Manure application in organic production

RDH rdhopkins at
Wed Jul 31 14:54:03 EDT 2002


We operate a managed grazing operation and have been free of chemicals and
pharmaceuticals for almost five years on our ruminants (beef/sheep)
Parasites can be controlled with grazing.  That isn't the issue for us.  It
could be an issue for the confinement dairies as I see them spreading one
day and grazing or cutting fodder a week later.

What does concern me is that grazing crop residue is a common practice, but
under the NOP's could not be used in a no-till system as the manure does not
get incorporated into the soil in the fashion that the NOP's require.

We utilize our pastures for garden crops at varying times of the year.  I am
told that these crops cannot be certified organic because the manure left by
the ruminants does not fit the requirements of the NOP's.  Now in my mind
our practice is as "organic" as you can get.

We plan on certifying our forage crops as organic.  We do not foresee a
problem in achieving that, allowing us to either supply organic forage seed
or hay.  As a marketing tactic we can then state that our livestock are
raised on certified organic pastures even though we do not plan on going for
an organic meat label at this point.  The costs for new labels and double
certification would not be offset by our small scale operation.  We may
reconsider in sometime in the future, though.

Rick Hopkins
American Pasturage, Inc.
P.O. Box 190
Marionville, MO  65705
(417) 258-2394
For the American Homestead Foods Certification Program go to
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-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Williams [mailto:mrfarm at]
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2002 1:29 PM
To: Market Farming
Subject: [market-farming] RE: Manure application in organic production

Rick Hopkins wrote:
> The NOP's require a certified organic grower to take precautions
> when using
> animal manures as fertilizer.  There is nothing to prevent a conventional
> grower from using animal manure (or other manures) any way they see fit.
> Even if a law exists, who is checking?

Probably true although does it vary from state to state? As many know, the
food with one of the highest death rates and illness are sprouts and my
understanding is that is due primarily to contamination from animal manures.

> According to the NOP, uncomposted manures can be applied to cropland which
> is not to be used for human consumption.  What crops don't end up in the
> food chain?

Most crops are not directly used for human consumption in the U.S. since the
majority are used for grain and forage for livestock feeding. Isn't it OK to
use manures on such crops? Most crops in the U.S. are going toward the use
of humans and much of that for food with some for non-food fiber and other

> Does it seem prudent to spread uncomposted manure on forage
> crops when we know that is how the parasite cycle is maintained?

If you graze livestock as we do, you are in effect depositing the freshest
manure right on the plants that will be grazed. If you are a managed grazier
such as we do, then you can minimize the problem depending upon the timing
of how long your rotations of your livestock between paddocks. It is still
not easy and organic grazing is problematic in terms of serious parasite
loads, particularly in young stock and becomes a moral issue for some

> In summary it appears to me that the NOP's do not address the use of
> livestock for grazing crop residue in a no-till planting system.

One thing to consider is how much support the organic producers have toward
grazing. Some do perhaps, but in our area and the Midwest Region here in the
U.S. there does not seem to be a lot of support by the leadership for
grazing ruminant animals at this time.

As one organic cerification executive director explained to me, grazing must
be separated from organic because organic is a completely different issue
and they are more concerned with what is not in your food rather than a
specific practice such as grazing. Some of the opposition to grazing seems
to be perhaps due to management issues and perhaps even due to concerns of
repeat infestation of parasites on grazed lands compared with the relative
reduction of parasite ingestion when in confinement.

It seems to me that organic has painted itself into a corner with virtually
no possible parasite control treatments available (that actually work), and
this has even been done for young stock if I understand the NOP.


Rick Williams
Misty Ridge Farm
Dairy heifers and dairy beef graziers
Viroqua, WI

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