December 2007 No. 6

QLIF Training and Exchange workshop

Concept for QLIF
workshops at 2nd ISOFAR conference

QLIF research in
focus of JSFA

Handbook of
Organic Food Safety
and Quality

Tutorial for
uploading papers
to Organic Eprints

QLIF research
articles on:

Low salmonella
in outdoor pigs

Measures influencing
udder health in
organic dairy farms

Effect of agronomic management
on lettuce quality

Importance of international
and exchange



Farm and animal specific measures and factors influencing udder health on Swiss organic dairy farms

by Peter Klocke, Silvia Ivemeyer, Fritz Heil, Michael Walkenhorst, Ariane Maeschli, and Christophe Notz

Because of the prominent role of udder health and its immense relevance in the proportion of drug usage in livestock this area is a main objective of the research activity during the last decade.

Particularly alternatives for treatment and prevention of acute
and moreover chronic and sub-clinical udder inflammations (mastitis) are a very sensitive field ofresearch because of fundamental lack of evidence on one hand and the widespread use of complementary medicine by organic farmers on the other. Hence, the evaluation of some of these methods was necessary.

In the last decades a preventive method was coming up, the so-called teat sealing with bismuth subnitrate as a new hope for organic dairy farmers (Schaeren and Maurer, 2005). But there is also a critical view on it due to it’s nature as a heavy metal salt which maybe put a risk at suckling calves immediately after calving (Notz, 2005).

The tasks of this part of the Integrated Project QLIF were to elaborate basics of udder health associated components of veterinary and advisor support. The emphasis is put on prevention on farm level, hence the superior strategy has to be the evaluation of general and organic farming specific management factors and their impact on udder health. The project has evaluated three main areas:
  • Management factors affecting udder health in organic dairy farms

  • Antibiotics-free dry cow therapy methods

  • Two antibiotics-free sub-clinical mastitis treatment methods

Evalutation of management factors affecting udder health in organic dairy farms

The presented study was performed in order to evaluate management factors influencing udder health depression as a basis for extension concepts for organic dairy farmers.

This study investigated the impact of 29 management factors on the udder health on 77 farms of the Swiss organic dairy farm network “pro-Q”. One part of the study was a cross-sectional analysis of the status before launching the extension project. The other should evaluate the effects of extension within one year.

As characterization of udder health the theoretical bulk milk somatic cell count (TBMSCC) over a time period of the respective year was chosen. The source for this information was the cow composite SCC provided by the monthly routine milk records of the breeding company. Furthermore initial milk samples were taken once of all lactating udder quarters and analysed concerning bacteriological findings and somatic cell count (SCC).

After a period of one year, a partial improvement of the management factors on the farms (17 milking and feeding management factors out of 29) was found, but no overall improvement effect on udder health and no association between management changes and udder health changes were found.

The basic udder health situation shows an influence on the development of udder health. Farms with a higher basic TBMSCC could improve their udder health situation more in the project year than farms with a well basic situation.

As a conclusion a set of management factors can be localized, which are responsible for udder health depressions in organic dairy herds. Nevertheless, a general model cannot be performed to enclose all factors.

It can be stated that the farmer’s compliance depends on the time of common work on herd health enhancement with the advisor. Therefore, not all identified risk factors could be changed in the first year of extension. Thus, the udder health improvement could be achieved only in a part of the farms. The investigated variables could represent the basis for a sophisticated extension concept.

Evaluation of antibiotics-free dry cow therapy methods

This study was done to increase the knowledge about abilities of different antibiotics free dry-off supporting methods in comparison to the practice to avoid treatment at all.

Particularly organic farmers need solutions without the standard of prophylactic intramammary antibiosis because of their intention to ban any preventive chemical measures.

The investigation was conducted in 13 farms of the Swiss organic dairy farm network “pro- Q” to evaluate antibiotic-free dry cow therapy measures compared to an untreated control group. A total of 102 dairy cows entered the study. The only inclusion criterion was that none of these cows had a chronically infected udder quarter. After double quarter milk samples 14 and 7 days before dry-off, a quarter based diagnosis was performed including the bacterial findings and the somatic cell count as well.

In herds with higher risk of environment associated pathogens infection and with a high amount of minor pathogens, a Teat Sealer Strategy can be elaborated, considering particularly cows with four healthy or minor pathogen infected quarters. In general the results indicate that therapy abandonment at the end of lactation is a feasible strategy under certain conditions.

Homeopathic concepts are a possible protective additive in non-antibiotic DCT of organic dairy herds.

Evaluation of two antibiotics-free sub-clinical mastitis treatment methods

This investigation evaluates candidate treatment methods against bovine subclinical mastitis, which are known as recommended by certain veterinarians under Swiss udder health management conditions.

Of the Swiss organic dairy farm network “pro-Q” a number of 17 recently recruited organic dairy herds with identified sub-clinical mastitis problems were chosen for the investigation. In these herds a total number of 150 cows, which were potentially sub-clinically infected considering milk recording somatic cell counts (SCC) above 100’000/ml in the last three milk records or permanently after calving were pre-selected. For consideration in the trial these cows additionally should fit the following including criteria: (a) residual lactation time three months at minimum until dry-off, (b) no sensory aberrations of milk or udder tissue, (c) no acute or reconvalent udder or teat injuries. A number of 124 cows fitted all these criteria.

The zero-hypothesis that homeopathy is not effective could not be rejected by the presented results.

As a conclusion, neither the repeated therapy with the combination the homeopathics Calcarea carbonica D30, Phosphorus D15, Pulsatilla pratensis D6, Atropa Belladonna D6, and Lac vaccae D60, nor the single therapy by a Tuberculinum Koch nosode (in 200 fold 1:100 dilution) can be recommended for the lactation treatment of sub-clinically infected cows.


Notz, C. (2005): Is Orbeseal® the answer to mastitis in organic farms? In: 4th SAFO Workshop: Systems development: quality and safety of organic livestock products., Frick (CH), 17-19 March, 2005. Hovi, M., Walkenhorst, M., Padel, S. (eds.), pp 165-167.

Schaeren, W., Maurer, J. (2005): The use of an internal teat sealant, ORBESEAL(r), as a preventive measure for the dry cow period. In: 4th SAFO workshop: System development: quality and safety of organic livestock products., Frick (CH), 2005. Hovi, M., Walkenhorst, M., Padel, S. (eds.), pp 171-174.

This article is based on the report from the QLIF project:
WP 4.5.1 D5 Final report on farm and animal specific measures and factors influencing udder health on Swiss organic dairy farms.