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Organic Farming FAQs: How to make a cow happy? Just add grass.

November 3, 2012 | Stonyfield Ola

How to make a cow happy?Most non-organic cows never even get outside, let alone take that first joyful romp through spring pasture. Organic cows, on the other hand, are required to be on pasture.

Organic farmers are required, by USDA regulations, to “maintain conditions that accommodate the health and natural behavior of livestock,” and that includes giving cows ample opportunity to graze on fresh, nutritious pasture.

In colder areas, ice, snow and dormant pasture plants keep cows from grazing during the late fall, winter and early spring. But even in cold areas, organic cows still get access to the outdoors in winter. They breathe fresh air and enjoy sunshine and exercise in the barnyard, but they usually don’t return to pasture until sometime in April.

USDA organic standards say cows and other ruminants on organic farms must graze pasture during the grazing season—which must be at least 120 days per year—and must get at least 30% of their “dry matter intake” from grazing pasture. This “dry matter” rule ensures that organic cows have access not to just any pasture, but to growing, nutritious pasture that can provide a large portion of their food.

Other food eaten by organic cows can include organic feed and organic hay, which are always produced without the use of toxic persistent pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

When cows eat well, you do too.

All the cows that make milk for Stonyfield are pasture-raised on organic dairy farms. A healthy mix of pasture plants provides the vitamins and minerals their bodies need to produce milk. And when cows eat well, you do too. A growing body of evidence shows that milk from cows on pasture has higher levels of heart healthy fatty acids (Union of Concerned Scientists. Greener Pastures: How Grass-fed Beef and Milk Contribute to Healthy Eating). Healthy pasture and feed, along with good care, mean healthy cows that make delicious, nutritious milk.

Watch the turnout on Howmars Farm. (These cows make milk for our yogurt!)

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