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Dairy farmers must follow certain feeding protocol to qualify under the grass-fed milk standard

By Jim Algie
Better Farming

Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s (DFO’s) interim grass-fed milk standard protocol requires forage or grass feeding of at least 75 per cent of total dry matter intake for qualifying cows and at least 120 days on pasture for a minimum of six hours daily during the gazing period.

DFO established the interim protocol for the 2017 grazing season. Later, the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) adopted the eight-page document for further development, the DFO website says. The Canadian organization agreed to lead the development of a national grass-fed standard for review by a technical committee, subject to separate studies of consumer perceptions and cost of production issues.

jersey cattle in pasture
    FlairImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

In areas where the grazing season is less than 120 days, the DFO’s interim protocol requires cows be permitted to graze at least six hours daily “while the weather permits.”

“Efficient grass-fed farming requires a high-forage diet with as much fresh grass as possible with limited amount of concentrates, considering limitations imposed by climate and other environmental factors and cow’s nutritional needs,” the document says.

Qualifying farms must maintain a pasture management plan to ensure proper rest and regrowth of grazed plants, avoid activities that “degrade” the soil or natural resources and provide more than 0.33 acres per cow.

Producers adhering to this standard must comply with the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle and maintain records of feeding and pasture protocols. Farmers must provide these records for auditing and verification by DFO officials or by an independent third-party agency which may receive authority under a future national standard.

The interim protocol lists prohibited feeds, including: corn silage; corn distillers grain; any type of plant or marine oils or fats; any type of animal or poultry fat; as well as full-fat soybean, sunflower and safflower oils. Urea or “any other non-protein, nitrogen supplement” is prohibited in feed.

Mineral and vitamin supplements – except those supplements containing prohibited ingredients – may be used as prescribed.

A July 5, 2018 revised version of the protocol anticipated “final consultation and submission to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency targeted for March 1st, 2019.” However, a mid-October 2019 check with DFC confirmed a final version of the grass-fed protocol document had yet to be published. BF

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