Why we produce organic milk
And why you might want to buy it!
We believe that milk produced in an organic and regenerative farming system is more likely to be nutritious, free from unwanted chemicals, heavy metals and GMOs. And, the farming system is better for our soil and other natural resources, and ourselves.
The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce sets out the rules we need to follow, and an annual on-site audit is conducted by our certifier, Southern Cross.
These are some of the features that make our farm different to other dairy farms:
We don’t use any synthetic fertilisers – which inhibit soil microbes and can contain heavy metals. We look at soil and pasture test results to determine what our plants and soil need, then use organic solutions. Our main needs are beneficial soil microbes, food for those good bugs (such as kelp, fish and molasses) and some trace elements. Our soils are rich in nutrients but many of them are bound on to soil particles. Having enough of the right kinds of microbes and plants helps make those nutrients available. The lack of synthetic fertilisers means that our pasture sometimes grows slower than on other farms, so we have fewer animals on the farm (described as a lower stocking rate).
We recognise that in nature, ecosystems are diverse; there are no monocultures. Similarly in our pastures, we want diversity of plants. Therefore, we plant a wide range of seeds, which gives the cattle variety in their diet, and supports a plethora of soil organisms. We need diversity in the soil, as different microbes have unique roles, and we need a complete community underground.
We don’t use any herbicides, which generally isn’t a problem for us as our cattle eat most plants that are sometimes regarded as weeds. The main problems we have are with blackberries that we mulch.
We rely very much on having large numbers of diverse soil microbes. It takes considerable time to grow these little helpers, and they need to be looked after. That means generally not cultivating soil, minimising soil’s expose to sun, wind and heavy rain, and not using products that will kill soil organisms – such as herbicides, insecticides and synthetic fertilisers. The microbes have an essential role in getting nutrients in to plants.
Research from the UK
has shown that the nutritional value of foods have declined over 80 years of testing.
Results would probably be similar here, and this is most likely related to the damage that industrial farming systems – particularly synthetic fertilisers - have caused to the soil.
Whilst we don’t have the data for Australia, it would be interesting to know whether a similar trend has occurred here.
Organic farming systems are often more labour- intensive and less productive than those that use synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and antibiotics, which is one reason why consumers should expect to pay a bit more for an organic product.
Research from the US
Research at the Rodale Institute in the USA is investigating the long term differences between conventional and organic vegetable growing.
There is minimal research information about conventional and organic milk. But, it has been shown that grass fed animals produce milk (and meat) with better ratios of omega 3 : omega 6 fatty acids.
This is very important as science has shown that a low intake of omega 3 fatty acids can lead to increased risk of chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and heart failure.