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Using Less Medicine For Organic Cows

05 May 2010

DENMARK - It is possible to minimise the use of antibiotics on organic dairy farms by taking several different approaches. Scientists from Aarhus University have put together data, looking at the low use of antibiotics on organic farms.

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 the handouts, which 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 a relevant 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 experience and support each other to ensure that the goals for each farmer in the group are actually being achieved.

The report (in Danish) Lavt forbrug af antibiotika i økologiske malkekvægsbesætninger, Intern rapport, Husdyrbrug nr. 20. marts 2010 can be downloaded or purchased.

For more information please contact: Senior scientist Mette Vaarst, Department of Animal Health and Bioscience, telephone: +45 8999 1344, e-mail: [email protected]  

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