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Doctoral thesis, 2010

Organic dairy production : herd characteristics and genotype by environment interactions

Ahlman, Therese


The aim of this thesis was to gain further knowledge about the performance of cows in organic dairy production and their ability to adapt to the organic production environment. Milk production traits, fertility traits, somatic cell count (SCC) and longevity traits were analysed in organic and conventional herds and the reasons for culling in the two systems were investigated. Furthermore, the genetic correlation between traits expressed in organic and conventional production was estimated to assess the occurrence of genotype by environment interaction (GxE). The data contained records from almost all organic and conventional herds in Sweden. This thesis shows that performance of organically managed dairy cows differs from conventionally managed cows. Cows in organic herds had lower production, better fertility and higher SCC than cows in conventional herds. However, the performance of cows in organic production depended to a large extent on the lower milk production level. At a given production level, organically managed cows had slightly worse fertility but equal SCC as cows in conventional herds. Cows stayed longer in organic herds than in conventional herds and the main reason for culling differed between the production systems. The main reason for culling in organic production was poor udder health followed by low fertility. In conventional production the main reason for culling was low fertility followed by poor udder health. The results indicate that organic farmers are more concerned about udder health than conventional farmers are. Genetic correlations for production, fertility, SCC and longevity, estimated in organic and conventional dairy production were in general close to unity. The results indicate that current breeding values for Swedish Red bulls, estimated in conventional production, are adequate for organic production. Weak GxE was found for fertility traits in Swedish Holstein cows, indicating that some cows of this breed are better suited for organic production than others. However, the magnitude of GxE does not justify development of a separate breeding programme for the organic population today.


dairy cows; organic husbandry; organic agriculture; animal performance; milk production; fertility; reproduction; somatic cell count; longevity; culling; selection criteria; genotype environment interaction; genetic correlation

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2010, number: 2010:59
ISBN: 978-91-576-7472-2
Publisher: Dept. of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Ahlman, Therese
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

URI (permanent link to this page)