Livestock Fact Sheets:
1. Converting CRP Land to Organic Production
2. Organic Poultry Production: Eggs
3. Organic Poultry Production: Meat
4. Pasture and Living Conditions for Organic Ruminant Animals
5. Protect Livestock in Hot Weather
6. Transitioning to Organic Beef Production
7. Transitioning to Organic Dairy Production
8. Transitioning to Organic Sheep and Goat Dairy Production
9. Transitioning to Organic Sheep and Goat Meat Production
Ask An Organic Specialist: Livestock Answers
I read your article on sprouted barley fodder, and I would like to know if I have to use certified organic barley seed to do this?
Yes, you must use 100% certified organic seed to grow any sprouted fodder used to feed organic animals. Sprouted fodder falls under the 100% certified organic feed requirement and not the crop seed exemption for commercial availability. The USDA National Organic Program recently clarified to all the certifiers that any seed used to produce sprouted fodder must be certified organic.
The scarcity of certified organic meat processors in the Midwest is one of the biggest issues facing the organic industry. The recent loss of the organic processor Premier Meats in southwest Wisconsin has brought this issue to the forefront. There are very few certified meat processors left in Wisconsin and only two of them handle poultry. The lack of certified plants places organic farmers at an economic disadvantage. Either we are unable to label our products as organic, or are forced to raise prices due to the greater distance and time to haul and process our animals.
I encourage you to ask meat processors near you to consider adding organic certification to their services. The rapid growth in consumer demand represents real opportunity to expand clientele and services. Processors can learn more from MOSES or the Organic Processing Institute (www.organicprocessinginstitute.org).
I’ve compiled a list of certified organic meat processing plants in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Many of these are included in our Organic Resource Directory. Farmers in other states can find a certified organic processor by searching the USDA website (apps.ams.usda.gov/nop/, select “handling” and your state for a list).
Black Earth Meat Market
1345 Mills St., Black Earth, WI 53515
608-767-3940 | www.blackearthmeats.com
Weber Processing Plant (beef, hogs)
725 N. Jackson St., Cuba City, WI 53807
608-744-2159 | www.webermeats.com
Pete’s Meat Service, LLC (beef, pork, sheep)
1665 Main St., Rudolph, WI 54475
Springbrook Meats, LLC (beef)
N3485 810th St., Elk Mound, WI 54739
Twin Cities Pack (poultry)
5607 East County Hwy J, Clinton, WI 53525
608-676-4428 | www.twincitiespack.com
Halal Food Processors
900 66th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404
319-366-8327 | www.halalfoodprocessors.com
Amend Packing Co (beef)
410 S.E. 18th St., Des Moines, Iowa 50317
515-265-1618 | www.amendpackingcompany.com
220 W. 1st St., Earlham, Iowa 50072
515-758-9545 | www.lpb-inc.com
Premium Iowa Pork, LLC (pork)
108 First Ave. S., Hospers, Iowa 51238
712-752-8666 | www.premiumiowapork.com
Northern Pride Inc. (turkeys)
401 S. Conley Ave., Thief River Falls, MN 56701
218-681-1201 | www.northernprideinc.com
Kb Poultry Processing LLC (poultry)
15024 Sandstone Drive, Utica, MN 55979
507-932-9901 | www.kbpoultryprocessing.com
Ledebuhr Meat Processing, Inc. (beef, pork, lamb)
5645 6th St., Winona, MN 55987
507-452-7440 | www.ledebuhrmeats.com
Swanson Meats, Inc. (beef)
2700 26th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55406
612-721-4411 | www.swansonmeats.com
Lorentz Meats (beef, poultry, hogs)
705 Cannon Industrial Blvd., Cannon Falls, MN 55009
507-263-3618 | www.lorentzmeats.com
TFC Poultry (poultry)
103 Melby Ave., Ashby, MN 56309
218-747-2749 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Organic feed prices also have moderated in the Midwest and East (but not in the West, due to the California drought). These factors, combined with strong conventional prices, make this is an ideal time to transition to organic dairy—but, you do need to do some homework first.
Before beginning your transition, you should make sure there is a market for your milk. Start by contacting one or all of the organic milk buyers in your area. (Search the online Organic Resource Directory for “milk” to find a buyer near you.) Most of these companies manage their supply closely and commit to transitioning farmers far in advance of the date they can start shipping organic milk. This com¬mitment is key, as it makes no sense to undergo the expense of certification, or of buying organic feed, until you know when and if you can start selling organic milk.
Most companies like to bring on new producers in the fall or winter rather than the spring and summer when their milk supply is naturally at the highest peak. The milk buyers will deter¬mine if they need your milk (supply), if you are on or near one of their milk truck routes (loca¬tion), and determine when you can be ready to ship organic milk (timing).
If they need your milk, and the logistics and timing works out, they will put you in their milk plan and, as you approach your one-year herd transition, make a commitment to pick up your milk once your organic certification has been completed. This commitment is very help¬ful if you need to secure bank loans during the transition. The timing also will determine how you manage your transition—specifically, when you begin your one-year herd transition.
To transition a dairy, the land needs to be man¬aged without prohibited inputs for three years and the herd needs to be managed organically for one year. The National Organic Standards allow a dairy to transition the herd along with the land during the third year of transition. This is a critical point, and one that can greatly reduce feed costs. During that third year, you must manage the herd without antibiotics or prohibited herd inputs, and feed them exclu¬sively your own third-year transitional feed, or purchased certified organic feed.
If you have been managing your land without prohibited inputs already, you may only need to complete the one-year herd transition. Contact MOSES or a certification agency to determine your transition timetable. MOSES also can assist with finding an organic milk buyer in your area.
The rain we've had has made my pasture too wet to graze my herd. How can I meet the livestock grazing requirement of 120 days?
In addition, the National Organic Program regulations are very clear that the grazing season for your organic ruminant animals need not be continuous, just must total a minimum of 120 days when they are grazing. Your organic system plan must provide for acceptable grazing opportunities for the full grazing season, when weather cooperates. If there is a dry spell for two weeks at the end of August, you can feed hay to your cattle. Once the pastures improve in September, the animals should be allowed to graze.
You should have enough pasture acreage to provide a minimum of 30% dry matter intake from grazing for all of your ruminants for the full grazing season during a “normal” year. The minimum 120-day requirement is only for areas where the typical grazing season is that short, or there is a significant weather event that causes you to have a shortened grazing season. The typical grazing season in the Upper Midwest is 160-180 days. Use of intensive or rotational grazing management systems can greatly improve the quantity and quality of pasture for your animals.
The percent of dry matter taken in can be averaged over the whole season to meet the rule. For instance, your cattle may receive 60% dry matter intake from grazing in May, June and July and 10% dry matter intake from grazing in August, September and October (due to drought). You would average 35% with this scenario and that would be acceptable. The National Organic Program also has allowed a special exemption for less than the 30% dry matter intake from grazing when the USDA Secretary declares a region a disaster due to drought. However, there is no provision in the regulation to allow non-organic hay, forage or other feeds to be fed to organic livestock, even when a disaster has been declared.
This product is OMRI listed, but only kills by direct contact, so it works best on annual weeds, and will kill anything it comes in contact with. Vinegar burns all of the above ground growth, which is why it is less effective on perennial plants with a strong root system. It might work with multiple applications on buttercup, but it will also kill your grass and clover.
A better approach is probably to change the conditions that promote buttercup growth. It likes wet, compacted and acidic soils, so liming the soil to increase the pH, adding needed nutrients to enhance grass growth and improving drainage will work better in the long run. A soil test will help sort out how best to improve the soils in that pasture.
I suggest contacting the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. They are an excellent organization of farmers that are committed to sustainable and organic production and are much more familiar with conditions in your region, and have likely dealt with this weed before: http://www.ssawg.org/
200 West Center St.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
P.O. Box 1552
Fayetteville, AR 72702
What can I do now to ensure my herd will have enough pasture this summer to meet the 120-day grazing requirement for organic production?
Even if you feel that you have plenty of land to pasture animals on, mid-season dry spells and the need to let pastures rest means that you may need to consider particular management alternatives in order to have enough forage this summer. Beyond finding more pasture land, some options to consider include grazing your hayfields, growing summer annual forages, frost seeding, and stockpiling pasture.
There are many resources and guides available to help you choose the forage option that’s best for your operation. Wisconsin Extension offers grazing resources at http://fyi.uwex.edu/grazres/; so does GrassWorks: http://grassworks.org. A resource that directly addresses your question is “Extend the Grazing Season with a Forage Chain,” a workshop presented by Laura Paine at the 2014 MOSES Organic Farming Conference. The audio recording of that workshop is sold through the MOSES Bookstore under Conference Audio Recordings at mosesorganic.net.
Many producers bring hayfields into the grazing rotation after one or two cuttings. These can be dedicated hayfields, or different fields cut each year. Rotating hayfields with pasture use may increase species diversity and control certain weeds.
We’ve recently seen an increase in the practice of grazing summer annuals, such as sorghum sudan, as a supplement to cool-season forages. Graze only after plants have reached 18-24 inches. It works well to strip-graze a bit of the field each day in addition to the perennial pastures. Care must be taken to avoid prussic acid poisoning, but if you graze this crop during summer slump that is not an issue. Also, avoid grazing during or after frost.
Fall grazing of broadleaf crops such as turnips, radish, or mixtures of several species can be utilized in some cases. Introduce these slowly and do your homework as to the health effects of grazing these species. You cannot rely exclusively on these for grazing, and they should not be more than 75% of the animal’s diet while being fed. Supplement with dry hay, and allow access to grass pastures while grazing brassicas. In some cases, it might work to no-till the broadleaf seed into existing sod, creating a grass/broadleaf mixture.
Frost seeding of red clover at 2-3 pounds per acre and white clover at 1-2 pounds per acre separately or in a mixture in early spring is common in the Upper Midwest. Some graziers frost seed a third of their acres each year to try to keep the 30-50% recommended legume in swards, which is essential for providing nitrogen in an organic system.
Stockpiling forages for late season grazing can work to feed non-lactating animals with lower nutritional requirements. Rest these acres after mid-August, and graze when dormancy sets in due to freezing temperatures. You might be able to graze animals with lower nutritional requirements on CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields, if there is access to water. You will need to notify your organic certification agency to include these in your annual inspection and add them to your Organic System Plan. Before doing this, make sure there has been no chemical spraying of invasive weeds, which landowners are required to control under CRP rules. In addition, approval to graze must be granted by the FSA and NRCS (Farm Service Agency and National Resources Conservation Service).
I intend to pursue organic certification this spring for the first time for my orchard and some yearling organic feeder beef cattle I am purchasing. My farm has some older copper-arsenate treated fenceposts in place and I recently started to install some posts with the newer chromated copper arsenate (CAC) treatment. Are these allowed, or is there another type of treated wood I can use instead? If these are not acceptable, do I need to remove them?
There are no synthetic wood treatments currently listed as approved for organic production. Any new fencing must comply with organic standards and cannot contain these prohibited synthetic materials. However, fencing that is already in place before your first organic inspection can remain even if the posts were treated with prohibited materials. Your certifier may require a specific distance between the treated posts and soil where organic crops are grown. For your grazing animals, an interior poly fence might be required to prevent grazing right next to these posts.
Natural wood, metal, fiberglass and concrete posts are allowed. CAC-treated posts contain many synthetic compounds that are not allowed under organic regulations, including copper, ethanolamine, ammonia, and possibly formaldehyde. Copper is allowed on the National List of synthetic substances, but not specifically for wood preservation.
If you have purchased, but not yet set in place your treated posts by the day of your first organic inspection for organic certification, it is pretty likely that you will not be able to use them where they are in contact with soil growing crops that animals or humans may consume, nor where animals may touch them in any way, such as a corral or fence. Technically, you cannot set in place posts treated with synthetic materials once you are certified, which would mean the date of issuance of your first organic certificate. However, many certifiers ask that these posts not be used after your first inspection, since they will not be back to verify that you’re not using treated posts until your second inspection the following year. There is some slight variability between certifiers on how they handle this issue, but none of them allow the installation of posts treated with prohibited substances once you are certified as organic. The size of the buffer area they may require between existing or newly installed treated posts also can be different between certifiers.
Many times, the treated wood posts are preferred by some for fence corners, and I have seen certifying agencies allow this use, as long as there is a wire strung across the hypotenuse of the right triangle formed by this corner, that way, the animals stay back from the corner where the wooden posts are located and cannot consume grass near the wood.
All of these treatments do leach into the soil, and plants have been known to accumulate the synthetics in their vegetative matter. This is especially an issue in organic orchards. Stabilizing posts placed next to new trees should not have any synthetic treatments. Perimeter fencing around an orchard usually would be far enough away from your trees that treated wood may be used, but the distance required can vary between certification agencies. Many times, the dripline of the outer branches of a mature tree would be sufficient distance to the treated post. To be sure, check with your certifier about the required distance to maintain between treated wood fenceposts and your trees before you install perimeter fencing. Also ask what date they will allow the installation of treated posts in close proximity to your organic plants or grazing area before you are officially considered a certified organic operation.
Resources & Research
- Avian Influenza Update Summer 2015
The National Organic Coalition outlines factors that contribute to highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI) and recommends a long-term systemic solution including outdoor access, low density, and poultry with healthy immunities. Read the full recommendation here.
- Latest news on Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) from USDA
PED is a viral disease associated with outbreaks of diarrhea and vomiting in swine. While older pigs can recover, PED is deadly to piglets.
- How to build a fly barrel to control flies. YouTube video
Farmer Kevin Jahnke shows MOSES Organic Specialist Harriet Behar how to control flies using a home-made fly barrel.
- Fact Sheet: Organic Livestock Requirements
The National Organic Program has created a fact sheet covering the standards for livestock, allowed and prohibited substances, pasture requirements, and benefits of paster-based management.
- Grass-Fed Lamb Report
A new national monthly grass fed lamb and goat meat report is available through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. The report covers wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales information plus market commentary for this expanding livestock segment.
- Guide for Organic Livestock Producers
Created as part of the USDA’s Organic Literacy Initiative to connect organic farmers, ranchers, and processors with the USDA resources available to them. Include information about organic requirements and best practices, and explain the certification process.
- Iowa Stray Voltage Guide
Iowa State University has created a 28-page guide to help farmers discover and resolve stray voltage concerns on livestock farms. The guide addresses causes of stray voltage, farm wiring, biosecurity protocols, and testing procedures.
- Online Organic Grower Guides
Online organic resources for growing apples, beans, carrots, grapes, and more from Cornell University. (Although these guides were written primarily for New York growers, the recommendations are applicable to growers in other humid regions.)
- Organic Livestock Feed Processing Basics (PDF)
MN Department of Agriculture Fact Sheet
- Organic Poultry and Eggs Market News and Transportation Data
USDA Poultry Market News & Analysis has been covering the wholesale market for poultry and eggs since January 2004. This information is released each week on Monday. From the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.
- Prescribed Grazing
Grazing Native Plants in Iowa is a new publication from the Leopold Center at Iowa State University showing how farmers and land managers are using prescribed grazing for prairie management and gaining agronomic, economic and ecological benefits. The 16-page publication includes information on how to incorporate prairies into a grazing operation, why grazing prairies can be beneficial, and what questions remain for future research.
- Profitable Poultry: Raising Birds on Pasture
16-page publication from SARE is available free online and in print.
- Report analyzes economic impact of NOP’s proposed regulations for living conditions for organic poultry
The National Organic Program (NOP) just released a 23-page report prepared by a third party that analyzes the economic impact of potential changes to the living conditions requirements for organic poultry, as recommended by NOSB.
The Ruminant | April 2015
Wisconsin farmer and fencing wizard Randy Cutler joins The Ruminant to dish on the finer points of fencing your livestock for less stress and happier animals. He covers some of the main considerations before building your fence, and finish with species-by-species considerations for electric fencing. See more podcasts from The Ruminant.
From The Organic Broadcaster
To make a successful transition and get certified organic, it pays to ask the right questions ahead of time, come up with a plan, and know the costs before starting. Read more.
Winter feeding is the costliest part of a cattle operation. What cattle eat accounts for an average of 73-75 percent of the total cost of an operation; 70-80 percent of that is the cost of feeding in winter. Read more.
“Thing are warming up,” said Bill Bland, University of Wisconsin Extension Soil and Water Conservation Specialist, during his workshop on climate and agriculture at the 2015 MOSES Conference. Read more.
The recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) affected conventional confinement poultry farms to a much greater degree than organic operations. Read more.
For those of us interested in grass-based agriculture, mob grazing is likely not a new concept. We’ve heard the mob-grazing gurus talk at conferences, read the articles…. Read more.
Scanning my dry pastures mid-summer last year, I pondered the feasibility of wandering with my small sheep flock about my rural neighborhood, allowing them to graze the still lush roadside ditches. Read more.
There’s a growing market for grass-fed, locally raised poultry, but access to processing and the high cost of quality feed create challenges for small-scale poultry operations. Read more.
Producers of relatively small numbers of poultry have indicated that access to processing plants, especially those offering organic processing, are a limiting factor. Read more.
Gastrointestinal nematode parasitism is one of the greatest threats to economic sheep production in the United States. With increased incidences of anthelmintic resistance and constraints of organic production…. Read more.
Even in normal years, lack of moisture can substantially reduce forage yields in pastures. Since pasture is an economical source of feed…. Read more.
Before domestication, cattle lived a lifestyle similar to that of bison in the early American West. Many different plants with different nutrient and mineral profiles were available. Read more.
Good animal welfare is an integral part of organic livestock management. As with soil health and other aspects of organic production, animal welfare is most successfully achieved…. Read more.
Like it or not, winter is coming and the cows won’t be grazing much longer. With good management of pasture land, cows might be able to graze into late November and December, at least to some extent. Read more.
Many drugs found in modern medicine cabinets have been based on derivatives from natural plant or animal sources. Read more.
Caleb and Lauren Langworthy have been on their own land for only a couple of years, and know that the ground work they do now will make their job easier in the future. Read more.
The U.S. grass-fed beef sector has experienced exponential growth over the past 15 years. Read more.
I’ll admit it. I was a fan of Gianaclis Caldwell before opening her most recent book, The Small Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market. Read more.
External parasites on livestock can lead to economic loss for producers. Studies have shown that even moderate infestations of parasites could cost you one pound of milk/meat…. Read more.
The first cases of a new swine disease, Porcine Endemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv), were reported in the United States in May 2013. Read more.
Poultry will eat many different things, and live. But, to grow efficiently and be cost-effective for egg or meat production, very specific nutritional needs must be met. Read more here.
Feeding flaxseed to cows offers multiple benefits
March | April 2014
Introducing ground flaxseed as a dietary component for organically managed cows may have a three-fold benefit. Read more here.
With dairy cows, goats and ewes the goals are healthy, productive mothers that deliver vigorous offspring, milk well…. Read more here.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Adam Danforth’s two new books…. Read more here.
With cold weather on the way, farmers with animals are setting up their winter feeding systems. Read more here.
The long-term, multistate research project aimed to identify organic management factors influencing…. Read more here.
A typical dairyperson’s life revolves around a regular twice-a-day commitment to milking cows. Read more here.
Historically, the family has been the primary institution for providing training, experience and resources…. Read more here.
One of the most important keys to success in organic dairy production is the rearing of healthy calves. Read more here.
Crops and livestock have historically been integrated in farming systems. However, in the last 50 years there has been a trend…. Read more here.
With the development of faster growing, high nutrient-demanding animal breeds, the high protein content and low cost of soybeans…. Read more here.
Record high grain prices and the drought of 2012 are driving up interest in alternative feeds. Read more here.
Proof Positive – Research on Raising Dairy Steers Provides Insights
With the extreme drought conditions in the Upper Midwest during 2012, many dairy producers continue…. Read more here.
Most of us have the perception that input costs rose slowly and steadily through…. Read more here.
During a trip to the Farm Service Agency a couple of years ago…. Read more here.