What is organic farming?
Organic farming is the only method of production that has legally binding commitments on animal welfare, land use and environmental protection. At Calon Wen we take what we describe as an holistic approach to farming and that is the desire to put back whatever is taken out of a natural resource. We do not use artificial chemical fertilisers on our land or provide antibiotic feed additives for our livestock. Our organic farming methods are based upon natural forms of farming such as biological pest control and crop rotation and the cows enjoy the outdoor life for ¾ of the year, which means plenty of time to graze the clover rich fields as well as getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. For Calon Wen members, this means breeding hardy dairy cattle that enjoy living outside for most of the year.
How are the organic standards set?
The standards in Europe are set by the European Union and conform to internationally agreed standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM or Organics International). The responsibility for applying these rules in the UK lies with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Is organic farming better for the environment?
In our opinion, yes. The ethos of organic farming depends on encouraging healthy soil rich in nutrients, microbial activity and worms! Lots of worms mean healthy soil. Pesticides and fertilisers have the potential to harm both the soil environment and water courses so their use is routinely avoided in our farming practices in order to lessen the impact on the environment. This also ensures a natural and healthy diet for the livestock, which in turn is passed on to our customers through our milk and other dairy products. All our farmers participate in official environmental improvement schemes such as Glastir.
How do you ensure the welfare of your animals?
The welfare of animals is one of the key issues covered by organic standards. This means things such as their living conditions, stocking density and the way they are transported are all governed. Organic standards insist that cows’ diets are based on natural forage – (grass, silage and hay). All Calon Wen farmers attempt to maximise the amount of time the cows spend outside in the fields and depending on the location and local climate this can mean cows being outside from the beginning of February right through to the end of November. Our cows therefore live on a high forage diet for potentially 75% of the year or for as long as the grass is rich enough and plentiful enough to sustain them. When inside (when grass quality and /or soil conditions dictate) they are fed with hay or silage from our fields. Silage is not of the same quality as grass, so we also supplement their diet with organic cereals.
Are organic animals ever treated with drugs?
We don’t systematically treat our cows with drugs, but antibiotics are used only if we need to treat sick animals. We use drugs therefore as required and always under veterinary supervision.
If this happens the animal must then be withdrawn from the food chain for, typically, twice as long as is the case in non-organic farming.
Is organic food healthier?
We believe so.
Although the chemicals used in conventional farming are deemed to be safe, as far as we are aware no research has been done on what we term “the cocktail effect” of these chemicals on our land and in our food. Whilst it may be foolish to claim that organic food alone will make you healthier, we believe common-sense suggests that if the food we eat has less chemicals used in its production there will naturally be less residues in the end product. There are independent studies that support this view, for example a study by Newcastle University cited below.
What are the main benefits of organic milk?
Here are some of the facts that convince us that organic milk delivers health benefits:
- Organic whole and semi-skimmed milk has more beneficial omega-3 fatty acid, Vitamin E and beta-carotene than non-organic milk.
- UK organic milk has 68% higher levels of the essential fatty acid than non-organic milk.
A study carried out in the Netherlands showed that the incidence of eczema in young children was reduced by 36% where the children consumed organic dairy products and further research from the University of Newcastle has shown that organic milk is higher in beneficial nutrients and fatty acids throughout the year. You can read the full report here. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2016/02/organicandnon-organicmilkandmeat/
Why does organic milk cost more?
For the well-being of our animals and to protect the health of the soil, we keep fewer animals per acre of land. We allow our grass to grow naturally and do not use any artificial chemicals to force faster growth. Therefore the amount of milk we produce is lower than on a non-organic farm of a comparative size, even though our basic service costs are the same.
All these factors mean that our family farms can only be sustained by asking more money for our products.
Why do you homogenise your milk?
This has been, and remains a challenging issue for us. We pride ourselves on providing products that our loyal customers love, and we regret that some have been disappointed with the fact that all our bottled milk is homogenised. We use third party, British Retail Consortium approved plants to bottle our milk. We used to sell non-homogenised milk, but we are currently unable to so as the dairy we use can no longer produce it for us. In the future we would like to provide both products, however it is proving difficult to find another dairy that is able to produce non-homogenised milk in a bottling plant that meets the highest British Retail Consortium standards. Whilst some of our customers are disappointed with this, the vast majority of our customers also tell us that they prefer homogenised milk.
What happens to male calves?
All calves have whole fresh milk for at least 12 weeks and no Calon Wen farmer is involved in veal production. The heifers (female calves) are the future milk producers, whilst the bull calves grow into beef animals.
What happens to organic livestock at abattoirs?
Calon Wen is a co-operative with 20 members across Wales and so use abattoirs local to their own farms. However, all abattoirs too must comply with strict EU welfare regulations including ensuring good ventilation, plenty of space for the animals, supply of water, no stress – to name but a few. Each handler has to be fully trained and compliant with the safeguarding of animal welfare rules and regulations. Additionally, abattoirs have to identify organic products from when they arrive to when they leave and the animals have to be kept separate from non-organic livestock. If any delay should occur in the process they have to be fed with organic food.
If you would like more information about Organic Farming, please visit www.ofgorganic.org
Why not visit an organic farm? Contact us and we can arrange a visit. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.