I have several questions. First I am confused about the mingling of livestock. If I were to doctor a calf with an antibiotic, say for pneumonia, do I have to remove that animal from the organic herd, or can it stay in the herd? The only thing different about it from the others is that it has been given an antibiotic.

Next, say I have a group of cattle that are not certified organic, for example a set of calves that I purchase to finish on grass. Do these cattle have to be kept separate from my organic herd? The management practices will be no different between my organic herd and my non-organic herd.

And my last question, for now. I know my beef-cow herd has to be managed organically, starting the third trimester until the calves are weaned from them. For me there is about a 10-to-12 week window after weaning and before the start of the third trimester. Is it possible to feed non-organic feed, say hay that has been purchased, to my cows in this timeframe? If I do feed non-organic feed in this time frame, do I have to take the pasture the cows were in at the time out of organic production?

Pat Thomson



We turned your question over to our friend Leslie Zuck, executive director of Pennyslvania Certified Organic. Here’s what Leslie had to say:

“In order to answer your questions accurately, I would need to know if your cattle are for dairy or beef production. For the time being, I will answer as though they are for beef.

“The treated animal can continue to be housed with organic animals, but it must be clearly marked and identified in your records, with date and material it was treated with. The treated animal cannot be sold or represented as organic because organic animals must be continuously managed organically their entire lives (and before birth during the last trimester of gestation.)

“As for separating your organic and non-organic animals, the same answer holds. It is very important that the non-organic animals can be clearly distinguished from the organic animals, so there is no mistake.

”Organic animals cannot be brought in and out of organic management. Therefore, you would not be allowed to give non-organic feed to your organic brood cows during the period you mentioned. A bull, however, does not have to be managed organically, unless you plan to sell him as an organic animal. If you do feed non-organic hay in a pasture, the feeding area would have to be removed from organic production, unless you could keep the hay from coming in contact with the ground. For example, you could feed it in a dry lot or concrete area that could be swept clean.

I hope this helps. As always, check with your certifier before making any changes to your organic system plan. If you are not certified yet, get in touch with a certifier as soon as possible, as some certifiers may require additional information or documentation in these particular circumstances. If you have additional questions or would like a free information packet on applying for organic certification, you can contact our organic transition specialist, Patty Neiner, at patty@paorganic.org.

Leslie Zuck
Executive director
Pennsylvania Certified Organic



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