Converting livestock to organic

#Converting livestock to organic

Can I convert my livestock to organic?

The USDA National Organic Program standards allow for a distinct herd of dairy animals — cattle, sheep, goats, etc. — to be converted to organic production over a one-year transitional period of organic management.

Once an animal is converted to organic, it may not be reinstated if its organic certification is forfeited (e.g., treated with antibiotics, fed non-organic feed, etc.).

How long does livestock conversion take?

The conversion to organic process takes one year.

Livestock must be managed and raised in accordance with organic management requirements for feed and feed supplements, medications, grazing, and living conditions for a full year (365 days) prior to being eligible for organic certification for dairy production. If your certifier finds noncompliance during the livestock conversion process, you will be required to restart the process.

#Livestock eligibility for organic conversion

Which livestock are eligible for organic conversion?

Dairy animals
You can convert a distinct herd of dairy animals to organic over a one year period of time. We’ve outlined specific considerations for feed, pasture and breeding stock below.

Poultry
Conventional poultry may be converted to organic production (meat and eggs) only if it was raised organically beginning the second day of life (e.g., “day-old chicks”).

Which livestock are not eligible for organic conversion?

Slaughter stock
Under no circumstances can conventional animals be converted or sold as organic slaughter stock.

However, slaughter stock under full organic management beginning no later than the third trimester of gestation is eligible for certification. The mother cow — or other animal — must be managed organically for at least the last three (3) months before the slaughter animal was born.

Poultry
Older poultry grown under conventional management is allowed only as breeder stock for the production of hatching eggs. Neither the conventional birds nor their eggs can be sold as organic.

Formerly organic livestock
You may not convert any animal that was once certified organic once certification is forfeited. For example, if the animal was put out on transitional pasture, or fed transitional feed, it will immediately lose its organic status and is ineligible for recertification.

What can I feed my milking animal during conversion?

Milking animals in conversion must be fed certified organic feed and pasture.

The feed must either be (a) grown on your managed land that is already eligible for organic certification or (b) grown on transitional land in its last year of transition (24 months or more free of prohibited materials).

What do I need to know about converting breeding stock?

Breeding stock does not require a conversion process. However, for offspring to be considered organic, the mother must be managed organically for three (3) months before offspring is born.

Do I need to transition all my pasture before converting my livestock?

Dairy animals in conversion may be fed pasture and feedstuffs harvested from any of your fields that are in the third and final year of transition.

Third-year transitional pasture and feed must meet all the organic requirements with the exception of land history. Once livestock in conversion are eligible for organic certification, they may no longer be fed transitional feed. Consider timing your pasture and cropland transition to be completed at the same time (or prior to) the completion of your animals’ conversion. You must keep records that confirm requirements were met throughout the conversion year.

#Three-year transition process for pasture

What do I need to know about transitioning pasture?

Land is eligible for organic certification three years after the last application of a prohibited material such as fertilizers and pesticides. Learn more about transitioning farmland to organic.

How do I time my land transition with livestock conversion?

Consider applying for organic certification prior to beginning the one-year livestock conversion period. You’ll want to time your livestock conversion completion to align with your final year of pasture transition.

This approach affirms if your organic management practices are in compliance before you invest a lot of resources in the conversion process.

Confirm your sales market and organic certified processing facility in advance. Though this is not required to obtain organic certification, having a solid business plan will help you be successful. We’re always happy to discuss your plans and how to align certification timelines along the way.

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