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organic dairysheep 3

By Stephanie Corbin

scorbin@agrinews.com

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Not many dairy sheep producers have organic products.

Jody Padgham, education director of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, said she searched and only found three certified organic sheep dairy producers in the United States.

Padgham spoke about the markets and production in organic sheep dairy during the 12th Annual Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposium recently.

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"There’s no research on the market for organic sheep cheese," she said. "It’s pretty much an unknown at this point."

When asked, one conference attendee of about 90 said his dairy sheep farm in Wisconsin is certified organic. So far, though, he’s had no extra interest in his organic dairy sheep products than he did before his farm was certified organic.

Padgham said organic consumers buy organic products because they think it’s healthier, tastes better, it’s safer and they think the producers of the products support better land practices.

"The certified organic label is allowing consumers to trust they’re getting that without additional education," she said.

However, if dairy sheep producers are doing a good job of conveying those practices are already occurring in the industry, consumers may not create the demand for organic products, Padgham said. For instance, organic dairy cows are grazed but mostly confined at conventional cow dairies. Most conventional dairy sheep are grazed.

"It’s what the consumers really want," she said of grazing animals.

Consumers are willing to pay up to 25 percent more for cow dairy products, Padgham said.

She said she doesn’t know if that demand can be translated to dairy sheep products.

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Padgham owns 20 dairy ewes at her farm in Spring Valley.

MOSES does research on organic production and markets but has little information on goats and sheep.

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