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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care December 2007

Hi Folks,

Greetings from the USDA National Organic Standards Board meeting – this is where I have been all week. Therefore, I’d like to give you a fresh update of what we are doing here this week.

First of all, the big news – the medicines for pain relief will be published in the next week. These were the materials petitioned by me, Horizon Organic and Organic Valley five years ago. This news is according to Barbara Robinson who is head of the USDA AMS National Organic Program and who signed the final paper just before coming to the meeting on Wednesday morning. And while we all need to wait until the final paper comes out in the next 10 days, I do already know that the 3 medicines I use to do surgery, dehorn larger animals or reduce fever and inflammation will be allowed. That means if we use/used xylazine, butorphanol or flunixin (banamine) on an animal, the animal will not have to be removed from the herd. We will need to look more closely at the Final Rule change once it is in the Federal Register, but National Organic Program people have assured me that those three meds (the ones that allow vets to do surgery) will be on the allowed list for emergency use. I was told by the NOP that my having asked our local Congressman Joe Pitts to look into things had an impact upon the docket now being finalized. I will need to thank Congressman Pitts for sure! I will likely send an update once I see the final release in the next 10-14 days. I’ve worked long and hard to get these through the governmental process. This is a nice early Christmas present.

Along similar lines, there were two presentations about animal health and care on Wednesday afternoon. The first was by Kathleen Merrigan, who essentially wrote the organic regulations during the mid to late 1990’s. She originally had been working for Vermont Senator Leahy and then she was appointed by former President Clinton to be the Administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service’s new National Organic Program. Her presentation topic was comparing the organic standards of the European Union, Canada and the United States in relation to procedures carried out on livestock. Topics such as when or how to disbud or dehorn calves and when to castrate cattle were touched upon as well as an absolute prohibition on tail docking. For poultry, the need for putting perches in large organic layer and broiler houses and true outdoor access to real ground for pecking (rather than tiny outdoor boxes or porches). Topics for organic hogs included the issues of nose rings, gestation crates and tail docking. While independent certifiers already have positions on these issues, these can all apparently be worked into the national standards for organic livestock at this time. This would increase the level of animal care required by federal law. The members of the National Organic Standards Board and the National Organic Program were very receptive to these ideas and will be actively working on them for action and voting by the next NOSB meeting in the spring.

Immediately after Kathleen Merrigan’s presentation, Whole Foods Market’s Margaret Wittenberg spoke on their new program. Margaret is their Global Vice President for Quality Standards & Public Affairs. Whole Foods, through its Animal Compassionate Care program, has created a 5-step program for many species of food producing animals. Their care standards are based on experts such as Temple Grandin . They unrolled their program in Britain this summer and it’s been very popular among their customers there. Essentially, a farmer must meet Level 1 of the 5 levels of care before being able to sell meat or dairy products into Whole Foods. Each consecutive level higher places a stronger and stronger emphasis on individual animal care to the point that at Level 5 there is no transport of animals off farm since it is well known to be highly stressful to animals (in other words, only on farm slaughter is allowed). Premiums increase to the farmers who go for each higher level of farm animal care and prices at the store also reflect the higher levels of care with each step.

It is all very interesting and as the two speakers said, there is a much heightened sense of animal care and well being expected by customers of organic products. While organic consumers may not know what happens on farms every hour of the day, they expect that animals are taken care of in the absolute best possible manner and treated without delay. This is a main reason they pay premiums for organic dairy products. This issue is may well trump the pasture issue in that animal care is a 365 day a year effort while pasture is obviously seasonal. Read about pasture further on.

While I always say that organic cows are healthy and happy about 95% or the time, there are those times when an animal will be sick or need special attention. Now with the medicines finally becoming allowed to relieve pain and suffering, I believe that organic livestock can truly be as well cared for as the organic customers expect. If you have received a letter from a certifier asking about the status of an organic animal and requiring it to be removed due to giving it a pain reliever, please wait and contact me in the next 2 weeks as details of the medicine document will be out shortly. Additionally, I will send out the details of the medicines to all my local farmers as soon as I know them.

The pasture issue was discussed by Barbara Robinson as well. While it is not as far along as the medicine document which is about to be released, the National Organic Program has finished its wording on the document. It now needs to go through the governmental internal reviews at the Office of Management and Budget and their lawyers. It is possible that it could be out by April or so. But I would not sit idly by. If it is indeed true that my letter to Congressman Pitts helped get the medicine document across the finish line, then if you feel as strongly about the pasture issue as I did about the medicines, I would strongly encourage you to write your congressman about this issue. Have your voice heard through our democratically elected representatives.

Merry Christmas!

Stephen T. Stoltzfus has 5 or 6 2-year old Holstein-Jersey springers, due February/March. Proven bull – 2½ yrs. old, has ring in nose and chain; he certainly needs it. Need to be careful with him. Call Stephen T. Stoltzfus at 717-442-8569. (next to ELS Manufac-turing, Amish Rd. , Kinzers)

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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