Farming/Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a specifc question about farming organically? Find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions as you make your move to organic production. If you still can’t find what you are looking for don’t hestiate contact of friendly certification team.

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Organic Farming (General)

All farmers must undergo a two-year conversion period and farm to the Organic Standards in order to market their produce organically. First the farmer submits their application with all relevant supporting documentation (prepared by an advisor or the farmer). The Irish Organic Association will then inspect the holding, livestock and paperwork and issue the farmer with a conversion licence for two years. Once you have your full organic licence you can then sell produce into the organic sector. Farmers undergo an inspection annually to ensure that they are in compliance with the Organic Standards
Partial conversion is allowed, however, the organic area needs to be physically, financially and operationally separated from any non-organic land on the same holding. A partial organic conversion may be an option for some farmers who have different enterprises e.g., livestock and tillage or wish to convert separate enterprises on a phased basis.
All synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides are prohibited from use in organic farming. Instead organic farmers use slurry and farmyard manures and crop rotation for fertility. Contact the Irish Organic Association for a list of permitted substances.
No, these animals will never become organic however following the appropriate conversion period they can produce organic stock and/or produce e.g., organic calves, lambs or organic milk. Current stock are generally retained for breeding, and producing eggs and dairy.
Operators must comply with the Nitrates Directive and cannot exceed 170kg N/ha in the calendar year. For most producers, this should not be of concern. It can be possible to achieve stocking rates of 1.0 to 1.6 LU/ha on drystock organic farms depending on the soil type and grassland management. To be eligible for the Organic Farming Scheme farmers must maintain a minimum stocking rate – see Organic Farming Scheme terms and conditions.
Simultaneous land and livestock conversion is the normal method of conversion. This means as soon as organic status is awarded to the land (after two years), lambs conceived and calves born three months after the initial conversion period started receive full organic status and can be sold as organic.
Organic and non-organic stock of the same species cannot be present on the same holding or production unit. This is known as Parallel Production which is prohibited in organic farming. However, where no livestock are present on the farm (e.g., stockless tillage) or stock are not of the same species, non-organic livestock can graze on the same holding for up to 180 days a year under a grazing agreement. The land must continue to be managed according to the Organic Standards during that period. Organic livestock are not permitted to graze on non-organic farmland or they will lose their organic status.
In most cases the answer is no, however, there are some exemptions made only for replacement female or male breeding stock, contact the Irish Organic Association for more information. Most farmers breed their own replacements.
Yes. For all ruminants, a minimum of 60% of the dry matter intake (DMI) must either be fresh green food or un- milled forage grown to Organic Standards and produced from the holding or linked holdings. Genetically modified feed or ingredients are not allowed in any format either in feed or minerals.
There are some dedicated organic marts regionally, see our marts section of our website for more details. Many farmers purchase directly from other organic farmers. Additionally, stock can be bought or sold on Ireland’s Organic Trading Hub.
To be compliant with Nitrates Directive your stocking rate should not exceed 170kg N/ha per calendar year. Organic farmers are subject to the same application opening/closing dates under Nitrates. This is not an issue for the majority of organic farmers. Farmyard manure and slurry are the main organic manures used as synthetic fertiliser is not allowed. Farmers can work with other farmers to import/export organic manures.
Grasslands are regularly soil sampled to monitor nutrients. A soil analysis (completed within the last 5 years) is required as part of your application. Nitrogen-fixing legumes, such as red and white clover are used to build nitrogen. Multi-species swards are also widely used. Regular soil sampling, liming and application of organic slurry and farmyard manure and other approved products are encouraged to ensure adequate pH and nutrient levels are maintained.
Producers are required to source certified organic seed where available, if seed is not available derogations may be granted before sowing. Seed companies in Ireland supply a range of organic seeds and suppliers in the UK and mainland Europe can also ship seeds to Ireland. For further information on sources of organic seed the Irish Organic Association Suppliers List.

Organic Farming Scheme

The Organic Farming Scheme is a 5-year scheme operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It aims to support farmers converting or maintaining their farmland under organic production and is funded under Ireland’s new CAP Strategic Plan.
The Department intends to run the scheme annually over the duration of the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027. The next tranche is expected to open for 6-8 weeks in 2024 (dates to be confirmed).
All farmers (in-conversion or fully converted) who are part of the Organic Farming Scheme avail of the above payment rates (since 01 January 2023). You can learn about the potential payments for your farm using the Department’s Organic Payments Calculator
The most recent eligibility conditions are set out in the Department’s Terms and Conditions for the Organic Farming Scheme 2024. A minimum area of 3 ha is required for most enterprises (1 ha for horticulture, however, smaller growers may also be considered where it can be demonstrated to the Department that it is a commercial enterprise). The farmer or grower should be registered with an organic certification body such as the Irish Organic Association and have access to the at the time of applying for the scheme.
There are three straightforward steps in the application process.
  1. Complete our Application Form and Conversion Plan
  2. Fill out the first page of the ORG1 form and include it in your IOA application
  3. Register your Organic Farming Scheme application with the Department via*
Other supporting documentation is required such as soil analysis results and maps indicated in the application form. Applicants can be made via our Online Application Form or by downloading and completing the forms. *Once we have received your Application Form and ORG 1 Form we will notify the Department to enable you to register via which you need to do before the closing date.
New applicants begin their conversion from a defined period to be confirmed by the Department. Farmers can choose to convert before the Scheme opens. However, Scheme applications must be lodged within 4 months of the organic licence starting to avail of the full 2-year organic conversion payment rates.
Advisors are available to assist farmers who wish to convert to organic farming or farmers can choose to complete the application process and conversion plan themselves. We can help to identify advisors in your area if required.
As part of the Organic Farming Scheme, you must also complete a 25-hour Organic Production Principles Course within 9 months of entering the Scheme. For example, a farmer who joined the Scheme on 01 January 2024 must have submitted a successful training certificate of completion to DAFM by 01 October 2024. The course is offered by various providers around the country, including Teagasc and the National Organic Training Skillnet (NOTS).
Lease agreements must be in place for the duration of your Organic Farming Scheme contract. An agreement of at least 5 years is therefore required to apply. A copy of the lease should be enclosed with your application. If the land is rented please enclose a letter confirming annual first refusal from the landlord.
The new TAMS Organic Capital Investment Scheme will provide grant aid of 60% to organic farmers from 2023. This includes funding for buildings and approved machinery. Organic farmers also have priority access to ACRES – the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme. The new Protein/Cereal Mix Crop Scheme may also be particularly relevant for many organic farmers.
Organic farmers generally have the same access to all other CAP support and schemes e.g., BPS/BISS, eco-schemes, TAMS, ACRES, Straw Incorporation Measure, and the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme where they meet the eligibility criteria.
A commonage agreement outlining the location, grazing animals and duration and committing to relevant requirements etc must be signed before use. Commonage area is not eligible for organic payment, but farmers can avail of a commonage payment with organic priority access to ACRES – the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme.
Land parcels declared as agroforestry under BISS can avail of an organic drystock payment. Eligible farmers who choose to establish different agroforestry systems (silvopasture, silvoarable and forest gardening) under DAFM Forestry Grants and Schemes can also qualify for an organic farming payment. Other afforestation grants and premiums are open to organic farmers as well as tree planting actions under ACRES – the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme.
If you join the OFS you sign up for a five-year contract. If you leave before your contract ends then any organic payments received must be paid back to the Department.
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The cattle on the land before conversion will never achieve organic status. Any calves born 3 months after conversion start date on the holding are eligible for in-conversion status. In-conversion animals cannot be sold as organic (full symbol) until they have achieved full symbol status following a two-year conversion period. The cows currently on the farm may be retained for breeding purposes and are known as ‘Approved for Symbol Breeding Purposes.’
In most cases the answer is no, however, there are some exemptions that can be made if organic stock is not available you may be able to purchase a non-organic breeding bull or non-organic breeding females up to 10% of your adult herd. Please contact the Irish Organic Association for more information on this. Most farmers breed their own replacements.
You must seek an organic bull where possible. However, a bull from a non-organic farm can be bought by an organic farmer under derogation and be managed according to the Organic Standards. You must seek a stock derogation from the Irish Organic Association to purchase a non-organic bull. Artificial insemination is permitted in organic production, sexed semen is permitted also however heat synchronisation and hormones are restricted. Non-organic male breeding animals may be purchased for breeding under derogation.


The ewes on the land before conversion will never achieve organic status. Lambs conceived on the holding from the livestock conversion start date are eligible for conversion status and once the farm is fully converted they will achieve organic status at the same time as the land will, i.e., after two years. The ewes currently on the farm may be retained for breeding purposes and are known as ‘Approved for Symbol Breeding Purposes.’
Organic farmers should try to source organic stock. If it is not available then you can seek permission through a stock derogation to buy in 20% of your adult stock for replacements. A derogation must also be submitted to purchase a non-organic ram for breeding purposes only.
Irish Country Meats in Camolin are currently the largest processor of organic lamb. Sheep are also sold directly to other organic farmers. Farmers can also buy and sell stock on Ireland’s Organic Trading Hub.
Animal Housing

Animal Housing

Housing must meet certain requirements – at least 50% of the housing area must be of solid construction, bedded and fully accessible to livestock. Stalls or cubicles can be used for housing organic animals but animals must have free access to them and they need to be bedded. A suckler cow, for example, is required to have 6m² of space each and a weanling is required to have approx. 3-4m² i.e. 1m² per 100kg. The table below outlines the minimum areas required for each animal.
Bedding materials permitted for use include straw, rushes, sawdust and woodchips (timber cannot be treated). Peat is not allowed for bedding.
Straw used for bedding does not have to be organic. If livestock are fed straw as part of their ration, then it must be organic.
Animals may be out-wintered if conditions permit but not at a rate of higher than 1 LU/ha in line with the implementation of the Nitrates Directive. Adequate shelter must be provided and poaching must not occur.
Animal Health

Animal Health

The Animal Health Plan is submitted as part of the application process and must be updated annually. The plan should identify all significant livestock pest and disease problems that you may face and outline how you intend to prevent their occurrence. The plan also needs to identify the treatments that will be used if problems occur, and your procedures to improve overall herd health and reduce reliance on veterinary treatments. The plan must be signed off by your vet and be available at your organic inspection. An Animal Health Plan template is available here.
Disease prevention is key to good livestock health and it is recommended to plan ahead using your animal health plan to mitigate potential disease burdens. Many organic farmers operate a closed system. For cattle and sheep grazing new pastures each year allows for better control of stomach worm infestations. Fluke should be controlled by grazing and fencing off wet areas. Dosing for worms and fluke is permitted based on evidence that it is required e.g., faecal sampling or liver analysis. For sheep in particular, regular foot trimming and zinc sulphate foot baths are recommended to control lameness. While zinc sulphate is allowed, copper sulphate or formaldehyde are not permitted for use in organic farming. Note that the withdrawal period for synthetic medicines used is doubled when farming organically. It is always advisable to check with the Irish Organic Association for products that are permitted for use.
Routine dosing is not permitted, preventative husbandry and management practices are encouraged. The Organic Standards recommend the use of homeopathic and herbal preparations in preference to synthetic chemical medicines. However, in order to minimise suffering and distress synthetic chemical medicines are permitted under veterinary supervision. An extended withdrawal period on any products used is required for meat and milk products. Full records of all treatments must be kept for your organic inspection.
Minerals buckets, licks and boluses are allowed once they meet the following requirements:
  • not contain any GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
  • indicated in an up-to-date Animal Health Plan
  • justified through a veterinary letter, blood analysis or forage analysis
Straight minerals are preferred. If the minerals contain molasses, you must seek permission from the Irish Organic Association before use.  
Yes, AI is permitted as is sexed semen. Heat synchronization or chemical hormones are not allowed.
Good livestock management including grazing management and pasture rotation is recommended. Grazing priority should be given to young stock. It is also good practice to rotate cattle with other livestock and forage areas. Allowing calves to develop immunity and build up resistance is encouraged in organic farming. Mixed grazing of cattle and sheep is another approach to consider to help dilute worm burdens.
In order to limit animal distress and illness, animals for meat production can receive 1 course of treatment in a 12-month period. Animals for breeding can receive 2 courses of treatment in a 12-month period. Animals for milk production can receive 2 courses of treatment for mastitis within a 12-month period. In all cases where the above is exceeded the animal must either be sold non-organically
Dips and spot on are allowed, however any products containing organophosphates are strictly prohibited. Contact the Irish Organic Association for more information on products that you wish to use.


Regular soil sampling is recommended to keep an eye on nutrient levels. Rotations are critical in organic cereal production ensuring that nutrients are not depleted and that weed and diseases are kept to a minimum. Organic manures such as farmyard manure and slurry are permitted for use, organic tillage farmers can bring in manure from other non-organic farmers. However, manure cannot be sourced from animals that are permanently housed e.g., pigs or poultry. Additional approved fertilisers can be used, for further information see the Irish Organic Association Suppliers List. Note that soil analysis is recommended to justify use of nutrients.
As organic farmers cannot use synthetic fertilisers and plant protection products crop rotation and crop planning is extremely important to build fertility and ease disease and weed pressure. Typically, an organic grower will have 2 to 4 years of grass clover ley to build fertility followed by a rotation of 3 or 4 years of crop production. As well as market requirements crop sequencing is based on fertility needs, with crops with high requirements, like wheat, sown at the start of the rotation and crops with lower fertility requirements like oats in the middle. Crop species and varieties are also selected for disease resistance or ability to supress weeds.
Yes, arable farmers can run stockless operations with good crop planning and rotations including legume plants which form the basis for nutrient supply and weed control. Mixed enterprises of crops and livestock are common in organic farming in Ireland.
Organic oats are widely grown for three large processors who purchase organic oats. Farmers grow combi-crop for animal feed which can be any combination of oats, peas, wheat and barley. A small amount of milling wheat is grown, and barley is grown on contract for a distiller. Farmers grow organic cereals to sell to organic dairy, poultry and livestock farmers. It is essential to work with the land you have and pick crops that suit your soil type and location.


Growers sell organic vegetables into all retail markets including supermarkets, independent shops, online and via box scheme and farm shops.
Growers use a variety of methods including stale-seed beds, flame burning, biodegradable mulches, and undersowing crops with fertility building crops to reduce weeds. Having a good rotation will assist in weed management, field scale growers use specific machine for weeding.
Prevention is key in organic production so ensuring good hygiene in crop production is important. Biological and cultural methods are used to control pests in organic crops. Some approved products can be used to minimise disease. Good rotations will ensure that pest and disease burdens are managed.
Yes, manure can be imported as long as it does not originate from animals that are permanently housed such as pigs and poultry. It is recommended that manure be composted for three months before use. Products certified for use under the Irish Organic Association Certified Products scheme may also be used based on soil analysis. For further information on approved inputs see the Irish Organic Association Suppliers List.