Authors: Chandan Kumar Rai1 and Arti2
1Ph.D. Scholar, Dairy Extension Division, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India
2Ph.D. Scholar, DES&M, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India

Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system’ (Codex Alimentarious, 2007). Organic animal husbandry is defined as a system of livestock production that promotes the use of organic and biodegradable inputs from the ecosystem in terms of animal nutrition, animal’s health, animal housing and breeding. It deliberately avoids use of synthetic inputs such as drugs, feed additives and genetically engineered breeding inputs. Organic Animal husbandry is one of the areas where the skills of organic farmers are most important and most frequently called upon.


Organic Dairy farming means raising animals on organic feed (i.e. pastures cultivated without the use of fertilizers or pesticides), have access to pasture or outside, along with the restricted usage of antibiotics and hormones. Products obtained from Organic dairy farm are the organic dairy products. Organic dairy farming is a system of production, a set of goal-based regulations that allow farmers to manage their own particular situations individually, while maintaining organic integrity. Organic dairy products are often viewed as "gateway products", in that consumers will make their first forays into organic purchasing by buying organic dairy products, eventually increasing their allegiance to organic products as they become increasingly food savvy. In an organic dairy farm:

  • Cows and calves are fed 100% organic feed.
  • Organic crops, hay, and pasture are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that have not been carefully screened and approved for organic use.
  • Land used to grow organic crops must be free of all prohibited materials for at least three (3) years prior to the first organic harvest.
  • Non-natural feed additives and supplements such as vitamins and minerals must also be approved for use.
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs, called “Excluded Methods” in the regulation) are strictly forbidden.
  • Synthetic milk replacers are prohibited. Calves must be fed on organic milk only.
  • All animals must have access to the outdoors (based on weather conditions). Animals over six months of age must have access to pasture during the growing season.
  • Restricted usage of antibiotics (only used when cows are ill). Only approved health care products can be used.
  • Organic animals may not be fed ANY slaughter by-products, urea, or manure.
  • The welfare of the animals must be attended to. Certain procedures, such as tail docking, are prohibited. Other procedures, such as dehorning, must be done so as to minimize the stress to the animal.
  • An organic farmer must keep sufficient records to verify his or her compliance with the standards.
  • Each farm is inspected and audited every year. Any farm can be inspected unannounced at any time.

To produce organic milk, farm must be registered with an organic control body and production system adopted must meet the organic standards. Five organic standards are important and have a worldwide acceptance, viz. European Union Regulation (1804/ 1999), Organic Food Products Act (OFPA) of USA, Draft Guidelines of Codex/WHO/FAO, United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) of UK and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) basic standards. It has been reported that there are 468 organizations worldwide which offer organic certification services. Most certification bodies are in Europe (37%) followed by Asia (31 %) and North America (18%). The countries with the most certification bodies are US, Japan, China and Germany. Forty per cent of the certification bodies are approved by the European Union, 32% have ISO 65 accreditation and 28% are accredited under the US National Organic Program. Steps involved in certification include registration of producers and the processing industries, provision of basic information on the crops and farm, and inspection and verification of farm, processing unit, production methods, and production practices by the inspector appointed by the certifying agency like APEDA (Agricultural Products Export Development Agency), NSOP (National Standards for Organic Products), USOCA (Uttarakhand State Organic Certification Authority) appointed by Government of Uttrakhand, ECOCERT appointed by Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India etc. For the production of organic milk the following recommendations (Alexander, 2010) should be considered:

a) Conversion to organic from conventional farming: For progressing from conventional to organic production, conversion planning is very important. Either the whole farm will be converted in one block or the conversion may be phased over a number of years. A minimum of two years are required to convert the land to organic status. Organic milk can be produced from the day when land attains full organic status. For achieving organic status, herd must have started nine months and feeding six months prior to the intended organic milk production date.

b) Feeding: All feedstuffs used on the farm must be produced and certified to organic standards from the start of conversion. All the feed required should be produced on the farm and maximum use of grazing should be made. At least 60% feed should be obtained from the farm or from linked organic farms and up to 30% may come from in-conversion sources. The balance of the ration should meet full organic standards. Compound rations and purchased blends must be 100 percent organic. Mineral supplementation is only permitted where trace element requirements cannot be met by the practices of organic husbandry. Some synthetic vitamins may be used, but subject to permission being granted by the control body. Clover-based fodders are crucial for the success of organic dairy farms as they are the main source of nitrogen. Molasses if used must also be organic.

c) Soil fertility: Soil fertility can be maintained by appropriate rotations, alternating silage and grazing ground where possible and the careful usage of recycled manures and slurry. Synthetic fertilizers are not permitted for use in organic agriculture but the use of lime or some natural sources of nutrients is permitted.

d) Livestock manures: Manure may be brought in from other farms that are organic too. The maximum applied to any one area should not exceed 250 KGN/ha/yr. Poultry litter from registered organic farms may also be used. For the use of manure produced on conventional farms permission may be sought from the concerned authorities.

e) Housing: Space requirements may differ between different control bodies. Cows must be provided a comfortable, dry bedded lying area. Well bedded loose housing is preferred. Dairy cows should be provided a minimum of 6 m2 per animal. Space requirements for young stock should range from 1 to1.75m 2 per 100 Kg live weight. Slats used should not be more than half of the floor area available to each group of stock.

f) Animal health: All cohorts and progeny of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy cases must be removed from the herd before starting conversion. Preventive management and homoeopathic remedies are always encouraged. Veterinary medicines and antibiotics must not be used as a preventive medicine but may be used to prevent distress in the event of illness or injury with the withdrawal period at least twice the stated withdrawal period. Control of mastitis can be done by good management practices including teat dipping, and culling cows with high cell counts. Parasitic control may be achieved through careful grazing management practices to minimise exposure to infection. Some anthelmintic which have been agreed with the control body, may be used as part of a control programme, and to treat animals where clinical symptoms occur. Vaccination is permitted, under derogation, in cases where there is a known disease risk. Organic status is lost if animals receive more than three courses of treatment within one year with the exception of vaccination, treatment for parasites and any compulsory eradication schemes.

g) Sources of stock: Purchased cattle must not come from herds which have had a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the previous six years. When a farm is converted to organic production the existing livestock can be retained but can never be sold as organic but the milk from these cows and their progeny can be sold as organic following the required conversion periods. Up to 10 % of the breeding herd can be replaced each year from conventional herds. For feeding calves up to the age of 12 weeks whole organic milk should form at least 51 percent of the overall ration. Surplus calves may be sold to other organic or conventional producers. Stock bulls can be purchased from conventional farms or hired bulls can be used provided they are managed to organic standards when they come onto the organic farm. Artificial insemination is also permitted.

h) Selling of organic milk: To access premium prices for organic milk it is necessary to sell milk through an organically registered processing outlet. Marketing should always be considered before starting production. Approved sterilants may be used in milking parlours and dairies.

i) Dairy bred beef calves: If there is no beef enterprise on the dairy farm it is worth considering making links with organic beef rearers and finishers who might be interested in purchasing weaned calves. Choice of bull breed should also be given consideration.


Organic milk has more beneficial Omega-3 (Lairon and Huber, 2014), less damaging Omega-6 (Benbrook et al., 2013). Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid which is required for healthy growth and its deficiency leads to various health problems that have seemed to increase in recent years. Regular intake of omega 3 fatty acids protects from various diseases and helps to reduce the incidence of heart disease, inflammation (in skin diseases like eczema), cancer, and arthritis (Annon, 2014). The organic milk also contains greater amounts of conjugatedlinoleic acid (CLA) (Mercola, 2014). Organic cows are grazed on pastures that are grown through organic means. Therefore, their milk is not contaminated with harmful chemicals such as the residues of pesticides, fertilizers and hormones (Singh et al. 2011). Furthermore, this nutrient-rich organic milk does not contain traces of antibiotics, GM feed, urea, or fertility hormones, as these are not fed to the cows to increase their milk production. Lutein is extremely important for eye health and is effective in preventing numerous eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Zeaxanthin is also important for good eye health. It protects the eye from UV damage and the impact of free radicals. It is very helpful in preventing cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Organic milk has a higher concentration of vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E than conventional milk.

Potential of organic dairy farming in India

India has a huge potential of organic milk production. The dairy production practices in India are not highly intensive as is the case with other developed countries in dairying. Some of the agro-climatic regions of the country are best suited for organic milk production. These areas include the rain-fed areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and whole of North-Eastern region. In fact the production practices followed in many of these areas are very natural and the milk presently being produced is almost organic. There are some areas in the country (especially mountain areas) and communities (certain tribes) where the green revolution technologies have so far not reached and did not adopt the use of agro-chemicals. These areas have been classified as "organic zones". The North Eastern region of India provides considerable scope and opportunity for organic farming due to least utilization of chemical inputs where it is estimated that 18 million hectares of such land is available which can be exploited for systematic organic production. The small farmers of these areas producing a few litres of milk daily are not in a position to market it as organic milk due to ignorance and due to unavailability of local market for organic produce. The Trans-Gangetic plains region of Punjab, Haryana, Western U.P. and parts of Rajasthan have witnessed the most intensification of crop husbandry by way of intensive crop rotations and the heavy use of inorganic fertilizers and agro-chemicals. However, even in this region, dairy farming has not received much intensification as has been the case with advanced countries and, therefore, is amenable to conversion to organic with little effort. The organic dairy farming has a good scope in the country as it is the small holder's low input, crop residue fodder based production system contributing 70% of total milk production of the country (Kumar et al., 2005). They recommended that in order to tap the organic milk produced in interior rural areas; the cooperative organization should come forward for certifying, procurement, processing and marketing of organic milk.

Constraints in the development of organic dairy farming

Some of the constraints in the development of organic dairy farming have been enlisted by Kamboj and Prasad (2013) include lack of knowledge and awareness, restriction on landless organic dairy farming not permitted as per the National Standards of Organic Production (NSOP), limited availability of organic feed ingredients for formulating compound organic feed, problem of maintenance of proper records, limited reach of certification services and lack of proper procurement, processing and marketing infrastructure and network.


Demand for organic livestock products is growing in the USA, EU, Japan, Argentina and Brazil. Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK import significant amounts of organic produce. Consumers pay a large price premium for organic food in Austria, Belgium, Germany and the UK. Native breeds of livestock, which predominate in tropical countries, are less susceptible to stress and disease, and so the need for allopathic medicines and antibiotics is much lower. Grass-based, extensive production systems and forest-based, animal production systems that are prevalent in many areas of these countries have considerable potential for conversion into organic animal husbandry. Literacy is on the rise and the media are making consumers more aware of and concerned about animal welfare issues and healthy foods. This may well boost the domestic consumption of organic foods.


1. Kamboj, M.L., Rai, S., Prasad, S., Datt, C., Harika, A.S., Kumar, N. and Kumar, N., 2013. A Technical Bulletin on Organic dairy farming.

2. Kumar, M.D. and Singh, O.P., 2005. Virtual water in global food and water policy making: is there a need for rethinking?. Water Resources Management, 19(6), pp.759-789.

3. Lairon, D. and Huber, M., 2014. Food quality and possible positive health effects of organic products. In Organic Farming, Prototype for Sustainable Agricultures (pp. 295-312). Springer Netherlands.

4. Ramesh, P., Panwar, N.R., Singh, A.B., Ramana, S., Yadav, S.K., Shrivastava, R. and Rao, A.S., 2010. Status of organic farming in India. Current Science, pp.1190-1194.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing PhD in Dairy Extension from NATIONAL DAIRY RESEARCH INSTITUTE, Karnal, Haryana (INDIA).