, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 349-364
Date: 21 Nov 2010

Farmers’ Attitude Towards Animal Welfare Aspects and Their Practice in Organic Dairy Calf Rearing: a Case Study in Selected Nordic Farms

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In organic philosophy, the concept of “naturalness” is of major importance. According to the organic interpretation of animal welfare, natural living is considered a precondition for accomplishing welfare and the principal aims of organic production include the provision of natural living conditions for animals. However, respective regulations are lacking in organic legislation. In practice, the life of a calf in organic rearing systems can deviate from being natural, since common practices in dairy farms include early weaning, dehorning, or cow-calf separation soon after birth. This case study explores how calf welfare is approached in six different organic dairy farms and how far the concept of naturalness is implemented. The farms included in this study were located in Norway and Sweden. A semi-structured questionnaire was used for data collection. The interviewed farmers approach the concept of welfare in various ways and state that “naturalness” is an aspect of animal welfare. However, in practice in the calf rearing systems under study, only a few “naturalness” aspects were implemented. Reasons for the observed discrepancy might lie in differing understandings of “naturalness,” in economic restrictions, and in other trade-offs resulting from production system inherent characteristics and in limited regulation concerning provision of natural living aspects.