Improvement of animal health in organic dairy farms through ‘stable schools’: selected results of a pilot study in Germany
In this study, we initiated four regional stable schools focusing on animal health within a total of 19 German organic dairy farms. A modified stable school approach was used, i.e. providing the farmers with detailed information on the health status of each farm. The participating farmers showed a positive attitude towards this concept; they appreciated the joint search for effective and feasible measures and evaluated the self-determined approach in the stable school as highly motivating. Accordingly, the compliance regarding implementation was high. More than two thirds of all 123 recommendations given by the stable school groups to host farmers were implemented. The degree of implementation was similar to the level achieved in other intervention studies using face-to-face advice. Across all farms, cleanliness of the cows improved significantly over the 2 -year monitoring period. In nine farms, which had implemented measures regarding udder health, the somatic cell score improved significantly and milk yield increased as compared to the control peer farms. However, treatment incidence for mastitis and antibiotic drying-off remained unchanged. These findings suggest that dairy cattle health in commercial organic dairy farms may be improved in response to farm-individual intervention measures through the stable school approach, which was well received by the farmers. However, additional studies are necessary to investigate the implementation of stable schools in a larger-scale setting under practical conditions, e.g. by advisory services.
KeywordsStable schools Dairy cattle Animal health Intervention study Knowledge exchange
We gratefully acknowledge the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE), Bonn, for financial support in the context of the Federal Organic Farming Scheme (BÖLN), grant no. 10 OE 017. We would also like to thank our stable school farmers for their willingness to participate in our pilot study and for their generous hospitality.
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