Organic Dairy Farming

Thinking about going organic? So what it takes to become an organic dairy farmer?

After his failure to stand-up to farmer Freddy on the Dairy Industry Restructing Act, Bambam - Pebbles' then-boyfriend - is down the road.

Newly-single, Pebbles has decided to hang-around home for a little longer. Freddy is a bit chastened: he didn't expect Bambam to roll-over as he did, nor did he expect Pebbles to react quite so ruthlessly. Pebbles doesn't seem especially upset but even so, Freddy feels he ought to indulge Pebbles rather more than usual.

"Pebbles, what's involved in organic dairy farming?" he says over their vegan dinner one night (she has been trying to persuade him to become an organic producer for ages).

"Organic dairy farming?!" exclaims Pebbles. "Are you serious? Last time I mentioned it, you said that organic farming was .."

Freddy cuts her off mid-sentence: "I know, I know. But I'm serious. A man can change his mind, can he not?"

"Well," she begins "as an organic dairy farmer, you have to meet the same legal standards as any other farmer. But, as well, you need to be certified organic. Certification is really what make the organic food business work. It gives consumers confidence that the food they're paying a premium for really is organic.

You can't just market any food as organic: the Commerce Commission might prosecute you for breaching the Fair Trading Act. As a dairy farmer, of course, your customer is the dairy company. It would ensure that you were properly certified before purchasing any organic milk from you."

"There are different certification organisations," Pebbles continues, "including Bio-Gro and AsureQuality, who are both accredited by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). IFOAM oversees the integrity of the international organics market by ensuring that comparable standards and verification processes are used around the world. So if you're certified here, you can sell organic products into international markets."

"But what are the actual standards?" asks Freddy.

"They cover things like soil, water, pasture, feed, medicines, transport and how you convert a conventional unit into an organic one. For example, fertiliser use and stocking rates are restricted. There are controls on how you treat sick cows, and how long they must stay out of organic production if you use synthetic medicines like antibiotics. Feed should come from the farm itself or from another organic farm" explains Pebbles.

"So supplements like palm kernel are out then?" asks Freddy.

"Well, depending on the certification scheme, supplements like palm kernel can be fed in limited amounts if there's no other feed available. After all, you can't trade off animal welfare. But remember, a key part of organic farming is producing food in a sustainable way that makes the most of the natural resources available, rather than relying on synthetic substitutes. And don't forget, Dad, more and more people are buying organic."


The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document.
If you would like further information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser.
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