Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images
Researchers from the University of Guelph followed farms that converted from conventional to organic dairy farming over five years to see if it really is viable and better for farmers; the answer appears to be yes. However the study notes that organic farms are more labour intensive and there is a lot of paperwork involved.
Milk production falls immediately, down 10.6%. (It would probably drop more in the USA where they allow bovine growth hormone) . However, chemical costs for fertilizers and antibiotics are wiped out, and veterinary costs are cut in half, saving almost $2,000 per cow.
Also, organic milk sells for 25% more than conventional milk, almost completely balancing it out.
In the Star: Ann Slater, a market farmer near St. Marys and president of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, says soils continue to improve even after the transition is complete, and farmers get better at running their farms.
Within a few years, she says, they are doing as well or better than they were as conventional farm operators.
But [the author of the study, Jim] Fisher cautions that organic farming is not for everyone. Much more meticulous record-keeping is required and dairy farming tends to involve more pasture time for the cows.
For the farmer, that can mean more work getting them back and forth to the barn to be milked.
"It's a very different style of farming, and you have to be committed to it if you are going to be successful," Fisher says. ::The Star