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Animal health in organic livestock systems: a review

Kijlstra, Prof. Dr. Aize and Eijck, Drs. Ineke (2006) Animal health in organic livestock systems: a review. NJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 54 (1), pp. 77-94.

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Document available online at: http://library.wur.nl/ojs/index.php/njas/article/view/668/391


Organic livestock production is a means of food production with a large number of rules directed towards a high status of animal welfare, care for the environment, restricted use of medical drugs and the production of a healthy product without residues (pesticides or medical drugs). The intentions of organic livestock production have been formulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and were further implemented by EU regulation 2092/91 in the year 2000. The consequences of these rules for the health of the animals were not yet fully anticipated at the time these regulations were made and it has become clear that in some cases the rules are not clear enough thereby even hampering the development of the production system. In this review we shall discuss the implications of these rules for animal health, whereby we shall focus on pig, poultry and dairy production systems. Disease prevention in organic farming is based on the principles that an animal that is allowed to exhibit natural behaviour, is not subjected to stress, and is fed optimal (organic) feed, will have a higher ability to cope with infections than animals reared in a conventional way. Fewer medical treatments would thus be necessary and if an animal would become diseased, alternative treatments instead of conventional drugs should be preferred. Although homeopathy or phytotherapy are recommended according to prevailing regulations, not many organic farmers use this treatment regimen in view of lacking scientific evidence of effectiveness. Important health problems in organic livestock farming are often related to the animals’ outdoor access area. Due to such an area the animals are exposed to various viral, bacterial and parasitic infections some of which may influence the animals’ own welfare but other ones may also endanger the health of conventional livestock (e.g. Avian Influenza) or pose a food safety (Campylobacter, Toxoplasma) problem to the consumer. Many preventive measures can be taken such as using better animal breeds, optimised rearing conditions, pre-, probiotics, addition of acids to the drinking water and in case of infectious disease, tight vaccination schedules may prevent serious outbreaks.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:organic production, homeopathy, infectious disease
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Research affiliation: Netherlands > Wageningen University & Research (WUR) > Animal Sciences Group ASG
Deposited By: Kijlstra, Prof. Dr. Aize
ID Code:8971
Deposited On:07 Aug 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:33
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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