Strategies used by dairy family farmers in the south of Brazil to comply with organic regulations

Honorato LA, Machado Filho LC, Barbosa Silveira ID, Hotzel MJ. Strategies use by dairy family farmers in the south of Brazil to comply with organic regulations. J Dairy Sci. [Epub ahead of print]

The aims of this study were to investigate the environmental, feeding, and health management of organic (ORG) family dairy farms in the south of Brazil in comparison with conventional (CONV) farms, and to assess their degree of compliance with Brazilian organic legislation and thestrategies they adopt to accomplish this (n=17 per group). During 2 visits to each farm in March and September, 2010, observations were made on the environment, feed, and health management, followed by bulk milk testing, clinical evaluation, and breed assessment of each individual cow, and an evaluation of diseases and treatments reported within the period. Additional data were collected directly from the farmers through direct interviews. The number of lactating cows was, on average, 11 (range 5 to 19) in the ORG and 16 (range 7 to 42) in the CONV herds. The ORG herds presented a lower percentage of the Holstein breed; whereas CONV herds were predominantly Holstein, in the ORG herds, only 2 herds were 100% Holstein and the remaining herds were crosses of Holstein, Jersey, and Gir (Bos indicus) cattle. Milk production per cow was lower (10.2 vs. 15.1±1.22L/cow, respectively) in ORG than in the CONV farms. The ORG farms offered less concentrate feed than CONV farms and had better pasture management. Organic farmers reported using phytotherapic and homeopathic products, and pasture management as a strategy to keep infection levels of endo- and ectoparasites low, whereas CONV farmers regularly used anthelmintics and acaricides. Milk production was lower in ORG than in CONV farms, but cow health and condition scores were broadly similar, indicating that the with these strategies ORG farms were able to secure levels of animal welfare comparable with CONV farms while complying with organic regulation, although at the cost of lower cow productivity.