Farm centric and equifinal approach to reduce production diseases in dairy farms

A. Sundrum, Emanuelson C., C. Fourichon, H. Hogeveen, R. Tranter, A. Velarde

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstractAcademic


Negative side effects of the production process on animal health have been discussed since the first ICPD in 1968 and intensive research has been conducted on ways of reducing production diseases (PDs). Nevertheless, dairy farms continue to be plagued by a high prevalence of PDs, adversely affecting productivity, reproduction and animal welfare. Research in animal science
has developed many tools under experimental conditions to improve cows’ health. However, effectiveness of interventions is generally context-variant and often lacking external validation. An interdisciplinary EU-project (IMPRO) aimed to investigate and promote alternatives to a context-independent handling of tools and measures using a farm centric and equifinal approach to reduce PDs in dairy farming. Equifinal means that the same end state (a low level of selected PDs on the farm level) may be achieved via different paths. Due to the very
heterogeneous conditions under which dairy cows are held, generalised recommendations for the implementation of health measures are often both ineffective and inefficient. This results in hindering farmers’ readiness to invest in, potentially costly, health measures. Farmers often do not know which measure they should prioritize in order to combat particular problems
and which investments could provide an appropriate return of investment. The new alternative approach is based, inter alia, on an impact matrix as a participatory tool (involving farmer, veterinarian and advisor) for: diagnostic work of interactions; evaluation of farm-specific costs; and possible benefits of recommended measures and construction of benchmarks for achievable PD levels. The tool has been created to provide ways of reducing selected PDs
(mastitis, metabolic and fertility disorders, and lameness), using particularly data from monthly milk records. The first version of the innovative system-diagnostic tool has been used on 192 farms: 60 in Germany, 23 in Spain, 54 in France, and 55 in Sweden. Conclusions from this exercise were favourable as farmers and their advisors saw the approach as useful. Moreover, results from telephone interviews regarding the uptake of the preventive measures suggested,
indicated that 95% of the farmers had implemented one or more of these preventive measures. The feedback from the project was encouraging and provided positive incentives for further development of a farm level diagnostic approach overcoming the faults in previous approaches towards the reduction of PDs on dairy farms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals
Subtitle of host publicationBook of abstracts
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868315
ISBN (Print)9789086862856
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals - Wageningen University (Hof van Wageningen Conference Centre), Wageningen, Netherlands
Duration: 22 Jun 201623 Jun 2016
Conference number: 16


Conference16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals
Abbreviated titleICPD 2016
Internet address

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