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Converting to organic dairy farming: Consequences for production, somatic cell scores and calving interval of first parity Holstein cows

  • Nauta, W.J.
  • Baars, T.
  • Bovenhuis, H.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2006
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
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This paper aims to describe the changes prompted by conversion to organic farming for milk production and fertility of first parity Holstein cows. Data was collected for Dutch organic farms, with a distinction made between long-standing-organic farms, converted organic farms and a reference group of conventional farms. The percentage Holstein blood in the herds, milk production (kg milk, % milk fat, % milk protein), somatic cell scores (SCS), calving interval (CI) and age at first calving (AFC) were described over time. An animal model was used to estimate the effects of conversion on different traits based on data from converted organic farms. Milk production was lower and somatic cell counts were higher on long-standing-organic farms than on conventional and converted organic farms. Interestingly, at pre-organic farms, i.e. before their conversion, the milk production level was already lower than at conventional farms. The estimates from our statistical analysis showed a highly significant decrease in milk yield and protein percentage due to conversion. Also fat content decreased, SCS increased and AFC increased significantly. It can be concluded that the conversion to organic farming is a gradual process over years. Dutch farmers who decided during the late 1990s to convert to organic farming, represented a specific group of farmers distinct from conventional farmers, which was reflected by lower milk yields, milk fat percentage and protein percentage before conversion as compared to conventional farms. During conversion, significant changes in milk production, protein and fat contents and somatic cell scores took place. Age of first calving is an important difference between organic and conventional farming

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