Physical Alterations Regulations for Organic Dairy and Livestock in the United States

eOrganic author:

Jim Riddle, University of Minnesota

According to the National Organic Program (NOP) final rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000), physical alterations to livestock may be performed, if they are done to promote an animal's welfare and in a manner that minimizes pain and stress. Before performing physical alterations, the producer should check with the certifying agent to make sure that the practice is allowed, and describe the practice and reasons for its use in the operation's Organic System Plan.

The following physical alterations are typically allowed, provided that the conditions described above are met.

Livestock Type Physical Alterations Typically Allowed
  • Castration
  • Dehorning
  • Ear or dewlap notching
  • Hot iron branding
  • Castration
  • Tail docking
  • Dehorning
  • Teeth clippling
  • Tail docking
  • Castration
  • Tattooing
  • Nose rings
  • Wing clipping
  • Toe clipping
Poultry (Laying Hens)
  • Beak trimming
  • Wing clipping

References and Citations


Published January 21, 2009

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.