By Ron Lyseng
Dale Hicks says his 60-head cow herd is “one small step away” from being drug-free and certified organic, emphasizing that organic beef is merely a byproduct of organic grain production.
“There’s no way you can grow organic grain unless you have a significant percentage of forages in your rotation,” said the farmer from Outlook, Sask.
He said organic beef is the bonus rather than the goal of an organic farm.
Hicks already has 1,500 acres in organic grain production.
“So next, I’m thinking about taking our cows organic,” he said.
“Right now, all we give them is Ivomec in the fall and mineral tubs. We don’t give them hormones. So we’re already just one small step away from organic beef.”
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He said everything about organic grain and organic beef revolves around forages. Farmers who expect to grow organic grain require organic forage in the rotation. They can’t keep the weeds out unless they have forages, he added.
“You cannot hope to scratch around in the dirt with some special cultivator or a stick and expect that to take care of weeds in your grain field. It just won’t happen. Forages are the only way to control weeds. But the forages have to be profitable, too,” he said.
“If you can’t sell the forage bales or eat them yourself, then you’ve got to have beef animals to eat them. You’ll never sell enough of that forage putting it through sheep, horses, goats or dairy. You need beef, period. And once you have the organic forages, you sell it to your organic cows, and that’s your bonus.”