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Improving animal health and welfare in organic cattle milk production through breeding and management

Sørensen, Jan Tind; Winckler, Christoph; Wallenbeck, Anna; Spengler, Anet; Knierim, Ute; Kargo, Morten; Walczak, Jacek and Ribikauskas, Vytautas (2018) Improving animal health and welfare in organic cattle milk production through breeding and management. Aarhus University , Department of Animal Science.

[thumbnail of COPlus_final_reporting 150618.pdf]
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Document available online at: http://projects.au.dk/coreorganicplus/research-projects/organicdairyhealth/


Overall summary of main results, discussion and conclusions WP1
The aim in WP1 was to map the performance of local breeds compared to commercial dairy breeds on organic farms in Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Germany with regard to health associated traits, fertility and production traits. In a study covering the whole population of the selected breeds, managed under organic conditions during the period 1.7.2011 to 30.6.2014, we found lower milk yields for local breeds. In general we found better fertility performance (less days open, shorter calving intervals, lower number of inseminations) for at least one of the local breeds involved in each country. We also detected lower proportions of milk records with somatic cell counts above 100.000 cells/ ml milk for in at least one of the local breeds in Austria, Switzerland and Sweden, but not so for Poland where the commercial breed performed best. Moreover, we found a lower proportion of test day records with a fat: protein ratio above 1.5 in the first 100 days in milk for many local breeds (Grey Cattle (AL) and Original Braunvieh (OB) in Switzerland. AL by trend in Austria, Swedish Red (SRB) in Sweden and Polish Red and White (ZR) in Poland) hinting at a lower risk of subclinical ketosis for some of the local breeds compared to the respective commercial breed. We could not find breed differences regarding overall occurrence of veterinary treatments or those due to fertility or leg/ claw problems in Austrian data, but found that AL had less treatments due to udder problems than the commercial Braunvieh (BV). In Sweden, the local breed SRB had less overall treatments, fewer treatments due to fertility or udder disorders and also showed less remarks on claw or leg disorders than the commercial breed. We did not find breed differences regarding treatments due to metabolic disorders in Swedish data. We analyzed Austrian and Swiss data from culled cows on productive life span and detected a superiority of local breeds for this trait, but higher lifetime production (kg ECM) in the commercial breed. The second study on cows managed under very similar conditions in Sweden (period: 1.7.2011 to 30.6.2014) and Germany (period 1.7.2011 to 30.6.2015) revealed no significant breed differences in total ECM yield in German data, while we found higher milk fat and milk protein contents for the local breed Original Red Angler Cattle breed (AAZ). In Sweden, we found the highest ECM yield in the commercial breed Swedish Holstein (SH). The local breed Swedish Polled (SKB) had the highest fat and protein contents, followed by the second local breed Swedish Red (SRB), both differed significantly from the respective commercial breed SH and also among each other. We could not detect significant breed differences in the German data set with regard to fertility traits, although the local AAZ tended to have fewer days open than the commercial breed HO. In Sweden, we did not find breed differences for calving interval, but both local breeds had fewer days open, and SKB needed fewer inseminations compared to SH. No breed differences in any of the two countries regarding the proportion of test day records with a SCC content of over 100.000 cells per ml milk was found. We assessed the risk of subclinical ketosis during the first 100 days in milk by comparing fat protein ratios (FPR), applying differing thresholds in Germany (AAZ >1.7, HO >1.5) per breed, without detecting breed differences. However, in Sweden (with a threshold of >1.5) where the local SRB performed best, SKB showed an intermedium position, while SH had the highest proportion of FPR >1.5. Occurrence of veterinary treatments and those due to fertility problems did not differ between German breeds. Data on treatment due to metabolic disorders and leg or claw problems had low incidences, but models did not converge. In Sweden, we found the lowest incidence of overall veterinary treatments and treatments due to mastitis in the local breed SRB, but the local breed SKB did not differ from the commercial SH in neither of the two traits. We did not find breed differences regarding veterinary treatments due to fertility problems or diagnosis of claw/leg problems during claw trimming in the Swedish data set. Incidences of treatments due to metabolic disorders were low in all Swedish breeds, but models for this trait failed to converge. From our finding’s we conclude that local breeds partly have advantages with regard to many functional traits studied and that their potential should be better exploited in future, especially on farms with a medium production level (most clearly shown in the small study on German and Swedish farms). We also found overall high proportions of test day records with elevated SCC in Germany and even more so in Poland from which we deduct a great potential for further overall management improvement regardless of the involved breeds in these countries.

EPrint Type:Report
Location:Blichers Allé 20
8830 Tjele
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Dairy cattle
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Research affiliation: European Union > CORE Organic Plus > ORGANICDAIRYHEALTH
Research funders: European Union > CORE Organic Plus > ORGANICDAIRYHEALTH
Project ID:141
Start Date:15 January 2015
End Date:15 March 2018
Deposited By: Iburg-Krogh, Secretary Mette
ID Code:33357
Deposited On:11 Oct 2018 12:46
Last Modified:11 Oct 2018 12:46
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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