Under the United States National Organic Program, standards for organic dairy production are designed to promote good health and limit stress for farmed animals. Such standards address the substances used in health care and feeding, as well as in herd management and housing.
To read specific organic livestock requirements, including feed, health care practices, and living conditions, see www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/prodhandreg.html.
Organic dairy animals must be fed organic feed. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommends that conventional feed be allowed only if the organic feed supply has been compromised by a national, state, or local weather emergency, or by fire or flood on an organic farm. Growth promoters and hormones, plastic pellets for roughage in feed, and mammalian slaughter by-products are prohibited. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are allowed.
Health Care and Living Conditions
Healthy living conditions and attentive care are considered the first steps in preventing illness. Therefore, animals must not be overcrowded, and must be allowed periodic access to the outdoors and direct sunlight. All ruminants, such as cattle and goats, must have access to pasture.
OTA anticipates that by early 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer a proposed rule regarding organic dairy pasturing for public comment.
Antibiotics, wormers and other medications may not be used routinely as preventative measures.
Antibiotics or other medications, however, cannot be withheld if such treatment would save an animal's life.
Records must be kept on all feeding and health care practices for each animal or flock. There must be a verifiable audit trail to trace any animal or flock back to the farm.
Adding additional animals to an organic dairy
In general, organic milk or milk products must come from animals that have been under continuous organic management for at least one year prior to the production of the milk or milk products.
There are two methods currently allowed in the standards for adding additional dairy animals to an existing organic dairy operation. The method the farmer uses depends on how the animals were initially converted to organic methods. If the farm started by converting a whole distinct herd to organic production, additional animals added to the herd must be raised using organic methods from the last third of gestation in order for the milk to be sold as organic. If the farm did not convert a whole distinct herd, new animals added must be raised using organic methods for at least one year before the milk can be sold as organic.
OTA looks forward to working with NOSB and the National Organic Program to address this two-track system in the regulations for replacement animals.
Copyright (c) 2006, Organic Trade Association. News media have permission to reprint this document for news purposes provided the Organic Trade Association is credited as the source.