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Can I bale graze non-certified livestock in a certified organic hay field this winter?


Livestock that are certified organic must only be fed certified organic feed. Sometimes, though, producers find themselves in a situation where they’re feeding uncertified animals on certified organic ground. For example, you may custom graze someone else’s herd on your own certified organic pastures, or you may rotate livestock onto hay or crop fields during your off-season so that you can use their manure and soil-building abilities to support the coming year’s production.

In a short answer, yes, you can graze non-certified livestock on land where you grow a certified organic crop. These uncertified animals do not need to be fed certified organic feed simply because they are on your certified organic ground.

However, if you are planning to manage uncertified animals on certified ground, there are a few considerations you will want to think about. It is likely that your certifier will consider the waste hay, dropped feed, and manure in terms of applied manure with bedding. However, different certifiers could take different viewpoints on how to categorize the application. It is important to check with your certifier before taking any action that could endanger the certification of that land.

You will want to be certain that the feedstuffs you are using won’t be leeching prohibited substances into your pasture. Using the example of hay—you may want to make sure the hay you are purchasing doesn’t have strings or netting that has been treated with a prohibited substance like a fungicide. I would recommend asking your supplier about the netting, wrapping, or strings that were used on the crop before making a purchase, then checking with your certifier if the binding was treated before purchasing. If the hay does have treated binding and your certifier allows you to use it, you’ll want to remove the wrapping and take it off pasture to prevent the substance from leeching into your soil.

While you’re speaking with the supplier, you will also want to know if the feed was treated with any fungicides, preservatives, or inoculants that are not approved in organic production. Again, if any of these substances have been applied, you should talk to your certifier before proceeding.

By asking good questions and thinking ahead, you can help your land benefit from some helpful animal pressure in your off-season, even if the livestock isn’t certified. Please just proceed with caution and in good communication with your certifier to make sure that your productive crop season ahead is in good standing with the NOP.

Posted: Jul 2017
Answer By: Lauren Langworthy