Prevention, Not Antibiotics, Is Best For Organic Cows27 April 2010
DENMARK - Researchers ar Aarhus University say it is possible to minimise the use of antibiotics on organic dairy farms by taking different approaches.
Prevention is the buzzword among organic farmers with regard to farm animal diseases. The focus is on animal health and welfare, thereby avoiding disease. However, it does happen that animals become sick and so need to be treated with medicine. The goal for organic farmers is to reduce the need for antibiotics via improved animal welfare.
In the course of time, much experience has been gleaned and many studies have been carried out in order to achieve this goal. Lately, a group of scientists held a meeting at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Aarhus University, with the aim of gathering results and experience from the research project, ECOVIT.
A report from the meeting (in Danish) contains hand-outs that address issues related to a low use of antibiotics on dairy cattle farms as well as a summary of the meeting's final discussions.
To reduce or even phase out the use of medicine on organic farms, it is necessary to take several different approaches.
The results of analyses of herd health show that it is definitely possible to reduce medicine use. However, it can be a lengthy process since it is absolutely vital that animal welfare improvements are what drive it. The goal of 'not using medicine' cannot stand alone, says senior scientist, Mette Vaarst from the Department of Animal Health and Bioscience at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.
Farm veterinarians can play an important role in this process through the provision of an appropriate advisory service. This requires that they familiarise themselves with the principles of organic farming as well as an appreciation of the aim of the organic farmer to phase out medicine on the farm.
Another important experience that has been shown to be effective is participation in the so-called 'Farmer Field Schools'. These are forums in which farmers advise each other, learn from each other's experiences and support each other to ensure that the goals for each farmer in the group are being achieved.
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