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What does it take to be an Organic Dairy?

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We have often looked at the differences between organic and conventional crop production. We have talked about the production differences and what it takes to become certified as an organic crop raiser. However, what does it take to make it as an Organic Dairy?

McKane Wells is a farmer who farms with both his father and his grandfather. They operate roughly 1,500 acres north of Cantril, Iowa. They have about half of their acreage in conventional farming practices and the other half in organic production. They also raise 120 head of cows for an organic dairy.

Wells tells us about the grazing requirements for the dairy. The cows must have a minimum of 200 days of access to the grazing areas. McKane says they run a rotational grazing program.

When the winter sets in, the cattle are fed a certified organic diet. This includes corn silage, earlage, haylage, sorghum, and an organically mixed ration.  The Wells’ operation raises 90% of what they consume. The only outsourcing they have for feeding is if they have to get more organically raised hay.

Wells says they are seeing a 70-pound tank average. They were getting a little higher number when they ran the conventional dairy, but they feel good about what they are getting in this organic operation.

You may be wondering what is done if an animal needs treatment. Wells says they have a program to follow for caring for sick animals. They use substances whose names may seem familiar, but not when you think of veterinary medicines.

The Wells’ operation then markets their product through the Organic Valley Dairy Co-Op based in Wisconsin.

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