PhD thesis
Production Diseases in European Organic Dairy Farms – Current Status and Identification of Drivers for Improvement by Means of a Systemic Approach

Publication Details
Krieger, M.
Publication year:


The aims of this
thesis were to determine the animal health status in organic dairy farms in
Europe and to identify drivers for improving the current situation by means of
a systemic approach. Prevalences of production diseases were determined in 192
herds in Germany, France, Spain, and Sweden (Paper I), and stakeholder
consultations were performed to investigate potential drivers to improve animal
health on the sector level (ibid.). Interactions between farm variables were
assessed through impact analysis and evaluated to identify general system
behaviour and classify components according to their outgoing and incoming
impacts (Paper II-III).

The mean values and
variances of prevalences indicate that the common rules of organic dairy
farming in Europe do not result in consistently low levels of production
diseases. Stakeholders deemed it necessary to improve the current status and
were generally in favour of establishing thresholds for the prevalence of
production diseases in organic dairy herds as well as taking actions to improve
farms below that threshold. In order to close the gap between the organic
principle of health and the organic farming practice, there is the need to
formulate a common objective of good animal health and to install instruments
to ensure and prove that the aim is followed by all dairy farmers in Europe who
sell their products under the organic label. Regular monitoring and evaluation
of herd health performance based on reference values are considered preconditions
for identifying farms not reaching the target and thus in need of improvement.

impact analysis was shown to be a suitable method for modeling and evaluating
the manifold interactions between farm factors and for identifying the most
influential components on the farm level taking into account direct and
indirect impacts as well as impact strengths. Variables likely to affect the system
as a whole, and the prevalence of production diseases in particular, varied
largely between farms despite some general tendencies. This finding reflects
the diversity of farm systems and underlines the importance of applying
systemic approaches in health management. Reducing the complexity of farm
systems and indicating farm-specific drivers, i.e. areas in a farm, where
changes will have a large impact, the presented approach has the potential to
complement and enrich current advisory practice and to support farmers’
decision-making in terms of animal health.


Last updated on 2019-01-08 at 14:32