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Converting to Organic

Step By Step Guide

1.   Information gathering

2.   Decide which certification body to register with

3.   Obtain copy of relevant standards

4.   Decide on farm unit / area / fields to be converted

5.   Decide on ideal enterprise mix for the farm

6.   Decide on ideal crop rotation

7.   Assess current farm infrastructure

  • Livestock housing and fencing: does housing meet the standards (e.g. slats), does fencing need upgraded?
  • Manure storage and handling: are they adequate?
  • Machinery: will you need to invest in equipment, e.g. a comb harrow?

8.   Assess current livestock system

  • Mix of enterprises?  Classes of stock?
  • Breeds?  For example, Easycare sheep are well adapted to environment, and well adapted to a forage-based system.
  • Self-contained herds, flocks?  Source of replacements?
  • Calving, lambing date: April, May, June?
  • Grassland management: clean grazing; level of intensity (stocking rate and current use of bagged N); management for early bite; silage quality?
  • Feeding system: proportions of forage/concentrate currently fed; proportions of bought-in feeds; ingredients/feeds currently fed that are prohibited in an organic system?
  • Housing system: bedding/slats; space allocation (overall and trough); ventilation?
  • Manure storage and handling system: storage capacity and efficiency; application dates?
  • Stockmanship skills: stress minimisation; weaning management; stable groupings?
  • Existing / regularly occurring health problems?
  • Existing veterinary strategy: do you operate an animal health and welfare management; do you carry out preventative management practices?
  • Management skills?
  • Staff flexibility?

9.   Assess each field individually

  • Cropping history: if arable crops were grown previously, sow grass/clover mixture.
  • Clover content: improve this if necessary.
  • Soil fertility: consider ameliorating deficiencies before starting conversion.
  • Weed problems: consider spraying to control problematic perennial weeds such as couch and docks before starting conversion.

10.  Enquire about funding for conversion

  • Inform Certification Body that you wish to be certified with them.
  • Complete, or get an agent to complete, an application for funding through the SRDP.  This application will include an environmental outcome plan and full proposal, and may also include a business plan.
  • There is a degree of uncertainty over whether there will be more funding from the current SRDP.

11. Prepare conversion plan

  • Cropping sequence for each field.
  • Timing of start of conversion.
  • Organic husbandry techniques.
  • Soil management.
  • Crop rotations and nutrient supply, including manure management.
  • Weed and pest control strategy.
  • Livestock health and welfare management plan, including:
    • Grazing management
    • Housing and welfare
    • Feeding regimes
    • Health strategy

12. Complete and return conversion plan to certification body

  • Receive letter of acknowledgement and comments.
  • Begin conversion.
  • Have an initial inspection.
  • Receive formal acceptance letter from certification body.

Organic Helpline

Contact your local consulting office for further assistance.

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