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Organic Agriculture

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 231–247 | Cite as

Major organic dairy farm types in Germany and their farm, herd, and management characteristics

  • S. Ivemeyer
  • J. Brinkmann
  • S. March
  • C. Simantke
  • C. Winckler
  • U. Knierim
Article

Abstract

Organic milk production varies due to topographical and structural farm conditions, but very little information is available about this variation in Germany. The aim of this study was to identify typical major farm types (MFTs) of German organic dairy farms and to describe their farm, herd, and management characteristics. Based on data from 204 organic dairy farms from previous studies with representative samples, four MFTs were identified by cluster analysis. Cluster-criteria were herd size, milk yield, region, and housing system. Identified MFTs were (A) medium-scale herds with low-to-medium milk yield, (B) small-scale herds with low milk yield, (C) large-scale herds with high milk yield, and (D) medium-scale herds in Southern Germany with medium milk yield. Descriptive measures of herd management obtained from interviews with 10–11 farms per MFT showed that the MFTs typically differ in more variables than the cluster-criteria. For example, small-scale farms with low milk yield provided the highest and large-scale farms with high milk yield the lowest pasture access, while the amount of concentrate fed showed an inverse association. No significant differences were found regarding herd health indicators. The results showed that different management strategies can lead to similar results regarding herd health and longevity. However, achieving high milk yields in organic dairy herds also requires high input, not only in terms of feed with a high-energy density like maize or concentrates but also in terms of preventive health measures. Thus, for research and recommendations variation between different dairy farm types should be taken into account.

Keywords

Organic dairy cows Cluster analysis Udder health Metabolic disorders Feeding Housing 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks to the farmers for their cooperation and for sharing their data. The FP7 ERA-Net CORE Organic Plus project OrganicDairyHealth was supported by funds of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) based on a decision of the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany via the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) under the Federal Organic Farming Scheme (BÖLN), grant no. 2814OE003 ‘Improving animal health and welfare on organic cattle milk production through breeding and management’.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Farm Animal Behaviour and Husbandry SectionUniversity of KasselWitzenhausenGermany
  2. 2.Thuenen-Institute of Organic FarmingFederal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and FisheriesWesterauGermany
  3. 3.Division of Livestock Sciences, Department of Sustainable Agricultural SystemsUniversity of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)ViennaAustria

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