October 27, 2011
HAMILTON, New Zealand: Jacalyn Scott, Project Manager for Organic Dairy Research at Massey University told attenders of Dexcel Dairy Corporation’s annual field day that there is a process any farmer considering converting to organic dairy production needs to go through prior to starting conversion.
She said farmers need to have a full understanding of the changes that will be required before starting.
She said they will need to ask themselves the following key questions:
1. Where will I sell my milk? Is the premium sufficient and do I have faith in it remaining at an acceptable level long-term?
2. How compatible is my current farming system with Organic Standard requirements?
3. If you currently feed a supplement, is there an alternative organic supplement available in sufficient quantities and at a reasonable cost?
4. Are my staff interested in organic management and the level of change this will involve in their jobs and thinking?
5. Who is going to study the certification requirements, source best practice information and certified supplies, develop and maintain the records/paperwork and train the staff?
6. Do I currently have any significant breeding and general animal health problems?
7. Where can I get good quality help, advice and support from existing organic producers?
8. Am I confident that I will be able to develop and manage a new system that will be fully audit-able to the point where I can guarantee what happens ever when I am not there?
9. Am I a good enough grass farmer and manager to make this work? Poor conventional farmers rarely succeed at organics.
10. Are my farm’s weeds under control? Can I control them with mowing alone?
11. Am I interested in learning soil science and how nature works?
12. Will I be prepared to listen to advice no matter how much this may challenge my current way of thinking?
13. Am I young enough and flexible enough to change?
Scott said all grass farmers will find the conversion to organics very challenging.
However, some will enjoy it and many gain satisfaction from improving their understanding of why things happen and how their management can effect change.
She said it was these kind of people who would be most successful as organic farmers.
(Editors note. An Organic Extension Service is being co-ordinated by Massey University and organic dairy and related pastoral research projects are currently being carried out at Massey. So far no increase in mastitis or other animal health problems have been found with the shift to organic dairying.)
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