pp. 143-146.

    Organic Farming Technical Guide – Organic poultry production for meat. Steve Merritt, Welsh Poultry Centre; Rebecca Kelly, Organic Research Centre Elm Farm; Simon Moakes, IBERS; Tony Little (Editor). Available in English and Welsh www.organiccentrewales.org.uk/uploads/poultry_guide_english.pdf

    Institute of Organic Training & Advice: Research Review: Poultry Management. Author Rebecca Kelly, Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm www.organicadvice.org.uk/papers/Res_review_24_poultry.pdf