Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vaccinations and Organic Farming...

Someone left a good question for a comment and Arthur thought I should just answer with a blog entry. The question is, "Do vaccinations affect the meat and dairy as far as organic things go?" First, we're not an organic dairy or beef or grain farm. Although we're about as close as you can come without being one.

As far as vaccinations go, they are permitted in organic dairys. You basically aren't allowed to give growth hormones, which we don't, or antibiotics, which we don't unless their about to die without getting them. Also with the young calves being vaccinated it will be at least a year before any of them are milked and hopefully much longer before any become hamburger. If we did want to go organic we would have a really hard time up here because most organic dairy farms are close to cities. I doubt there's anyone that would pick up our milk closer than a couple hundred miles. We haven't vaccinated our calves for a number of years but after having a number of them die, we decided we couldn't afford not too.

Milk is also very highly regulated. They test each persons tank before it leaves the farm and each milk truck before it is unloaded at the processing plant. They test it for all kinds of antibiotics, hormones, detergents (from pipeline cleaning), bacteria, somatic cell counts, etc. If anything has a high rating they either won't take the milk, or if it's just a small trace they might take it and really dock the farmer's check. This is really good motivation to keep the milk clean of anything! Meat is pretty highly regulated too, but I don't know as much about that.

There's other ways we operate more "organically" than most farmers. One big thing we do is keep them on pasture from late spring (as soon as there's grass) to late fall (or as soon as it's too cold or too wet out). Only about 10% of dairy cows are out on pasture. More are going that way as they see the great benefits of being outdoors. We treat our fields, which gives us grain, as little as possible. One reason being, pesticides and herbicides are really expensive. We use all of our waste products (manure) for fertilizer. We farm with my father-in-law and so he does more of the crop stuff than us. We don't push the feed like big time dairies do. It might give more milk but it shortens their lifespan and we kinda like to keep them around!

We've tried a lot of other remedies for sicknesses, etc. The natural things work most of the time and we try those things first. As far as the growth hormones, I've heard childhood obesity blamed on them. I'm afraid I have to disagree. I believe most heavy children are heavy due to lack of exercise. However, we don't use them and have no desire to. We are also a closed herd which means we don't purchase cows from other places, unless we get a really great deal. Instead we raise our own calves.

I could go on and on about the reasons why we do what we do and the politics behind farming. For example, we get tons of mail addressing farm issues. I don't know that I've hardly seen any that encourage farmers to be content with what they have. They always push farmers to get bigger and bigger and get more certified, more professional, bigger equipment, etc. Sometimes I think it has taken the family farm and turned them into goverment factories. No, we're also not in all the big farm programs, in fact we operate debt free without their handouts. Anyway, I'll tell about that some other time. For now, we are content with what God has trusted us with and probably won't be making any big changes without His showing us we need to do so.

I hope this answers your question! It probably brought up a whole bunch more!! Go ahead and ask whatever you want, we enjoy helping people understand what we do. Have a great evening!


  1. we were assuming black leg is rare? and so didnt know if it was a special vaccination for it. didn't know you weren't organic (according to the "experts" anyhow) either way whatever works. we just didnt know about the vacc thing. do you all only vacc when problems arise? or do you do preventive vacc. would this have been given at a later date anyway? again just curious to be curious.

  2. You guys are probably better off NOT being certified as organic...there are a TON of hoops and paperwork to jump thru when you're doing organic livestock...even more so than organic farming. Daniel & Thomas do some beef cows (like about 30 or 40), but it was just too much work to get them certified...although they don't vaccinate them either. In our case, the calves aren't usually around long enough to need to vaccinate, and they've never had any problems before. :)

  3. agree totally with not being certified organic, would rather be organic just on own like you all do. probably more organic then the cert ones.

  4. Blackleg isn't too rare only most people vaccinate for it so I guess there's no way to know for sure. We used to vaccinate all the time but a few years ago, after not having any problems, we quit. Who knows why?!! Anyway, this year we had to out of necessity and I would guess we'll keep on doing it. -Camille


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