Q Can I use antibiotics for my animals?
Yes, if they are ill.
Organic farming is about high standards of animal health and welfare. If antibiotics are needed to treat a condition in an individual animal, they must be used. There is a longer than usual withdrawal period before produce can be sold as organic. Organic standards do not allow routine preventative treatments with antibiotics (or most other medicines) on a herd or flock basis. You need to look at other management methods for disease prevention. Treatments such as routine dry cow therapy needs to be gradually phased out over the conversion period.
Q Can I share common grazing and still be organic?
Yes, in certain circumstances.
There has been much confusion and misunderstanding about common grazing and the organic standards. But, if you can show that your stock is clearly hefted, the land does not receive any prohibited inputs (verified by a grazers’ association agreement), your stock are clearly identified and any supplementary feeding complies with the Standards, then the common land can be used for organic production. The land can either undergo the two year organic conversion itself or, in most cases, be registered as common land for use in an organic system.
Q How long does it take to convert ?
Usually 2 years.
All land needs to undergo a two year monitored conversion period. After the conversion period, the next crop sown or planted into the land can be sold as organic.
If the whole farm or unit is undergoing conversion, the livestock can, in most cases, be converted at the same time. This means that milk or meat can be sold as organic at the end of the two year conversion of the land. In other situations, dairy cattle must have a further twelve week feeding period to produce organic milk; sheep and pigs must be mated on organic land to produce organic progeny; and beef cattle must be born 12 weeks after land conversion to be sold as organic. You need to discuss your individual situation with your organic certification organisation.
Q How do I maintain income during the conversion period and beyond?
Many farmers are concerned that organic conversion means a fall in income because of reduced stock numbers and a short term drop in crop production as the farm adjusts to longer term fertility management. This fall in income is not balanced in the conversion period by the price premiums which will be available after certification as organic. Note that there is an organic strand to the new Environmental Stewardship entry level scheme (OELS). Contact DEFRA’s Organic Unit (01270 754259) for advice.