Transitioning livestock to organic

#Transitioning livestock to organic

Can I convert my livestock to organic?

The USDA National Organic Program standards allow operations that are not certified for organic livestock and that have not transitioned dairy animals to transition a distinct herd of dairy animals — cattle, sheep, goats, etc. — only one time. Transitioning conventional dairy animals to organic requires one year of documented organic management.  Operations may not transition additional animals, or source transitioned animals from other operations unless it is approved under a temporary variance, after the one-time transition is complete.

Once an animal has transitioned 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 transition take?

The transition 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 transition

Which livestock are eligible for organic transition?

Dairy animals

You can transition a distinct herd of dairy animals to organic over a one-year period of time, only one time, and only if your operation is not already certified for organic livestock and has never transitioned dairy animals to organic. We’ve outlined specific considerations for feed, pasture and breeding stock below.

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 transition?

Slaughter stock

Under no circumstances can conventional animals be converted or sold as organic slaughter stock. Animals that have transitioned to organic dairy production are not eligible for organic slaughter.

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 third of gestation before the slaughter animal was born.

Older poultry grown under conventional management are 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 transition any animal that was once certified organic after certification is forfeited.

What can I feed my milking animal during transition?

Milking animals in transition must be fed certified organic feed and pasture or third year transitioning crops from the operations own land. If third year transitioning feed is consumed during the transitioning period of a milking animal in their last third of gestation, the offspring born will also be considered transitioned and not organic slaughter eligible.

What do I need to know about transitioning breeding stock?

Breeding stock do not require a transition process. However, for offspring to be considered organic, the mother must be managed organically from the last third of gestation (pregnancy).

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

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

Third-year transitional pasture and feed must meet all the organic requirements with the exception of land history. Once livestock in transition 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’ transition. 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 transition?

Consider applying for organic certification prior to beginning the one-year livestock transition period. You’ll want to time your livestock transition 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 transition 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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