NOFA-NY Field Notes


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Grass Fed Certification

This week's blog comes from Lisa Engelbert, NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC Certification Program Administrator and is about grass fed meat and dairy! 

What’s all the buzz about Grass Fed meat and milk products?  You mean cows and other ruminant animals should eat grass?  Really?  Yes, really!  Grass is a ruminant animals’ natural diet- it’s what they would eat in the wild, and it produces much healthier meat and dairy products than those produced in confinement operations.  Ruminant animals raised on grass harvest their own feed and spread their own manure – a very efficient system, just the way nature intended.  Ruminant animals have four stomachs, which allows them to process grass efficiently into the energy and protein they need to survive and thrive.  

Well, that must be pretty easy, right?  Not really - Grass Fed production is much more than just feeding grass.  There is a great deal of management required to maintain pastures and hay fields to produce the high-quality grass and forages necessary to maintain animal health and production.   There is a lot of management involved with grass fed animals, too.  Not just any animal will do well on grass.  Many of today’s dairy and beef animals have been bred to do well in confinement systems, but not necessarily to be good grazers.  It’s important to have the right genetics in your herd as you move to a 100% grass-based operation. 

So who’s monitoring grass fed farms?  NOFA-NY is!  We started offering a Grass Fed certification program to our organic producers in 2015, and we’re currently working with 38 grass fed certified  producers.  

It’s pretty cut and dry for grass fed meat animals.  They must be managed on 100% grass (and mother’s milk) from birth to qualify as grass fed meat.  There is no transition allowance for meat animals.  Dairy animals can transition to grass fed milk production by consuming only grass and grass-based feed for at least 90 days before producing grass fed milk.  Once the transition process starts, no more grain is allowed to be fed.

NOFA-NY is one of the organizations working with the American Grassfed Association to develop national grassfed standards.  The draft standards have been sent out for comment, and the goal is to have them finalized by the end of 2016.  If you’re interested in seeing the draft standards, please contact the certification office.

If you’re interested in learning more about Grass Fed dairy production, there are three fantastic Organic On Farm Field Days coming up:

August 31 –Join NOFA NY and Organic Valley in Madison County for Grass Based Milk Production:

 Yoder Farm

4841 Nelson Road

Cazenovia NY 13035


September 1 – Join NOFA NY and Organic Valley in Tioga County for Our Cows are on Grass!:

Moore Farm 2083

Moore Hill Road

Nichols, NY  13812


September 12 – Join NOFA NY and Fay Benson in Allegany County for Diversify Your Marketing: Managing a Grass Dairy & Meeting Consumer Needs:

Sunny Cove Farm

1444 Randolph Road

Alfred Station, NY  14803


Re-Engineering an Engineer at a CSA
In Gratitude to Farmers