December 2005 No. 3


Joint Organic Congress

QLIF Congress 2006

QLIF Research News

Organic milk as a high value product

Effects of management practices on the composition of nutritually relevant compounds and sensory quality of crops

Consumer attitudes to food quality and safety

QLIF Training and Exchange Workshop

International QLIF Training and Exchange Workshop

QLIF Communication

Improving communication on organic research

Communicating European research 2005

Organic Eprints expands the number of editors and users

New Technical Manager for QLIF

Open doors at Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux

Effect of management practise on lettuce quality

Notes & Correspondance

New organic principles

SOAR summer School 2006

Keynotes from seminar on environmentally friendly food production systems

Suggestions for EU regulation

First scientific conference at FQH

Evaluating inputs for organic farming - a new system

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Organic milk as a high value product

High quality milk products can be produced in organic farming systems and can hopefully be in retail at a higher price than existing milk products

By Jacob Holm Nielsen, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences

According to several consumer surveys on the perception of organic products, consumers expect that organically produced milk and dairy products have superior sensory quality as compared to conventionally produced milk and dairy products.

Moreover, it is expected that the organic dairy cow is housed and fed in a way that creates optimal welfare. In this respect, important elements in the consumers’ expectations are that cows are at pasture in the summertime and that the farmer uses large amounts of home-produced feed.

Nevertheless the proportion of feed from pasture is decreasing due to larger herd sizes, and low prices on imported concentrates do not stimulate the used of home grown forage.

Introduction of new fresh milk types from the organic dairies has shown that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for milk with a special history and/or composition/flavour, which differentiate from conventionally produced milk.

In the QLIF projcet, DARCOF, in collaboration with the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences and partners from UK, Italy and subcontractors from Sweden, has collected milk samples from conventional milking herds and organic and low input milking herds and evaluated the composition of the milk. The results from the survey showed that milk from organic milk production and low input milk production were different in the fatty acid composition and had a higher content of antioxidants compared to the conventionally produced milk (see also DARCOFenews No. 3/2004).

Milk quality in relation to feeding of the dairy cow

Preliminary studies on feeding of dairy cows by either maize silage or grass silage clearly shows that milk from cows fed grass silage contains a significantly higher concentration of alpha-tocopherols and carotenoids.

At the same time, the milk based on feeding grass silage also possesses a higher concentration of unsaturated fatty acids, which makes the derived dairy products more susceptible to oxidation. Moreover, it has been reported that milk from cows fed grass silage has a different flavour compared to the milk from cows fed maize silage.

Based on these new results, it is consequently our hypothesis that it is possible to produce organic milk with a distinct flavour and composition compared to conventionally produced milk based on the use of feeding concepts with high levels of pasture.

The increasing herd size in the conventional milk production, which drives the present structural adjustment in conventional milk production, will in the future reduce the number of herds on pasture in the summer time due to a change in feeding to a total mixed ratio all the year round.

Consequently, it becomes a challenge for the organic milk producers to establish a milk production based on pasture in the summer time and a high level of roughage in the wintertime using grass and legumes if differentiated organic milk with regard to both history and composition has to be produced. Such high quality products can hopefully be in retail at a higher price than existing milk products.

Further research on the topic in QLIF

Two workpackages in the QLIF project are currently investigating the effect of dairy management practices and nutritional regime on the nutritional quality and shelf life of milk (WP2.2.1) and on production efficiency, milk quality and herd health status and reproductive efficiency (WP2.2.2).

WP2.2.1 is a survey-based study that focus on quantifying quality differences between and within production systems (organic, 'low input' and conventional); to identify which management aspects are most important in this respect. The identified aspects will subsequently be further investigated in experimental workpackages.

WP 2.2.2 focus on specific measures to increase the nutritional quality of milk, and production efficiency and costs, and the variation of these between production systems. Thus WP2.2.2 follow up on WP 2.2.1 by comparing the effect on animal performance of selected management practices, such as feed types (e.g. perennial ryegrass, hybrid ryegrass, high sugar cultivars, naked oat and/or white clover) and conservation methods (hay, silage) in organic and conventional production systems. It will use an existing long term comparative (organic versus conventional) dairy experiment.