Conventional Cattle on Organic Dairy Farms
[This article was previously published in the spring issue of The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]
by Marie Burcham, JD
Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute
The organic dairy industry is in a state of crisis. A glut of organic milk in the market is putting economic strain on family-scale dairies, forcing some to close their doors after generations of operation.
A significant cause of the problem is overproduction by industrial-scale organic producers edging their competitors out of business. “Factory” dairies—many milking thousands of cows—have perfected ways to game the system to gain an economic advantage.
One of their insidious methods is to leverage their scale advantage by rotating conventionally raised calves and heifers into organic production.
Cows start lactating around two years of age, when they give birth to their first calves. Organically raised calves usually consume milk, by bottle or bucket—the same quality of organic milk we buy in the grocery store or co-op—from the time they are born until they are weaned.
When a dairy cow “ages out” or otherwise is removed from production, she needs to be replaced if the dairy wants to maintain the same level of production.
The organic regulatory framework allows for the conversion of a distinct herd of dairy cows to certified organic production a single time. In this vein, some operations do not raise their young calves as replacements for their culled cows.
Instead, they purchase cheaper, conventional cattle raised on medicated milk replacer that commonly includes antibiotics and other banned pharmaceuticals and substances. After being weaned, these calves are fed conventional grains (usually GMO) and hay treated with toxic chemicals. Read Full Article »