Open Call on an experiment on the effect of dairy management practices on production efficiency, milk quality, herd health status and reproductive efficiency
By Urs Niggli, FiBL
For the Open Calls made by the QLIF consortium by 1st of April 2004 for a huge feeding experiment, involving 160 dairy cows, we received 6 proposals from 6 European countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Romania, Spain and United Kingdom. The 6 applications were evaluated by 3 board members and 3 external scientists from Canada, USA and Switzerland. As the design of the experiment was multifactorial and a high number of animals were needed in order to address effects on complex factors like health status, special attention was given to statistical problems by the evaluators.
The 6 consortia, which applied for the experiment (see the description on our website (PDF), were faced with different difficulties: Several of the partners were not able to provide a sufficient number of dairy cows (160). From the management side of the experiment, it was not possible for some of the partners to divide dairy groups into real replications. Some of the consortia wanted to do the experiment on 2 or more different farms that resulted in an additional variation and it might be difficult whether the confounding factors such as breed, people looking after animals, farm characteristics, milking equipment, milk storage tanks etc. can be controlled. It was very important in the experiment to concentrate on potential differences of conventional and organic dairy farming practices. Only the application from UK (the consortium of Carlo Leifert, William Taylor, Gillian Butler, Philip Cain, Elizabeth Stockdale, Kirsten Brandt, Michael Bourlakis, Christopher Ritson and Sandra Edwards) was able to meet what was required by the open call. Nonetheless, also the Newcastle consortium was required to make some alterations of the experiment (number of replications) to be accepted by the assessors.
The evaluation was finished by August 20 and all applying consortia were informed within one week. Workpackage 2.2.2 started in September 2004 at Newcastle University. It is a very ambitious and expensive experiment and the funding of the project by QLIF is only limited (330'000 €). An additional funding will be necessary. The report for this research project is due on December 2008.
We would like to thank all colleagues who applied for this interesting workpackage and a special thanks goes to the 3 external scientists, who helped us to do the evaluation.