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Conversion to Organic Milk Production (OF0103)

Haggar, Roger and Padel, Susanne (1996) Conversion to Organic Milk Production (OF0103). Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Ty Gwyn.

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Online at: http://www.organic.aber.ac.uk/library/Conversion%20to%20organic%20milk%20production.pdf

Summary

This is the final report from the Defra project OF0103
In the UK fewer than 50 dairy farms were registered as organic in June 1995. The slow increase of farmers willing to convert to organic milk production was seen as one impediment for development of the organic milk market. The overall objective of this joint 3-year project was to monitor the physical, environmental and financial implications of conversion to organic milk production on a research farm (Ty Gwyn) and ten commercial farms in southwest England and Wales, in order to provide policy makers and farmers with more information about the consequences of conversion. Although the size of the sample is comparably small it represents about 20% of all organic dairy farms in the UK and an even larger proportion of farms converting in the South Western region at the time.
The report has substantial section on the following themes:
• Land use and farm management, including the varying degrees of enterprise specialisation, conversion in stages or all at once, and motives for conversion
• Soil nutrients, including nutrient budgets and balances, in which organic management generally produced lower nutrient surpluses
• Herbage production trends after conversion and related to other factors such as soil type; generally herbage production fell sharply initially but then recovered substantially in the second and third years, also with increased herbage quality
• Biodiversity studies, showing that there were few weed problems and that species richness of small mammals and birds tended to increase after conversion
• Animal production, showing increasing milk from forage per cow and initial sharp falls in stocking rate, which then increased to within 90% of the period before conversion by year 4 of organic management.
• Animal health, where the main features were reduced use of antibiotics, increased use of alternative remedies, only slightly higher rates of clinical mastitis, and only low incidence of bloat even with clover rich grazing
• Economic performance, where initial milk sales were substantially reduced as premiums could not be obtained in the first three years when stocking rates were so much reduced, although gross margins per cow were increased due to reduced variable costs; this was followed by a recovery of revenue levels, to an extent which varied with farm type, but the small sample size requires caution in interpreting the results.
The attached main report starts with a more detailed executive summary.


EPrint Type:Report
Type of Facility:Other
Keywords:dairy, conversion, livestock, forage, rotations, knowledge transfer
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Production systems > Pasture and forage crops
Farming Systems
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Dairy cattle
Research affiliation: UK > Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER)
UK > Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
UK > Univ. Aberystwyth > Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)
Research funders: UK > Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Project ID:OF0103
Start Date:1 October 1992
End Date:30 September 1995
Deposited By: Defra, R&D Organic Programme
ID Code:6789
Deposited On:07 Apr 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:32
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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