Organic livestock farming, while not the only solution to food security challenges, offers great potential in addressing many specific concerns in food production through a more sustainable farming system that may support the rural economy with special relevance to smallholder farmers. Organic livestock farming involves innovations that will improve farm productivity, household incomes, and food security. For instance, the use of adapted local (indigenous) breeds in smallholder organic livestock production is expected to enhance consumer interest in organic animal food, and consequently lead to an increased market share of organic products. Local breeds are thus sought to provide the adapted livestock requirements of the slowly but steadily growing global organic sector. However, as most of the current research on organic livestock is being undertaken in temperate areas, more research on organically-raised livestock in smallholder farms should be conducted in the tropics, particularly in Southeast Asia.
In this paper, the origins and principles and standards of organic agriculture (livestock production) are initially presented. The regulations and standards for organic livestock farming are then reviewed including the design and management of free-range/outdoor systems, source/origin of adapted breeds and breeding methods, feeds and feeding strategies, animal health and welfare concerns, and organic certification issues. As organic livestock farming is still evolving, some research and development (R&D) topics in the context of sustainable smallholder livestock farming in the tropics are suggested for each of the foregoing issues or concerns.
While breeding in organic livestock farming should be in line with the intensions of organic farming, smallholder farmers also need adapted animals that fit to their multifunctional farming system. In this regard, organic livestock breeding strategies for smallholder farms are discussed in relation to the use of animal genetic resources (i.e., imported high-yielding livestock breeds and hybrid lines, adapted local/indigenous or traditional livestock breeds), conservation of adapted local breeds, and design of genetic improvement (i.e., selection and crossbreeding) programs.
The prospects of organic livestock farming contributing to food security (i.e., food availability, access, stability, and utilization) of smallholder farmers in the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia are also presented. The goal here is to help smallholder farmers to produce organic livestock food products that not only appeal to the consumer, adhere to local regulations and retain product quality, but make organic food products widely available in different regions at a fair (reduced) price. Specific recommendations are thus provided to promote education, and R&D activities on organic livestock farming by smallholder farmers; to develop niche markets for smallholder farmers and add value to organic livestock products; to provide support for smallholder farmers through joint industry-government-academe initiatives; to organize improvement and conservation programs for adapted local breeds; and to reduce the cost of organic certification for smallholder farmers. Nonetheless, producing organic animal-derived food requires considerable attention, care, and skill and, above all, a strong connection to the market. Future research should thus be able to address questions on the costs of organic livestock farming and practical approaches to transform traditional or conventional production systems into organic livestock farming. They should also promote choice, so that smallholder farmers, consumers, and other end-users can make informed decisions that reflect their best interest.