Organic Beef & Dairy Cows
More than just Free Range
Choosing organic meat and dairy products has huge benefits not just for the animals that produce them, but also for farmers and the environment.
Organic farming systems have the very highest animal welfare standards. Choosing organic means you are supporting farming practices with a more traceable production process and you’ll always know what’s in your food.
Unlike many other farming systems, organic cows spend much of their lives outdoors where they can graze naturally on a diet of grass. Keeping cows indoors all their lives is banned under organic standards. When they go indoors because of bad weather, all cows must be housed in well-bedded spacious yards.
What makes organic different?
- Free range - By law, cows must be at pasture whenever conditions allow, over 200 days on average
- Fewer pesticides & no artificial fertilisers used on pasture
- Cows fed a grass-rich, GM free diet (minimum 60% grass-based)
- Routine antibiotic usage banned
- No system of farming has milk with higher levels of nutrients, e.g. Omega 3 fatty acids
- No system of farming has higher wildlife benefits
Happier, healthier animals
Organic dairy cows are generally not pushed to their milk producing limits in the same way other cows can be. Average yields in organic milk production are around a third less than in intensive production.
“Organic cows are fed a diet free from artificial additives, chemicals and genetically modified ingredients, and the routine use of antibiotics in the organic system is banned.”
Organic through and through
Organic beef and dairy cows eat a 100% organic diet. Soil Association farmers must always feed their cattle at least 60% fresh or dried fodder, roughage or silage on a daily basis.
A better life from birth
Soil Association standards have never allowed the sale of calves to continental style veal systems, and since 2010 our standards have specified that licensees must have a plan to end the practice of culling new born male calves.
Organic farmers tend to rear their beef cattle as suckler herds. This is where a cow suckles its calf until it is weaned at around nine months of age, then fattened. The cattle are usually kept in family groups up to weaning. This means they can follow their natural herding instincts and reduce stress.
The feeding of calves must be based on natural milk, preferably maternal milk for a minimum of three months. A calf may only be weaned when it is taking adequate solid food to cater to its full nutritional requirements. Calves cannot be weaned before three months of age.
Dairy farmers are often faced with a dilemma about what to do with male calves, as they cannot be used for milk production. Unfortunately, killing male dairy cows is something that happens on both organic and non-organic dairy farms, but it raises difficult ethical concerns. The Soil Association has long discouraged this practice, and we want to see an end to the unnecessary slaughter of male dairy calves. Our standards require farmers to have in place a plan to prevent the slaughter of unwanted calves, and we support our farmers to take measures – such as rearing bull calves for rose veal or beef, or selling them to other organic farmers with these systems – so that the killing of these male calves can be avoided. Male calves raised for veal are reared to 6 – 8 months of age. They enjoy plenty of space and light inside suitable buildings over winter and outside at pasture for the rest of the year, a varied diet and the care of a foster cow when available.
Good things happen when you go organic
Organic milk and dairy products are nutritionally different to non-organic products, with up to 50% more Omega-3 fatty acids. Find out more what makes organic milk and meat different.Find out more