Question of the Week
Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information regarding organic dairy goat production.
Please refer to the ATTRA publications that discuss the organic certification process and organic production, including Organic Farm Certification & the National Organic Program, Organic Certification Process, and National Organic Program Compliance Checklist for Producers. I would encourage you to read through those publications, as they should answer many of the questions you may have about transitioning to organic production. NCAT's Organic Livestock Workbook will be helpful to you as you transition to organic production. This workbook will help you evaluate your current practices and determine if you are meeting organic regulations. This will let you know what changes to your current production practices you’ll need to make to meet organic regulations.
Listed below are several articles and resources that should be helpful to you, and others, as you make the transition to organic production. It is important to note that some of the articles are not specific to dairy goats, but the information is still relevant. Below you will find:
• Excerpts of NOP Livestock Production Standards. This document gives the basic rules for organic production. It breaks down the rules and makes them a little easier to understand.
• The National List. This is the list of all of the products allowed or not allowed in organic production.
• Several articles regarding organic dairy goat production. These articles cover the basic principles of organic goat production and clarify the rules.
• Raising Organic Livestock in Maine: MOFGA Accepted Health Practices, Products and Ingredients. This article has a great list of common ailments and includes preventative measures and organic treatments. It lists products that are commonly allowed in organic production and suppliers of the products.
Baier, A. 2006. Excerpts of NOP Livestock Production Standards (draft). ATTRA publication. 5 p.
Baier, A. 2006. Excerpts of NOP Standards (draft). ATTRA publication. 4 p.
Transitioning to Organic Sheep or Goat Dairy Production. Organic Fact Sheet. www.mosesorganic.org. 1 p.
Schoenian, S. 2005. Raising Sheep & Goats Organically. 2 p.
Thank you for requesting information on raising Berkshire hogs.
Below you will find a reference to the new Berkshire Swine Production and Marketing "Berkshire Niche Market Opportunity Guidelines” publications prepared by the Pork Niche Market Working Group in Iowa. It is an excellent publication on raising Berkshire hogs. There is also an Excel Berkshire Production Decision Aids available at their Web site. There are also references to a couple of articles discussing pork niche marketing. See the ATTRA publications, Hog Production Alternatives and Pork: Marketing Alternatives.
Honeyman, M. S., et al. 2006. The United States pork niche market phenomenon. Journal of Animal Science. Volume 84. p. 2260-2275.
Huber, Gary. 2007. Specialty pork marketing opportunities. The Practical Farmer. p. 15-16.
McMullen, Larry K. 2006. Berkshire swine production and marketing. Pork Niche Market Working Group. PN03-05B. August. 24 p.
McMullen, Larry K. 2006. Berkshire Production Decision Aids. 5 p.
Thank you for your question about managing white grubs. Please see ATTRA's Sustainable Turf Care publication. This publication has information about managing white grubs on pages 18 and 33. I would also recommend that you visit the ATTRA webpage to access the new Biorationals Database tool, described in more detail below.
White grubs are the larval stage of many species of scarab beetle, including Japanese beetles, European chafers, Oriental beetles and Asiatic garden beetles.
The beetles spend the winter as a grubs, buried in the soil. There they feed first on decaying vegetation and later on plant roots. The adults emerge in July and August. “They prefer to feed on parts of the plant exposed to the sun. As a rule, there is one generation annually, but the grubs may take 2 years to develop in wet cold soils” (1). Adults are strong fliers, able to travel up to 5 miles. They feed and fly during the day.
Adult beetles feed on more than 350 kinds of plants, so crop rotation or elimination of hosts would be almost impossible. However, some older research (1963) indicated that Japanese beetle grubs do not do well in red, white, sweet or alsike clovers, alfalfa, soybean, buckwheat, or orchardgrass. Using one or more of these as a cover crop or green manure might lessen the incidence of Japanese beetles in your fields.
It is important to keep fields free of weeds and turf, since these are the places where beetles prefer to lay their eggs. A recent study that examined beetle populations in nursery fields found that Japanese beetles were far more abundant in grassy areas bordering fields than in the field itself (2). Weedy fields supported more than 10 times as many larvae as clean fields.
Some of the most promising research in biological control focuses on using the nematodes Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and Steinernema glaseri to kill beetle grubs in the soil. You can get more detailed information if you go to the ATTRA website homepage, click on the “Biorationals Database” (right hand column) or simply go to:
and then use the database by selecting “Insect” in the “Pest Category” box, and under that, selecting “white grub” in the “Pest Name” box, then click on “search treatment options” box just below the “pest name” box. The table generated by this search provides hotlinks to more details about each product, including labels, active ingredients, pests controlled and manufacturer contact information.
Cattle have the potential to give value to cover crops in rotation, where the land might otherwise not yield an economic return. Many farmers utilize legume cover crops in rotation to build soil and increase soil nitrogen for subsequent crops. Cover crops greatly benefit small grain and vegetable yields without the use of soluble fertilizers. However, most cover crops are used as green manures and incorporated into the soil in preparation for subsequent crops. Cattle grazing on legume cover crops can benefit the farm system economically and ecologically. By selling fed steers or custom grazing yearlings, a financial return can be made on the land, and through added nutrient cycling (through dunging and urine deposition) soil fertility can be enhanced.
Grazing cattle will return 70 to 85% of the nutrients they consume to the pasture. When combined with nutrient additions from the dead leaves and roots of pasture plants, nitrogen contributions to nutrient cycling can approach 280 pounds per acre per year in a moderately managed grass/clover pasture. Pastures with a legume component of 20 to 45% are more sustainable than monoculture grass pastures, as the legumes will contribute significantly to nitrogen fertility. For more information see ATTRA’s Nutrient Cycling in Pastures.
If you are considering adding a grazing component to an existing cropping system it is wise to note that the cost of electric fencing and water delivery can eat up profits quickly, unless these structures are already in place. Consider grazing more valuable animals, such as steers or replacement heifers, instead of cows. Steers and heifers are generally maintained for a short period of time, and you will not have to cover yearly maintenance costs that are associated with keeping a cow herd. However, raising steers or heifers can require more management skill. For more information on alternative beef enterprises see ATTRA’s Beef Marketing Alternatives.
Cover Crop Selection – a few ideas
Techniques that help to build up the soil (COG, 1992):
• Ensure a balance of cash crops (corn and soybeans) and soil-conserving cover crops (clovers).
• Deep rooted crops (sweet clover, alfalfa) should alternate with shallow-rooting crops (cereals) to help keep the soil structure open and assist in drainage.
• Alternate between crops with high-root biomass (rye) and low-root biomass (oats). Pasture grasses with their high root biomass provide soil organisms, particularly earthworms, with food.
• Alternate crops that are high moisture users (corn) with plants that require lesser amounts of moisture (barley).
• Allelopathic crops (rye and sunflowers) should be alternated to prevent a build up of their natural chemical toxins.
• Alternate nitrogen fixers (legumes) with high nitrogen consumers (corn and winter wheat)
Winter cover crops that can be grazed in the late fall or early spring
Fall planted Austrian winter pea and oats (will winter kill)
Fall planted winter wheat, following corn
Fall planted hairy vetch and annual rye (will not winter kill)
Fall planted annual ryegrass in a soybean-corn rotation
Forage brassicas intercropped with corn for fall grazing (contact me if you are interested in more information on interseeding forage brassicas)
Summer annual crops for strip-grazing
Siberian or Hungarian foxtail millet
Cool-season forages for rotations into permanent pasture
Before starting a new grazing enterprise, conduct an economic analysis to measure your breakeven cost, and determine how many animals it will take to make a profit. The following resources will assist you in doing a thorough economic analysis of a grazing operation.
1. University of Missouri
Downloadable livestock enterprise spreadsheets
2. Texas A&M University
Break-even Costs for Cow/Calf Producers
3. Texas A&M University
Partial Budget for Beef Cattle Management
4. Oklahoma State University
OSU Animal Science Extension Computer Software
Canadian Organic Growers. 1992. COG Field Crop Handbook.
MSU. 2007. Forage Information Systems. Michigan State University Extension.