Animal breeding in organic dairy farming : an inventory of farmers' views and difficulties to overcome

W.J. Nauta, A.F. Groen, R.F. Veerkamp, D. Roep, T. Baars

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Currently, most organic dairy farmers in the Netherlands use conventional breeding methods and production stock. In view of the organic objective of closed chains, organic dairy farmers discussed in workshops the desirability and practical merits of different possible scenarios for realizing breeding programmes that are more in line with organic farming principles. Generally, farmers concluded that there is a need for organic breeding practices to support the sector's credibility towards consumers and society. The first step in developing organic breeding practices is to ban the indirect use of artificial embryo reproduction technologies, but there was no consensus on which selection strategies best fit organic principles. Most organic farmers preferred to uphold the familiar breeding structure of index selection and artificial insemination. Since the scale of organic farming remains small, a distinct breeding structure for organic farming will be difficult to achieve. Customizing conventional breeding values and an international co-operation between breeding programmes may be (temporary) solutions. In organic farming, farm-based regional breeding strategies based on kin-breeding may be more appropriate but farmers lack knowledge of these practices. Also decision-makers need more knowledge on the influence of the (yet not quantified) genotype × environment interaction on the estimation of breeding values for sires when considering organic and conventional farming as different environments. Substantial genotype × environment interaction would support selection under conditions representative for organic environments. It was concluded that realizing distinct organic breeding practices will take time and will require institutional changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-34
JournalNJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • organic farming
  • animal breeding
  • animal breeding methods
  • herd improvement
  • dairy farming
  • behavioural changes

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