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Management Practices for Disease Prevention and Treatment Choices by American Organic Dairy Farmers Running head: Health Management on Organic Dairy Farms

Whistance, Lindsay; Bennedsgaard, Torben Werner and Vaarst, Mette (2012) Management Practices for Disease Prevention and Treatment Choices by American Organic Dairy Farmers Running head: Health Management on Organic Dairy Farms. Journal of Dairy Science, , - . [Completed]

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In organic farming, the use of antibiotics is restricted to treatment of disease. In the USA, use of antibiotics results in an animal losing its organic status. Consequently, organic dairy farmers may have specific approaches to health management and disease treatment. Qualitative interviews were conducted with farmers and stockpersons on eighteen dairy farms in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York State in October 2010. Eight farmers had used antibiotics after conversion on calves and cows. These were isolated cases except for one farmer who consistently treated all calves with Coccidiosis. Antibiotics were missed by one farmer each for lameness and calf disease but otherwise farmers expressed a general satisfaction with alternative treatment plans in conjunction with preventive measures. Overall, there was a strong primary focus on disease prevention which farmers believed to be the cause of lower disease levels in their herd. Managing soil health, feeding a high forage/low grain diet with adequate supplements and less emphasis on yield was universally important, as was daily exercise with access to pasture and good stockpersonship. Hygiene was considered vital for minimizing the spread of any disease present in the herd. Breeding appropriate animals was a further consideration with some farmers preferring to select for specific attributes with pure breeds and others focussing on robustness by cross breeding. Components within existing free- and tie-stall systems were considered to be limiting factors for optimum health on several farms. Most alternative therapies used were for udder disease and then hoof and reproductive disorders as well as calf problems. Farmers highlighted a different timeline when treating disease with alternative therapies with promptness of both diagnosis and starting treatment being key factors in their success. Treatment could also be applied for longer than conventional therapies. Farmers in Wisconsin had previously had full access to a veterinarian specializing in alternative medicine. These farmers tended to use more therapies than elsewhere suggesting a beneficial relationship. In general, veterinarians were used for general health checks and diagnoses with farmers selecting treatments with support from fellow farmers, books, magazines, courses, and consulting advisory services run e.g., by dairy companies. For acute or chronic illness, particularly for animals with a low perceived value, treatment could be terminated/withheld in favour of culling or drying off a quarter.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Antimicrobial treatment; Alternative treatment; dairy cows
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > ECOVIT - Improved health in organic milk production
Deposited By: Bennedsgaard, Mr Torben Werner
ID Code:20663
Deposited On:26 Mar 2012 09:05
Last Modified:18 Feb 2022 08:13
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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