Worth all the effort | TSLN.com

Worth all the effort

Loretta Sorensen

Photo by Loretta SorensenGary Cwach has been working toward raising certified organic crops and beef for a number of years. He's watching his first crop of certified organic calves grow and develop this summer.

Gary Cwach and his family have worked hard for the past 15 years to educate themselves and transform their farm ground and beef herd to obtain organic certification for both their crops and cattle. As he looks out on his first certified organic calves, Cwach says the work and the wait have been worth all the effort.

“We have about 90 calves right now and a few more will come in this fall,” he says. “It took about four years to transition all our fields so they were certified organic so that when our cows are grazing on corn stalks or wheat stubble they’re getting organic feedstuffs. We believe this is the best possible way to raise beef.”

The Cwach family shared what they’ve learned about organic farming and beef production with area farmers and residents during their late July farm tour. Among the speakers featured as part of the two-day event was South Dakota Cooperative Extension Beef Specialist Julie Walker. Her presentation focused on the challenges that often keep producers from completing the transition from traditional production methods to organic certification.

“A good place to start is cost of production,” Walker says. “Every producer’s costs will be somewhat different, so sitting down and planning a budget to determine what it would cost you to make the move to organic beef is the first step. You have to know how it will impact your bottom line before you can fully develop an effective plan.”

Because beef producers have relied on growth hormones, ionophores and antibiotics to successfully raise and market cattle, Walker says they need to fully understand that switching to organic production methods will result in different rates of gain, feed efficiency and market weight.

“I emphasize that people probably haven’t realized the percentage of improvement those elements provide,” Walker says. “They need to take a close look at the efficiency and rate of gain they give up with the organic production methods and the cost of that change. They should plan to sell their beef as a natural product for about three years until they become certified organic.”

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Availability and cost of organic seeds can also pose challenges to producers who are raising their own grain or forage products. Development plans should also include the option of purchasing organic grain in the event that a producer isn’t able to raise his own.

“One other aspect of raising organic beef is the length of time you have the calves,” Walker says. “If you have 100 brood cows and raise 90 calves that you want to grass finish you have to manage your pastures so in the second year you can accommodate the 100 cows, the first 90 calves and your second crop of calves. You’ll have to increase acreage or change management practices in order to make that all work.”

Gary Cwach and his family have worked hard for the past 15 years to educate themselves and transform their farm ground and beef herd to obtain organic certification for both their crops and cattle. As he looks out on his first certified organic calves, Cwach says the work and the wait have been worth all the effort.

“We have about 90 calves right now and a few more will come in this fall,” he says. “It took about four years to transition all our fields so they were certified organic so that when our cows are grazing on corn stalks or wheat stubble they’re getting organic feedstuffs. We believe this is the best possible way to raise beef.”

The Cwach family shared what they’ve learned about organic farming and beef production with area farmers and residents during their late July farm tour. Among the speakers featured as part of the two-day event was South Dakota Cooperative Extension Beef Specialist Julie Walker. Her presentation focused on the challenges that often keep producers from completing the transition from traditional production methods to organic certification.

“A good place to start is cost of production,” Walker says. “Every producer’s costs will be somewhat different, so sitting down and planning a budget to determine what it would cost you to make the move to organic beef is the first step. You have to know how it will impact your bottom line before you can fully develop an effective plan.”

Because beef producers have relied on growth hormones, ionophores and antibiotics to successfully raise and market cattle, Walker says they need to fully understand that switching to organic production methods will result in different rates of gain, feed efficiency and market weight.

“I emphasize that people probably haven’t realized the percentage of improvement those elements provide,” Walker says. “They need to take a close look at the efficiency and rate of gain they give up with the organic production methods and the cost of that change. They should plan to sell their beef as a natural product for about three years until they become certified organic.”

Availability and cost of organic seeds can also pose challenges to producers who are raising their own grain or forage products. Development plans should also include the option of purchasing organic grain in the event that a producer isn’t able to raise his own.

“One other aspect of raising organic beef is the length of time you have the calves,” Walker says. “If you have 100 brood cows and raise 90 calves that you want to grass finish you have to manage your pastures so in the second year you can accommodate the 100 cows, the first 90 calves and your second crop of calves. You’ll have to increase acreage or change management practices in order to make that all work.”

Gary Cwach and his family have worked hard for the past 15 years to educate themselves and transform their farm ground and beef herd to obtain organic certification for both their crops and cattle. As he looks out on his first certified organic calves, Cwach says the work and the wait have been worth all the effort.

“We have about 90 calves right now and a few more will come in this fall,” he says. “It took about four years to transition all our fields so they were certified organic so that when our cows are grazing on corn stalks or wheat stubble they’re getting organic feedstuffs. We believe this is the best possible way to raise beef.”

The Cwach family shared what they’ve learned about organic farming and beef production with area farmers and residents during their late July farm tour. Among the speakers featured as part of the two-day event was South Dakota Cooperative Extension Beef Specialist Julie Walker. Her presentation focused on the challenges that often keep producers from completing the transition from traditional production methods to organic certification.

“A good place to start is cost of production,” Walker says. “Every producer’s costs will be somewhat different, so sitting down and planning a budget to determine what it would cost you to make the move to organic beef is the first step. You have to know how it will impact your bottom line before you can fully develop an effective plan.”

Because beef producers have relied on growth hormones, ionophores and antibiotics to successfully raise and market cattle, Walker says they need to fully understand that switching to organic production methods will result in different rates of gain, feed efficiency and market weight.

“I emphasize that people probably haven’t realized the percentage of improvement those elements provide,” Walker says. “They need to take a close look at the efficiency and rate of gain they give up with the organic production methods and the cost of that change. They should plan to sell their beef as a natural product for about three years until they become certified organic.”

Availability and cost of organic seeds can also pose challenges to producers who are raising their own grain or forage products. Development plans should also include the option of purchasing organic grain in the event that a producer isn’t able to raise his own.

“One other aspect of raising organic beef is the length of time you have the calves,” Walker says. “If you have 100 brood cows and raise 90 calves that you want to grass finish you have to manage your pastures so in the second year you can accommodate the 100 cows, the first 90 calves and your second crop of calves. You’ll have to increase acreage or change management practices in order to make that all work.”

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