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Doctoral thesis, 2018

Health and herd health planning in organic dairy herds

Sjöström, Karin


The status in European organic dairy production does not in all aspects, meet organic principles with regards to the aims of good animal welfare and health, and consumers’ expectations, and therefore needs to be improved. The aims of this thesis were to; assess the status of animal health in organic dairy herds; assess the structural characteristics, and their relation to implementation, of animal health plans; and to investigate a structured participatory and farm-centric approach. In total, 218 farms in Germany, Spain, France and Sweden were included in the study. All farms were visited, and general characteristics were collected through an on-farm protocol. Common procedures for calculations were made to arrive at comparable herd level indicators. A sample of the lactating cows on each farm was scored for lameness. Data for the analysis of farm structures (192 farms), contained a battery of farm and farmer descriptors from which typologies were derived. Three farm clusters were identified and rates of implementation of health improvement actions were explored. Actions, as part of a health plan, were identified during a structured participatory approach, with farmer, veterinarian and advisor, by use of an impact matrix analysis, on 122 farms in France, Germany and Sweden. The prevalence of animal health indicators varied widely between farms and countries. The odds of lameness were five to six times higher in France and Germany, and slightly higher in Spain, than in Sweden. This may be particularly true in large herds with cows of the Holstein breed and zero-grazing herds. Farms in the different clusters implemented different strategies towards animal health planning. The degree of implementation of the actions was good. At follow-up (by data), no direct associations were seen between change in animal health indicators and the structured participatory approach. The great difference in prevalence of production diseases implies that there is room for improvements. The need to enhance the quality and availability of data is reinforced by the fact that there is no unified recording in European organic dairy herds. The results may be used as a background for tailored advisory service strategies, i.e. different types (clusters) of organic dairy farms needs different type of advisory approach to reach improvements (adapted to the specific farm situation).


prevalence, characteristics, participatory approach, production diseases

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2018, number: 2018:39
ISBN: 978-91-7760-218-7, eISBN: 978-91-7760-219-4
Publisher: Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science
    Clinical Science

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