HEALTH OF DAIRY COWS MANAGED ORGANICALLY: A REVIEW

~Dr Anupam Thakuria

     “Organic” is a production system that is managed to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. To sell milk as organic, the farm must be certified and inspected to verify that an organic plan is rigorously followed. Interest in organic dairying is on the increase because of the growing organic market, premium prices for organic milk, and a preference for less intensive production systems. Ministry of Commerce in India is responsible for developing National Standards of Organic Agriculture. In principle organic animal production system should be governed by natural, physiological and habitable requirements of farm animals- accreditation norms, conversion period, livestock introduction, reproduction and breeding, feeding standards and list of banned and monitoring. The two basic issues – biosafety and socio-economic of organic farming should also be examined before organic National standard are fully established to meet the expectations of public.

For dairy operations, organic certification requires a record of:
• Implementation of an Organic Livestock Plan;
• Mandatory outdoor access;
• Access to pasture;
• No antibiotics, growth hormones, or GMOs;
• 100% organic feed and approved feed supplements;
• Organic management from last third of gestation; and
• No rotating animals between organic and non-organic management.
Many dairy farmers are leery of organic production because of concerns that restrictions on the use of antibiotics and other drugs may have a negative impact on herd health. But research indicates that a high level of herd health can be maintained in organic management systems.
Mastitis is a costly disease that is frequently treated with antibiotics in conventional production systems. Organic dairies treat mastitis with a range of tactics varying from frequent milk-out to homeopathy to utilization of a variety of organic medications such as garlic or antibody blends.
University of Wisconsin researchers Pol and Ruegg studied herd health (Journal of Dairy Science, January, 2007) on 20 organic farms and 20 conventional dairies. Results are in Table: 1.

Table 1: Reported cases/yr (% of total cows in herd)

Herd health problem Mastitis Respiratory Metritis Foot infection
20 organic dairies 20.5 0.8 (4 farms) 9.3 24.6 (12 farms)
20 conventional dairies 40.9 3.3 15.3 19.7

All the conventional farms utilized dry cow treatment for mastitis control, with penicillin and streptomycin used more often than Cephapirin. Half the organic farms medicated cows at dry-off with an ultra filtered whey product used most often. Cephapirin was the drug most frequently used as an intra-mammary treatment for clinical mastitis in conventional dairy herds. Bovine whey products and garlic tincture were the most frequently used medications for clinical mastitis on organic farms. Satisfaction with treatment results were 40% on conventional farms and 74% on organic farms. The authors caution against using these results to characterize conventional and organic herds in Wisconsin as the study required that all conventional dairies make extensive use of dry cow treatment for mastitis.
An earlier Wisconsin study compared 99 conventional herds with 32 organic herds. Average production per cow per day was 68 lb for conventional farms and 50 lb on organic farms. Herds with somatic cell counts (SCC) less than 200,000 were 31.3% conventional and 9.4% organic, while SCC greater than 400,000 were 8.1% conventional and 15.6% organic. These results indicate a wider range of effectiveness in controlling mastitis in organic herds than in conventional herds.
Medication with antibiotics is strictly controlled in Scandinavia where all treatments must be done by veterinarians and recorded by the vet when treated. A Norwegian study of 93 conventional and 31 organic herds found that organic herds had longer production life (121%), and less clinical mastitis (14%), ketosis (36%) and milk fever (59%); similar SCC counts (102%); but lower production (82%) while feeding less concentrates (46%). A Danish study compared 99 conventional herds with 29 organic herds with 10 years of experience. Organic herds had fewer mastitis treatments (56%), lower SCC (87%), and less retained placenta (58%), ketosis (24%) and milk production (83%).
Scandinavian cattle may be quite different than North American cattle in their resistance to disease, thus especially well-adapted to production systems with less dependence on antibiotic therapy. Sire selection programs in Scandinavia have placed considerable emphasis on health traits for at least 25 years while North American breeding has been very focused on increased milk yields. Recent Dutch research attempted to determine if different Holstein genetics should be utilized in organic or conventional herds. This appeared to be the case for milk production, but not for somatic cell score.
Organic standards generally allow conventional medicines to be used to treat illness and disease under advice from a vet, when effective alternative treatments are not available. However, routine prophylactic use of drugs is not allowed. An increased amount of withholding time, atleast double that specified on the product, is required. In certain cases, such antibiotic use in meat animals, their use results in the permanent loss of ‘organic status’.
Vaccinations are allowed when they are legally required or when disease organism are known to be present on the farm and cannot be controlled by other management technique, but they are generally not recommended.
The growing body of research indicates that organic production methods can be utilized while maintaining good herd health. The restrictions in use of antibiotics may be offset by beneficial effects of organic management systems. Herd health concerns should not prevent the adoption of organic production methods.

CONCLUSIONS:
These are only a few illustrative standards; the standards in comprehensive form are now available which give complete requirements of organic production including that for milk production, Yet, if we consider the above minimum requirements and standards prescribed for production under organic management, it may appear to be a rather tedious one in comparison to the existing care free production management in India. Lastly, the organic farming is an emerging reality all over the globe.

REFERENCES:
1. Health of Dairy Cows Managed Organically by Johnson, D. Dairy Star. January 13 2007
2. Organic Livestock Production System and National Standard by Verna, A. ICAR, New Delhi
3. The Emerging Issues in Livestock Production: Organic Animal Husbandry by Chander, M and Pathak, P.K. Division of Extension education, IVRI Izatnagar.
4. Organic Dairy Herd Health: Managing Disease in Organic Herd by Tikofsky, L . Organic Agriculture. February 08, 2013.

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AUTHOR: Dr Anupam Thakuria
Veterinary Office
State Veterinary Dispensary, Sapatgram
Dhubri: 783337
E-mail: anupamthakuria2192@gmail.com
Phone: 7399469325

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