Miles Saunders

19 December 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main

enterprises are 200 milking

cows and followers, 190

Mule ewes, 50 beef cross

stores and 70 beef cross

calves. Winter wheat, barley,

oats and beans are also

grown, and sold on the

organic market.

TO MAINTAIN our organic status, the farm and all its operations have to be verified by an inspection body, annually.

We are members of the Soil Association and their inspectors carry out our inspection, along with completing the annual return form stating livestock numbers, cropping, sales etc. We could also be checked at random by UKROFS, who oversee every organic producer in the UK.

At the inspection we need to supply up to date details of what has happened on each field, including the cropping and any inputs, such as manures or supplementary organic approved fertilisers, and at what rate of application.

Regarding manure, the inspectors need to know how it was managed, storage, composting etc. They also require details of stock, forage conserved, rotations and harvest yields. The inspector will want to know details of arable and grass ley seed types/mixtures, and what measures have taken place for disease and pest control across the farm.

We have to be able to verify everything that happens. It sounds daunting, but most of the required information would be detailed on a conventional farm anyway, via invoices, sales receipts, movements book etc.

The inspectors are interested in movements, especially regarding movements of animals onto the farm, and where they have come from, as this can highlight non-organic animals entering the system. The animal medicines book is also keenly looked at; it is important that the farm is not using routine medicines. Any drugs used should also have good reasons for use.

Stocking rates are assessed to ensure that the farm is capable of sustaining the livestock on the land. We need to give details of forage tonnes, bought-in feed and its sources, and details in dry matter terms of all feed rations from calves to cows, sheep and beef. The whole exercise is aimed at ensuring we are not contravening any of the organic standards and that our farming methods are sustainable in the long term.

The inspector takes a look around the farm, at crops and livestock. They are looking for healthy stock, not over crowded and well managed land.

Our inspection this year took approximately half a day. We dont find it too daunting now, as we know what type of detail they require.n

Forages and bought-in feeds as well as record keeping, stock welfare and movements came under scrutiny in Miles Saunders recent inspection by the Soil Association

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