Clarification of OMSCo's 'Turning Worm' newsletter [Jan 2010]

20 January 2010

Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative's latest Turning Worm newsletter (January 2010) contains information relating to the Soil Association's organic standards. Unfortuantely, some of the information was inaccurate. Phil Stocker, the Soil Association's director of farmer and grower relations, clarifies any concerns that organic dairy producers may have...

"On behalf of the Soil Association I would like to correct the information that was wrongly presented in OMSCo's latest Turning Worm newsletter regarding a number of Soil Association organic standards," says Phil Stocker. "In the article, it was suggested that non-compliances will be given where mastitis levels exceed 30% and where somatic cell counts exceed 200,000 over a three month rolling period. In addition, it was stated that Soil Association organic standards do not allow the use of trace elements and that derogations have to be sought.

"None of this is correct and I am keen to inform members (and others) of the situation to avoid unnecessary worry and concern. I am also keen to present our standards, and the implementation of them, as they are: reasonable and practical while also encouraging good practice."

  • Farmers will not be given non compliances for exceeding any percentage mastitis levels - or for somatic cell count levels.
"All organic livestock farmers are required to have an animal health plan and in 2009 (a year ago) we required that the animal health plan included a section on mastitis control.You are required to identify the cause of mastitis and you must review the health plan if mastitis levels become problematic. This is to ensure that farmers are aware of the actual incidence of mastitis and that they can monitor accurately and assess the effectiveness of management and interventions. We are keen to help you reduce antibiotic use and raise levels of animal health and welfare - and that is what is behind the requirement for a mastitis section within the animal health plan."
  • The use of trace elements does not require a derogation.
"The term derogation means a permission to do something that does not comply with the EU organic regulation, and trace elements are not prohibited under the regulation. The Soil Association does require justification for the use of trace elements; this is to ensure trace elements are not being used unnecessarily. Justification for trace elements (feed, injections and boluses) can be provided through blood or tissue analysis, forage analysis, or soil analysis. In addition, farm historical evidence and regional knowledge - and the use of all or some of this information in the animal health plan - can avoid having to repeatedly request approval, although periodical re-assessment will be required and can avoid unnecessary use and costs.

"Please accept my apologies for any concern this has caused and be assured we are talking to OMSCo to avoid any similar happenings in the future.

"Finally, I'd like to take the opportunity to mention the work we are doing around dairy calf rearing at the time when our organic standards now require dairy farmers to initiate plans to end the practice of culling diary bred bull calves at birth. The reason behind this is to protect the animal welfare image and respect that organic farming has among the public, and to move away from wasting resources within the farming system.

"Alongside this change, which gives farmers plenty of time to adapt, we are active in helping develop new markets and to explore and promote cost effective ways of calf rearing. Its still not too late to book on to our Dairy Calf event on 28 January in Somerset [see link below or call 0117 914 2400 for details] and look out for a range of case studies that will be available on our web site shortly.Phil Stocker is the Soil Association's director of farmer and grower relations. Contact him on

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