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$1.4m USDA grant aids in research of cow health on organic dairy farms

Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

18-Jan-2017
Last updated on 19-Jan-2017 at 16:17 GMT2017-01-19T16:17:48Z

With the $1.4m grant from the USDA, a team of researchers from three different universities aim to expand the limited body of research on the health and welfare of cows on organic dairy farms. ©iStock/vwalakte
With the $1.4m grant from the USDA, a team of researchers from three different universities aim to expand the limited body of research on the health and welfare of cows on organic dairy farms. ©iStock/vwalakte

A $1.4m grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has been given to a team of university researchers looking to help and maintain cow health on organic dairy farms. 

Researchers from the University of Minnesota, Colorado State University and Kansas State University will work together to evaluate methodologies that pertain to cow welfare on organic dairy farms while conforming to organic regulations.

“Dairy is the second largest segment of organic agriculture,” Dr. Pablo Pinedo, a veterinary physician and research assistant in the department of animal sciences at Colorado State University, said.

Consumer interest in organic dairy is no longer niche as more dairy farmers look to gain organic certification. The global organic dairy food and drinks market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.25% from 2016 to reach $36.7m by 2022, up from $14.5m in 2015.

Need for more qualified research

As the demand for organic dairy grows, so does the body of research of how to maintain the health of dairy cows. But currently, controlled research looking into this area is not enough. One challenge facing organic dairy researchers is that organic dairies are typically much smaller than conventional dairies, making it hard to find animal populations of a suitable size for studies.

To help overcome this challenge, Pinedo and the team are partnering with Aurora Organic Dairy, which will open the doors to its large herd in Colorado for this study.

“We need to continue developing science-based approaches for prevention and treatment of disease. We need procedures based on studies that are supported by rigorous research. Our long-term goal is to contribute to a better health that will result in better cow welfare,” Pinedo said.

Over the next three years, the study will focus on health concerns such as mastitis prevention, calf care and fly management. The team will also examine the economic impact of organic animal care.

“This grant will allow us to produce research focused on enhancing animal care, which is significant to this industry,” said Pinedo.

“We will evaluate these animals throughout their entire lifecycle, from calves to cows, so that we can help them thrive and live healthy, productive lives.”

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