Richard Ghilarducci Talks About Organic Dairy in Northern California
Ever since the organic food movement gained prominence, organic dairy has experienced widespread demand across the world. As per Richard Ghilarducci, organic dairy farms allow their cows to graze, do not use growth hormones or antibiotics on their livestock, as well as are committed to treating the animals humanely. He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Humboldt Creamery Association, and had testified before the first-ever Congressional hearing on organic agriculture and business. California has a large number of organic farms.
Richard Ghilarducci briefly sheds light on organic dairy production in Northern California
Like any other business model, organic dairy production also has its pros and cons. Managing organic dairy farms can definitely be hectic and challenging, but the workload involved is generally lighter compared to conventional dairies. In organic dairy production, activities such as applying fertilizers, pesticides, or administering antibiotics and hormone injections are not part of the routine. The primary complexities in organic dairy farming are linked to the management of calves. Ensuring the well-being and survival of baby calves in an organic setting, especially in larger-scale operations, is a demanding task. It is crucial to provide these calves with sufficient care and support.
Outdoor hutches have been used at many farms for years and have worked well to raise each calf individually. Hence, organic dairies try to buy more of them. In terms of the feed, there are very specific advantages and disadvantages associated with organic dairy production. The good part is that dairymen are able to rely on the prolific grass and clover pasture of Northern California which is high in protein and self-fertilized. It is grazed and also put up as silage. Northern California enjoys a cool and comfortable climate for most part of the year. Most of the family owned dairies of the region are pasture based, and grow most of their forage in an organic manner. Therefore, the bulk of its feed is something these dairies have complete control over. However, challenges arise when it comes to acquiring organic grains. Organic corn that tends to be used by certain dairies usually comes into Oregon by train, which the dairymen have to haul in. They generally feed barley and flax meal or canola meal to the cows as well. Such feed may come from varying directions, and it is not always easy to find for a reasonable amount.
As per Richard Ghilarducci, pivoting to organic production has been a natural progression for a large number of dairymen in California. A lot of them were already utilizing all manure for fertilizers, and as a result most of their fields qualified organic. Several of these dairymen also work on creating and executing intensive herd-health programs. These programs are very important to organic dairy production, as one has to be very hands-on with the cows to successfully run such a dairy. A good deal of attention needs to be provided to the health and well being of the cows. Such cows cannot be given antibiotics. However, they are allowed to be vaccinated and organic dairies try to take the best possible advantage of this measure.