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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care November 2008

(REMINDER: please keeps calls for routine work between 7 – 8 AM)

Hi Folks,

This newsletter is longer than usual because if you didn’t hear yet….the USDA officially posted the proposed new pasture standard on Thursday October 23. The proposed rule is very comprehensive and will definitely tighten up the regulations regarding pasture compliance. In this Moo News, I will quote the new changes that will potentially affect all certified organic dairy farmers – I say “potentially”because this is a proposed rule and there is a 60 day official comment period, after which the USDA will review constructive comments and then issue the final rule. This rule will probably take effect in spring 2010. Please realize that once a proposed rule change has been officially posted, it usually stays 95% intact unless there is landslide opposition. The proposed rule is very much in line with the vast majority of organic dairy farmers’ and organizations’ (NODPA, etc.) requests for tighter pasture standards, so most changes will probably only be around the edges. The central core, 30% dry matter intake from pasture for the entire growing season, will very likely stay as posted. Comments from anyone and everyone are being sought by the USDA; here are the ways to submit comments:
Mail: Comments may be submitted by mail to:
Richard H. Mathews, Chief, Standards Development and Review Branch
National Organic Program, Transportation and Marketing Programs, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP
1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 4008–So., Ag Stop 0268
Washington, DC 20250.
Internet: see the website    www.regulations.gov.
Written comments on this proposed rule should be identified with the docket number AMS-TM-06-0198; TM-05-14.
Identify the issue or questions of this proposed rule to which the comment refers.  Comments should directly relate to issues or questions raised by the proposed rule.
• Clearly indicate if you are for or against the proposed rule or some portion of it and your reason for your position. Include recommended language changes as appropriate.
Comments should be supported by reliable data. Commentors may include a copy of articles or other references that support their comments. Only relevant material should be submitted.

For the rest of this newsletter, only new changes to the existing rule will be shown. Also, I’ve put section headings in bold. Certified organic producers are already required to know the rule and should look to their own copy of the rule to see what will be staying the same. Mere technical numbering changes which will not be shown. The Definitions are at the end. Here goes...

§ 205.237 Livestock feed.
(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must provide livestock with a total feed ration composed of agricultural products, including pasture and forage, that are organically produced by operations certified to the NOP, except as provided in § 205.236(a)(i)), and, if applicable, organically handled by operations certified to the NOP: Except, That, synthetic substances allowed under § 205.603 and nonsynthetic substances may be used as feed additives and supplements, Provided, That, all agricultural ingredients in such additives and supplements shall have been produced and handled organically.
(b) The producer of an organic operation must not: (7) Provide feed or forage to which anyone, at anytime, has added an antibiotic; or (8) Prevent, withhold, restrain, or otherwise restrict ruminant animals from actively obtaining feed grazed from pasture during the growing season, except for conditions as described under § 205.239(c)
(c) During the growing season, producers shall provide not more than an average of 70 percent of a ruminant’s dry matter demand from dry matter fed (dry matter fed does not include dry matter grazed from vegetation rooted in pasture). Producers shall, once a month, on a monthly basis: (1) Document each feed ration (i.e., for each type of animal, each class of animal’s intended daily diet showing all ingredients, daily pounds of each ingredient per animal, each ingredient’s percentage of the total ration, the dry matter percentage for each ingredient, and the dry matter pounds for each ingredient); (2) Document the daily dry matter demand of each class of animal using the formula: Average Weight/Animal (lbs) × .03 = lbs DM/Head/Day × Number of Animals = Total DM Demand in lbs/Day; (3) Document how much dry matter is fed daily to each class of animal; and (4) Document the percentage of dry matter fed daily to each class of animal using the formula: (DM Fed ÷ DM Demand in lbs/day) × 100 = % DM Fed.

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions.
(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain year-round livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including those listed in paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(3) of this section. Further, producers shall not prevent, withhold, restrain, or otherwise restrict animals from being outdoors, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) and (c) of this section. Producers shall also provide: (1) Year-round access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, water for drinking (indoors and outdoors), and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its
stage of life, the climate, and the environment.(2) For all ruminants, continuous year round management on pasture, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (c) of this section, for: (i) Grazing throughout the growing season; and (ii) Access to the outdoors throughout the year, including during the non-growing season. Dry lots and feedlots are prohibited. (3) Appropriate clean, dry bedding. When hay, straw, ground cobs, or other crop matter typically fed to the animal species is used as bedding, it must comply with the feed requirements of § 205.237.
(b) The producer of an organic livestock operation may temporarily deny a non-ruminant
animal access to the outdoors because of:
(2) The animal’s stage of life;
(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation may temporarily deny a ruminant animal pasture under the following conditions: (1) When the animal is segregated for treatment of illness or injury (the various life stages, such as lactation, are not an illness or injury); (2) One week prior to parturition (birthing), parturition, and up to one week after parturition; (3) In the case of newborns for up to six months, after which they must be on pasture and may no longer be individually housed; (4) In the case of goats, during periods of inclement weather; (5) In the case of sheep, for short periods for shearing; and (6) In the case of dairy animals, for short periods daily for milking. Milking must be scheduled in a manner to ensure sufficient grazing time to provide each animal with an average dry matter intake from grazing of not less than 30 percent throughout the growing season. Milking frequencies or duration practices cannot be used to deny dairy animals pasture.
(d) Ruminants must be provided with:
(1) A lying area with well-maintained clean, dry bedding, which complies with paragraph (a)(3) of this section, during periods of temporary housing, provided due to temporary denial of pasture during conditions listed in paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(5) of this section; (2) Yards and passageways kept in good condition and well-drained; (3) Shade and in the case of goats, shelter open on at least one side; (4) Water at all times except during short periods for milking or sheering—such water must be protected from fouling; (5) Feeding and watering equipment that are designed, constructed, and placed to protect from fouling—such equipment must be cleaned weekly; and (6) In the case of newborns, hay in a rack off the ground, beginning 7 days after birth, unless on pasture, and pasture for grazing in compliance with § 205.240(a) not later than six months after birth.
(f) The producer of an organic livestock operation must manage outdoor access
areas, including pastures, in a manner that does not put soil or water quality at risk; this includes the use of fences and buffer zones to prevent ruminants and their waste products from entering ponds, streams, and other bodies of water. Buffer zone size shall be extensive enough, in full consideration of the physical features of the site, to prevent the waste products of ruminants from entering ponds, streams, and other bodies of water.

(This next section is completely new)
§205.240 Pasture practice standard.
The producer of an organic livestock operation must, for all ruminant livestock on the operation, demonstrate through auditable records in the organic system plan, a functioning management plan for pasture that meets all requirements of §§ 205.200 - 205.240.
(a) Pasture must be managed as a crop in full compliance with §§ 205.200 through 205.206.
(b) The producer must develop and annually update a comprehensive pasture plan for inclusion in the producer’s organic system plan. When there is no change to the previous year’s comprehensive pasture plan the certified operation may resubmit the previous year’s comprehensive pasture plan.
(c) The comprehensive pasture plan must include a detailed description of:
(1) Crops to be grown in the pasture and haymaking system; (2) Cultural practices, including but not limited to varying the crops and their maturity dates in the pasture system, to be used to ensure pasture of a sufficient quality and quantity is available to graze throughout the growing season and to provide all ruminants under the organic systems plan with an average of not less than 30 percent of their dry matter intake from grazing throughout the growing season;
(3) The haymaking system; (4) The location of pasture and haymaking fields, including maps showing the pasture and haymaking system and giving each field its own identity; (5) The types of grazing methods to be used in the pasture system; (6) The location and types of fences and the location and source of shade and water; (7) The soil fertility, seeding, and crop rotation systems;
(8) The pest, weed, and disease control practices; (9) The erosion control and protection of natural wetlands, riparian areas, and soil and water quality practices; (10) Pasture and soil sustainability practices; and (11) Restoration of pastures practices.
(d) The pasture system must include a sacrificial pasture, for grazing, to protect the other pastures from excessive damage during periods when saturated soil conditions render the pasture(s) too wet for animals to graze. The sacrificial pasture must be: (1) Sufficient in size to accommodate all animals in the herd without crowding; (2) Located where: (i) Soils have good trafficability; (ii) Well-drained; (iii) There is a low risk of soil erosion; (iv) There is low or no potential of manure runoff; (v) Surrounded by vegetated areas; and (vi) Easily restored.
(3) Managed to: (i) Provide feed value; and (ii) Maintain or improve soil, water, and vegetative resources. (4) Restored through active pasture management.
(e) In addition to the above, producers must manage pasture to comply with all applicable requirements of §§ 205.236 - 205.239.

DEFINITIONS for terms used in the proposed new pasture rule
Crop: Pastures, sod, cover crops, green manure crops, catch crops, and any plant or part of a plant intended to be marketed as an agricultural product, fed to livestock, or used in the field to manage nutrients and soil fertility. Dry matter: The amount of a feedstuff remaining after all the free moisture is evaporated out. Dry lot: A confined area that may be covered with concrete, but that has no vegetative cover. Feedlot: A confined area for the controlled feeding of ruminants.
Graze: (1) The consumption of standing forage by livestock. (2) To put livestock to feed on
standing forage. Grazing: To graze. Growing season: The period of time between the average date of the last killing frost in the spring to the average date of the first killing frost in the fall or early winter in the local area of production. This represents a temperature threshold of 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.9 degrees Celsius) or lower at a frequency of 5 years in 10. Growing season may range from 121 days to 365 days. Inclement weather: Weather that is violent, or characterized by temperatures (high or low), that can kill or cause permanent physical harm to a given species of livestock. Killing frost: A frost that takes place at temperatures between 25 degrees and 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2.2 and -3.9 degrees Celsius) for a period sufficiently severe to end the growing season or delay its beginning. Livestock: Any bee, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, equine animals used for food or in the production of food, fiber, feed, or other agricultural-based consumer products; fish used for food; wild or domesticated game; or other nonplant life.
Sacrificial pasture: A pasture or pastures within the pasture system, of sufficient size to accommodate all animals in the herd without crowding, where animals are kept for short periods during saturated soil conditions to confine pasture damage to an area where potential environmental impacts can be controlled. This pasture is then deferred from grazing until it has been restored through active pasture management. Sacrificial pastures are located where soils have good trafficability, are well-drained, have low risk of soil erosion, have low or no potential of manure runoff, are surrounded by vegetated areas, and are easily restored. A sacrificial pasture is land used for livestock grazing that is managed to provide feed value and maintain or improve soil, water, and vegetative resources; it is not a dry lot or feedlot. Temporary and Temporarily: Occurring for a limited time only (e.g., overnight, throughout a storm, during a period of illness, the period of time specified by the Administrator when granting a temporary variance), not permanent or lasting.
My thoughts on the above proposed rule (my thoughts do not represent the NOSB):
It is obvious that this really tightens up the pasture situation in the organic dairy sector – almost cracks the whip in a certain sense. The main things that stick out to me are: (1) very clear record keeping in terms of pasture intake (2) monthly feed ration calculations to show exactly what the animals are eating throughout the year (3) animals need to have at least 30% dry matter intake from pasture throughout the growing season (from last killing frost to first killing frost) (4) stream bank fencing is required (5) feeding hay to calves is required (6) bedding that could be consumed by animals must be certified organic (7) animal must be outside year round except for milking, times of illness and a week before and after calving (8) the use of a sacrificial paddock is required. While the vast majority of certified organic dairy farmers will be able to comply with the new rule, some won’t be able to and/or some will refuse to comply and therefore a few farms likely will exit organic dairy production.

At the first USDA Listening Session, held on Tuesday October 28 in Auburn New York, it was clear from the commenters that the requirement for animals to be outside year round simply will not work in the north country where ice and sleet are common during the non-growing season and frozen teats are likely. Also, the requirement of a sacrificial paddock was questioned since this could cause environmental damage due to manure build-up and health problems due to the paddock’s mud. Obviously there needs to be a middle ground on this issue - hopefully something that says animals are being fed on improved barnyards unless the weather and conditions are too dangerous for animals to be outside at all.  Please send constructive comments in favor or opposed (with specific wording changes) to the USDA NOP by Dec. 23rd.   In summary, this comprehensive proposed rule change is a huge victory for the vast majority of certified organic dairy farms.       HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!


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