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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink Are vitamins and minerals acceptable organic supplements for my organic hogs and cattle?


Answer: According to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule, Section 205.237, Livestock Feed, minerals and vitamins are allowed as feed additives as long as they are FDA approved. The specific rules are:

Section 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 and, if applicable, organically handled: EXCEPT, that non-synthetic substances and synthetic substances allowed under 205.603 may be used as feed additives and supplements.

Section 205.603 - Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production

Section (d): As feed additives
(1) Trace minerals, used for enrichment or fortification when FDA approved, including:

(i) Copper sulfate
(ii) Magnesium sulfate

(2) Vitamins, used for enrichment or fortification when FDA approved

USDA/NOP Feed additive definition: A substance added to feed in micro quantities to fulfill a specific nutritional need: i.e., essential nutrients in the form of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Most farm stores should have several different types of minerals that are FDA approved that could be added to your hog or cattle rations, either free-choice or mixed in their rations.



Permalink Where can I find information about paints allowed on organically certified farms?


Answer: Paints are not specifically mentioned in the National Organic Program rules, although some paints may contain materials on the NOP "prohibited" list. The resources below will give you some guidance about "safer" paints; HOWEVER, always check with your certifier before using any material that has not been approved in your Organic System Plan.


Anon. 2004. Green and healthy paints, stains and finishes. Green Homes for Sale. 5 p.

Anon. 2005. Paints, finishes and adhesives. A Sourcebook for Green and Sustainable Building. 12 p.

Edwards, Lynn. 2003. Natural paints. Permaculture Magazine. Autumn. 3 p.

Hurst-Wajszczuk, Joe. 2004. Color your world with safer paints. The Mother Earth News Guide to Homes. Summer. p. 90-93.



Permalink Where can I find information about making and marketing wreaths?


Answer: The University of Maine’s Extension Service has quite a bit of information on this subject. There are also many other materials related to business start-up available either through your local Extension office or from the Web site. Below are two URLs from Maine’s Web site, from which you will be able to find more information.

Maine Extension Publications

Site provides descriptions of Maine’s Extension Publications. They can be ordered on-line.

Small and Home-based Business Virtual Resource Library

Site offers links to many states’ extension publications related to small businesses.

In addition, check out some of ATTRA’s business and marketing materials. Those on adding value to products will be especially relevant as you assess the potential of making wreaths as a business. You can call 800-346-9140 (toll-free) and request a hard copy or find them online at:
Keys to Success in Value-Added Agriculture

Adding Value to Farm Products: An Overview [PDF / 261 kb]


Cercone, Mark, and William D. Lilley. N.d. Making Balsam Fir Wreaths. Bulletin #7012, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. 7 p.

Cercone, Mark, William D. Lilley, and Jim Philp. 1998. Making Wreaths for Profit. Bulletin #7013, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. 3 p.

McConnon, Jim. N. d. Estimating Retail Market Potential. Bulletin #3012, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. 5 p.



Permalink Will feeding Diatomaceous Earth help control internal parasites in goats, and will feeding kelp to them prevent Vitamin B deficiency?


Answer: DE has not been proven to reduce internal parasites. Some farmers think it helps, but others have had no success. Researchers have tried several times to find an effect of DE on internal parasites, and have found none. Diatomaceous Earth does help to control flies, but inhaling DE can damage the lungs.

The article by Joan Burke at the USDA/ARS/Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center in Booneville, Arkansas (see below), discusses management of Barber pole worm. Another article discussing a workshop held at Langston University in 2000 provides some details on the problem and the options and goals of sustainable internal parasite control. The writer lives in Oklahoma and may be a valuable contact for you.

Goat producers that use kelp or seaweed in their rations seem happy with the results. According to various Web sites marketing kelp products, kelp may be fed to many different species of animals. However, we were unable to find any scientific studies that show the value of kelp when fed to animals. Enclosed is an article showing the nutrient analysis for one brand of kelp, for your information. The article describes the way kelp is used by a dairy goat producer. As you know, the cost of using kelp as a part of your ration may be prohibitive. You'll have to weigh the benefits against the expense.

Vitamin deficiencies may be a result of poor-quality forage, and if so, kelp will not be the best solution.


Beam, Charles. 2000. Sustainable internal parasite control for small ruminants—Workbook report. 2 p.

Burke, Joan. 2005. Management of Barber pole worm in sheep and goats in the Southern U.S. Small Farm Research Update. February. (PDF / 23 kb)

Stultz, Jennifer. 2004. Sea kelp: A healthy choice for dairy goats? Dairy Goat Journal. May/June.



Permalink How can I control shattercane in my organic fields without using chemicals?


Answer: Below is a link to a Nebraska Extension publication, Shattercane and Its Control. This is the only Extension publication that talks about non-chemical control.

The relevant pages cited in Jay L. McCaman's self-published book, Weeds and Why They Grow, identify the specific soil characteristics preferred by many common weeds. Low organic matter is one of shattercane's preferences, and this might be one area that you can manipulate over time. As an organic grower, you're probably already using many practices to build soil organic matter, such as adding compost or manure, cover cropping, and green manuring. You might add needed micronutrients (if your soil test shows deficits), but improving your soil structure will be the better investment.

Increased biological activity in the soil affects the persistence of shattercane seed. This fact supports an effort to increase soil organic matter, since biological activity is usually closely correlated with increased organic matter. You might consider buying compost tea and Effective Micro-organisms (EM) to increase the biological activity of your soil. You can call ATTRA for more information on these materials. Besides monitoring your organic matter through soil tests, you can use earthworm numbers as a quick method to determine whether you're making progress. Your earthworm population will increase as does your soil organic matter and the biological activity in that soil. You can take a shovelful of soil and count the worms in it. You will be able to check trends if you do this count at the same time every year.

This isn't a quick fix for the shattercane problem, but it might provide some clues to the weak link in this noxious weed's life cycle.

Library and Internet searches failed to turn up any work on biological control agents for shattercane. Even though shattercane is one of the top-ten noxious weeds worldwide, its close genetic relationship to crop sorghum would inhibit any targeted biological effort against it.


Buhler, Douglas D. 1999. Expanding the Context of Weed Management. Food Products Press, New York, NY. 289 p.

Roeth, Fred, Alex Martin, and Robert Klein. 1996. Shattercane and Its Control. G94-1205-A NebGuide. Cooperative Extension Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 6 p.

McCaman, Jay L. 1994. Weeds and Why They Grow. Jay L. McCaman, Sand Lake, MI. p. 42-44, 81-82.

Order from:
Jay McCaman
Box 22
Sand Lake, MI 49343
[This was still available from Mr. McCaman for $24 as of January 2005].

Sullivan, Preston G. n.d. Organic Herbicides. ATTRA. Fayetteville, AR. 6 p.



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