Dairy cows at Aurora Organic Dairy, Dublin, Texas, now have more room to graze. The 3,300-cow dairy has increased its total amount of certified-organic pasture from 800 to 2,800 acres.

Juan Velez, large-animal veterinarian and vice president of farm operations for Aurora Organic Dairy, says the organic dairy's Texas farm has teamed up with two neighboring family farmers who converted pasture and cropland to certified organic production. "Our company strongly supports requiring pasture for organic dairy cows. Along with our animal welfare program, converting conventional farmland to organic production here in the United States continues to be one of our company's principal goals," he said.

In addition, Aurora Organic Dairy has developed beneficial supplier relationships with more than 120 family farmers whose production comprises more than 50,000 total acres of organic agriculture. And, Aurora actively is recruiting more farmers and assisting them with the transition to sustainable organic production. Velez and his farm managers work to form strong relationships with other farmers in Texas and in other regions to benefit both large and small organic operations.

Another cornerstone of the organic program for Aurora is animal welfare. In June 2006, after a lengthy audit and assessment, Aurora’s Colorado dairy farm received Animal Welfare Review certification from Validus Services, Urbandale, Iowa, an independent, third-party, animal-welfare certification agency. Aurora Organic Dairy is the first and only organic dairy in the nation to receive this animal welfare certification, which is a distinct certification process conducted separately from organic certification. This certification program was developed under the review of TempleGrandin, one of America's leading experts in animal behavior and welfare.

Aurora’s Texas dairy farm also is currently undergoing assessment procedures to qualify for the Animal Welfare Review certification. According to Velez, a combination of criteria contributes to excellent animal care. Pasture is one of several important measures necessary in any comprehensive animal-welfare program. He explained that pasture grasses, as well as a carefully balanced mix of additional forages, provide an optimal mixed-feed ration and the major portion of the organic cows' varied diet.

The company recently developed a third, state-of-the-art organic dairy farm — High Plains Organic Dairy — near Kersey, Colo., which began organic milk production in September 2006. For more information, visit http://www.auroraorganic.com/.