Happy Cows = Healthy Planet
Organic standards of production keep cows happier and healthier, which helps create healthier milk.
The main differences in organic dairy production are what cows eat, where they spend their time, and how their health is cared for. By giving cows a healthy and natural living environment, fields to graze in, and preventative healthcare, organic farmers create healthier milk and a healthier planet.
Organic Dairy Means…
- Cows are pasture raised and grazed.
- Cows eat 100% organic feed and grass.
- Farmers use holistic and preventative health care for the animals.
Living Conditions. Organic farmers must accommodate the health and natural behavior of organic livestock. They must be provided year- round access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment. Continuous total confinement of any animal indoors or in yards, feeding pads, or feedlots is prohibited.
Feeding and Grazing. During the grazing season, organic ruminant livestock must consume at least 30% of their diet from grazing on organic pasture (measured by dry matter intake). Grazing seasons must be at least 120 days per year. The remainder of the diet must be completely organic. Feeds containing growth hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, or slaughter by-products are prohibited.
Health Care. Organic farmers must manage livestock using preventive livestock health care practices, such as selecting species appropriate for site-specific conditions, providing healthy feed rations, safe and clean housing, and minimizing stress. Certain other health care medicines, including vaccines and some parasiticides, may be used if preventive health care practices are not sufficient. Antibiotics are prohibited.
- Uses less energy
- Avoids chemicals
- Builds healthy soil
- Helps mitigate Climate Change
Organic pasture systems sequester carbon. Well managed pasture can improve soil quality and store carbon to help adapt to and mitigate climate change by incorporating manure into the soil. Additionally, when crops are rotated with livestock and utilize manure instead of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (used in conventional crop production), the potential for soil carbon storage dramatically increases. Grazing-based dairy production has been shown to reduce both methane and nitrous oxide because less manure is stored in lagoons that release GHGs without storing carbon to offset that release.
Organic has less reliance on grain for feed. Pasture is made up of perennial grasses that require few inputs to grow year after year, especially under organic management which prohibits synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. By contrast, corn and soy – used to make cow feed are annual crops that require a lot of energy to produce and transport, emitting a lot of greenhouse gasses in the process. Conventional corn and soy use many inputs that are energy intensive to manufacture and apply such as synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. These crops also require a lot of fuel for machinery used to plant, harvest, process and transport to dairy farms. This is especially true when feed grain is imported from other countries.
Download The Organic Center’s full report – The Benefits of Organic Dairy – to learn more.