The Standards


This section covers elements of the organic standards that are pertinent to the treatment of animals. For ease of use, the section is divided into the following sub-sections:


Disease Prevention Principles

Use of veterinary medicines in organic farming

Authorised Veterinary Medicines

Number of permitted treatments

Withdrawal of products following treatment

Recording Veterinary Treatments

Animal Health Plans



Disease Prevention Principles

Disease prevention in organic livestock production shall be based on the following principles:  

(a)  the selection of appropriate breeds or strains of animals as detailed in section 3 of this Annex;

(b)  the application of animal husbandry practices appropriate to the requirements of each species, encouraging strong resistance to disease and the prevention of infections; 

(c)  the use of high quality feed, together with regular exercise and access to pasturage, having the effect of encouraging the natural immunological defence of the animal; 

 (d)  ensuring an appropriate density of livestock, thus avoiding overstocking and any resulting animal health problems. 

The principles set out above, should limit animal-health problems so that they can be controlled mainly by prevention

If, despite all of the above preventive measures, an animal becomes sick or injured, it must be treated immediately, if necessary in isolation, and in suitable housing.

Use of veterinary medicines in organic farming

Section 5 of the Compendium of UK Organic Standards refers to the standards association with Veterinary Treatments.


“Allopathic veterinary medicinal products” means antibiotics and chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products,  vitamin preparations, mineral and glucose solutions, herbal extracts and phytotherapeutic remedies.


 “Chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products” means anti-parasitic drugs, hormones and mediators, anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs, drugs which affect the nervous system (e.g. sedatives and anaesthetics) and drugs with a specific effect on target organs ( e.g. bronchiodilators and spasmolytics).


  “ Immunological preparations” means vaccines and antisera.


Authorised Veterinary Medicines

Veterinary medicinal products must be authorised in accordance with current European and UK legislation and should only be used as permitted under such legislation.  The use of veterinary medicinal products in organic farming shall comply with the following principles:


(a) Phytotherapeutic (e.g. plant extracts  (excluding antibiotics), essences, etc.), homoeopathic products (e.g. plant, animal  or mineral substances) and trace elements and products listed in Part C, section 3 of Annex II, shall be used in preference to chemically-synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products or antibiotics, provided that their therapeutic effect is effective for the species of animal, and the condition for which the treatment is intended. 


(b)  If the use of the above products should not prove, or is unlikely to be, effective in combating illness or injury, and treatment is essential to avoid suffering or distress to the animal, chemically-synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products or antibiotics may be used under the responsibility of a veterinary surgeon.


(c) The use of  chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products  or antibiotics  for preventive treatments is prohibited. Where due to an identified disease risk the welfare of animals cannot be maintained by management practices alone, the inspection body may permit the strategic use of a chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicine, other than an antibiotic, in the context of the health plan referred to in paragraph 5.1.2 (of the UK organic standards). Vaccination is permitted in cases where there is a known disease risk. Single, two in one or four in one vaccines are preferred to more complex multiple vaccines unless such cover is specifically required. Vaccine choice and use should be agreed with the nominated veterinary surgeon to ensure adequate disease protection during the conversion phase with, where possible, progressive reductions in use as the organic unit becomes established.


(d)  The use of all medicines, including allopathic veterinary medicinal products, immunological preparations and homeopathic products must be summarised in the animal health plan referred to above.


In Section 5.5:

In addition to the above principles, the following rules shall apply:


(a)  the use of substances to promote growth or production, (including antibiotics, coccidiostats and other artificial aids for growth promotion purposes) and the use of hormones or similar substances to  control reproduction (e.g. induction or synchronisation of oestrus), or for other purposes, is prohibited. Nevertheless, hormones may be administered to an individual animal, as a form of therapeutic veterinary treatment; 


(b) veterinary treatments to animals, or treatments to buildings, equipment and facilities, which are compulsory under national or Community legislation shall be authorised, including the use of immunological veterinary medicinal products when a disease has been recognised as present in a specific area in which the production unit is located; 


(c)  animal treatment products involving the use of organophosphates are permitted for controlling ectoparasites only when, prior to their use, the operator has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the inspection body that a suitable alternative is not available and that other management techniques and inputs can be expected not to be effective.


Number of permitted treatments


With the exception of vaccinations, treatments for parasites and any compulsory eradication schemes established by Defra, where an animal or group of animals receives more than three courses of treatment with chemically-synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products or antibiotics within one year (or more than one course of treatment if their productive lifecycle is less than 1 year) the livestock concerned, or produce derived from them, may not be sold as being products produced in accordance with these standards, and the livestock must undergo the conversion periods laid down in section 2 of the Annex to the UK Compendium of Organic Standards (Defra, 2006) subject to the agreement of the inspection body.


Interpretative Note:


For the purposes of the above paragraph a course of treatment shall mean

all necessary measures taken to restore the animal to health following a

particular disease episode.


Withdrawal of products following treatment

The UK Compendium of Organic Standards (Defra, 2006) specify the following:

The withdrawal period between the last administration of an allopathic veterinary medicinal product to an animal under normal conditions of use, and the production of organically produced foodstuffs from such animals, is to be twice the legal withdrawal period, or in a case in which this period is not specified, 48 hours. In the case of a chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal product used in a manner other than that specified in the Marketing Authorisation (ex-label use), the withdrawal period is

    1. 7 days in the case of eggs or milk;

    2. 28 days for meat from poultry or mammals (including fat and offal).

Recording Veterinary Treatments

Whenever veterinary medicinal products are to be used the type of product must be recorded clearly, (including an indication of the active pharmacological substances involved) together with details of  the diagnosis; the dosage; the method of administration; the duration of the treatment, and the legal withdrawal period.  This information is to be declared to the inspection body before the livestock or livestock products are marketed as organically produced.  Livestock treated must be clearly identified, individually in the case of large animals; individually or by batch, in the case of poultry and small animals.


Animal Health Plans

The Compendium of UK Organic Standards (Defra, 2006)) states that:

The development and management of organic livestock systems requires special care in nurturing positive health and vitality, ensuring the proper control of disease and the encouragement of positive animal welfare. ("Positive welfare" is used here in the sense used by Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) to mean the satisfaction of the animal's needs, including behavioural needs and not merely the avoidance of cruelty.)

This must be provided for by a plan drawn up by the farmer, preferably working in partnership with a veterinary surgeon and agreed between them during and after conversion, to develop and operate an organic livestock system which conforms to these Standards.

The plan must ensure the development of a pattern of health building and disease control measures appropriate to the particular circumstances of the individual farm and allow for the evolution of a farming system progressively less dependent on allopathic veterinary medicinal products.

Guidance Note:

It is suggested that an established, recognised template (for example the Bristol Welfare Assurance Programme template ( is used as for developing health plans