The overall objective of the IMPRO project is to provide results, recommendations, and tools suited to improve management practices and alternative treatments to improve animal health in organic dairy farming. To achieve the general and the specific objectives, by a multidisciplinary and participatory approach, the various tasks are allocated to 9 interconnected workpackages.
Workpackage 2 represents a major data source, providing relevant information, especially for WP5 and WP6. Furthermore, different interactions are planned between WP2, WP3 and WP4. The project management is linked to all workpackages while all workpackages will contribute to the dissemination process in WP7.
WP2: On-farm assessment of effective measures by an impact matrix
Involved partners: UKS, SLU, ONIRIS, IRTA, DSP
A farm-centric approach, making use of a participatory process and an impact matrix, will be used to identify the measures that are likely to be the most effective to improve animal health status. This will be performed on a selection of 50 farms in each of four countries: DE, ES, FR and SE. The countries are selected as having sufficient volume of organic dairy production and to represent different agro-ecological regions. The farms will be selected to represent different production structures. The selection is done in order to encompass a comprehensive and exhaustive variation within Europe so that results are applicable to a wider target population of farms.
The approach involves 1) establishment of a list of variables that are relevant to be addressed at on-farm assessments in the context of animal health; 2) performing the impact matrix analysis on farms in an participatory approach with veterinarian and advisor, identifying those measures that are most likely to be effective in the farm specific situation; 3) benchmarking of the animal health status of farms before and during the participatory process. Information on health status, resources, measures and general characteristics will be collected at farm visits to be used a) to compare health status of organic dairy farms across Europe, b) to elaborate reference values and c) to provide sound data for cost-benefit calculations and attitude studies in WP5.
Objectives in WP2 are:
- Develop an on-farm protocol for assessing animal health status, resources, measures and general characteristics of organic dairy farms,
- Assessing status (ex ante) in relation to the specific estimations of the individual farmer, advisor, veterinarian on how to improve animal health status,
- Develop a participatory and farm-centric approach, based on an impact matrix to assess opportunities and constraints, addressing improved animal health in organic dairy farms,
- Provide an estimation of the European-wide and structural variability of health status, limitations/constraints and options for improvements on organic dairy farms,
- Assess the status of participating farms (ex post) in relation to recommendations arrived at by using an impact matrix,
- Elaborate reference values for achievable standards of animal health on organic farms.
WP3: Improving monitoring and prevention on the herd level
Involved partners: SLU, ONIRIS
Preventive strategies, earlier detection of diseases and treatments of diseased animals at an early stage are part of the leading ideas in organic livestock production, and are expected to result in more favourable clinical outcomes and less antibiotic usage. Efforts in regular observations of the herd, data acquisition, data analysis and reactive preventive actions if needed are assumed to result in improved action targeted to diseases occurring along time. A monitoring and adaptive prevention approach will be evaluated in 40 farms in two countries (FR and SE), after prior evaluation of farm specific constraints, options for management, initial health status and variables of interest in WP2 (in comparison with two sets of 40 control farms, one with no intervention, one issued from WP2 after implementation of the impact matrix approach). This will enable to determine the added-value of the monitoring and prevention protocols per se. Although with similar farming systems, the two countries differ in the pre-existing health data recording, we therefore assume that conditions of the acceptance of a monitoring and prevention protocol could differ, as well as the added-value of its implementation (e.g. existence of a National Animal Disease Recording system as in Sweden but not France). Besides this difference in experience of health data recording, the principles of pro-active monitoring and prevention are general and will not have to be derived under the full range of agro-ecological conditions present in WP2.
Investments in health management are expected to be implemented only if they are paid off at least in the medium or long run (win-win-situation). Therefore it is also expected that the investments by monitoring and prevention of production diseases are compensated for by an improved health status and by reduced production costs. Data necessary for cost-benefit analysis of the proposed protocols will be collected for WP5.
The number of farms will make it possible to saturate the information with regards to constraints and compliance. For assessing effectiveness, changes in health status due to the protocols can be found with this sample size if they occur to a large extent, which is expected to give a sufficient return on investment.
Workpackage 3 strives for improving monitoring and prevention on the herd level by:
- Developing a pro-active monitoring protocol adapted to organic dairy production to increase effectiveness in treating animals and to reduce the use of chemically allopathic treatments,
- Developing a pro-active preventive protocol adapted to organic dairy production,
- Assessing the benefits of a pro-active strategy in comparison to a re-active strategy, and providing knowledge with respect to farm specific cost-benefit balances,
- Testing the manageability of the pro-active protocol under commercial conditions, identifying potential constraints to account for in organic farming systems,
- Testing the effectiveness of this technique to improve the animal health status.
WP4: Manageability of alternative treatments
Involved partners: UKS, ONIRIS, IRTA
According to Council Regulation (EC-834/2007; Article 14, e ii), “with regard to disease prevention and veterinary treatment, disease shall be treated immediately to avoid suffering to the animal; chemically synthesized allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary and under strict conditions, when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate.” Appropriateness of homeopathic treatments is not only related to the effectiveness of the remedies itself, which have to be proved in clinical control studies, but depends to a high degree also on appropriate preconditions on the farm level. These includes among others: expertise to formulate a profound anamnesis and diagnosis according to the leading symptoms, diagnosis in relation to potential resistance to therapy, availability of expertise on alternative treatments, options for the appropriate application of remedies, and options for the consecutive control of effects on animal health status.
An effective use of alternative treatments can only be expected if diagnostic procedure and treatment in each individual case of disease follow the state-of-the-art. If nothing else than welfare reasons, highlighted especially in organic livestock production, homeopathic treatments should only be considered by veterinarians, animal healing practitioners or farmers if appropriate preconditions for implementation according to the state-of-the-art are assured. Legal and factual preconditions for the use of alternative treatments vary considerably between European countries, but knowledge about the legal situation and the availability of appropriate preconditions in organic dairy farms is currently missing.
Objectives of WP4 are to assess manageability of alternative treatments according to the state-of-the-art on organic dairy farms by:
- Elaborating protocols / decision trees for the diagnostic procedure and the use of homeopathic treatments in the case of most frequent diseases appropriate for homeopathic treatment (including mastitis, endometritis),
- Testing if preconditions necessary to apply the protocols and the demands for homeopathic treatments according the state-of-the-art are prevailing under commercial conditions,
- Assessing legal and factual prescriptions and constraints in connection with the use of alternative treatments by veterinarians and animal healing practitioners in Europe,
- Comparing the effectiveness of allopathic and homeopathic treatments on organic dairy farms.
WP5: Socio-economic implications of changes in the management
Involved partners: WU, UREAD
Animal health problems reflect only one source of risks farmers need to manage. Considering the limited availability of resources on a farm, farmers allocate resources to the risk sources which are considered to be of the highest importance. Farmers need decision support to indicate those measures that will give them the highest economic net return within the farm’s constraints.
To identify potential incentives and socio-economic barriers towards improvements with respect to animal health, the following objectives are addressed:
- to examine the financial importance of different health problems from farmers’ perspective,to examine the motivation
- to improve disease management and to implement recommended measures, and the effect of the participatory approach thereon,
- to assess the cost-effectiveness of recommended measures within farm specific constraints,
- to examine farmers’, advisors’ and veterinarians’ reactions and attitudes towards the participatory approach and the developed protocols to improve prevention and treatments,
- to assess farmers’ and veterinarians’ attitudes, knowledge, motivation, and possible objections towards improved monitoring and prevention,
- to capture farmers’ and veterinarians’ attitude, motivation, and knowledge about alternative treatments and expertise to correspond to the state-of-the-art,
- to account costs with respect to establishing appropriate preconditions for making use of alternative treatments (WP4)
WP6: Development of a software-based decision support tool
Involved partners: UKS, WU, DSP, UREAD
The challenge in WP6 is to integrate deliverables, elaborated in different work packages into a coherent and easily manageable software tool to support the diagnostic procedure with respect to multi-factorial syndromes, and to identify the most appropriate measures to improve animal health.
The integration of economic analysis into the herd management software and the inclusion of a participatory consulting approach by an impact matrix represent a challenge that will lead to an innovative product to disseminate the relevant results of the project. The unique challenges in the development of software are taken into account by an iterative process including the specification of requirements, tailoring of the proceeding and acceptance testing of the software tool.
The objective of the workpackage is:
- to elaborate a prefiguration (beta-version) of a software-based decision support tool for herd health management in organic dairy farming based on an impact matrix analysis to identify the most relevant farm specific measures suited to improve animal health, and a tool for herd health monitoring on organic dairy farms,
- to integrate the variables in relation to the health of dairy cows on the farm level (D2.1), and the feedback from the participatory approach with respect to the impact matrix, used in WP2,
- to integrate the pro-active protocol focussing on the improvement of animal health developed under WP3 and protocol and the decision trees, elaborated in WP4,
- to combine the impact matrix with a programme for cost-benefit calculations, developed in D5.4, to analyse the break-even point in relation to farm specific management measures, enabling the identification of measures with the best cost-benefit relationship (efficiency),
- to prove the applicability of the software tool on organic and conventional dairy farms.
Involved partners: UKS, SLU, ONIRIS, WU, IRTA, UREAD
The Impact of the project will depend on active engagement with relevant stakeholders throughout the project, and not only dissemination of the final results and outputs. The project team will combine events, publications, and internet tools to engage with stakeholders and maximise the dissemination of the project results Events: meetings with representatives of other relevant projects, organisation of workshops and participation in relevant conferences, symposia, etc.
The objectives of the WP outreach are:
- to make the best possible use of the project results by farmers, veterinarians, and other stakeholders, and to ensure fruitful exchanges with the scientific community,
- to inform regulatory bodies nationally and on EU-level, organic farming and consumer organisations about the results and innovations brought by the project,
- ensuring dissemination of the obtained results and management tools in cooperation with subcontractors in different countries across Europe,
- to trigger technology transfer of project results to application on organic and conventional dairy farms.
WP9: Research on the use of alternative remedies in livestock farming
Involved partners: UKS, SLU, ONIRIS, WU, IRTA
Remedies are means to achieve a certain aim. In the case of homeopathic and phytotherapeutic remedies, these remedies are not only used with the purpose to aid recovery of diseased farm animals but often intend additional purposes, among others to avoid the use of chemically synthesized products, to reduce the use of antibiotics and therewith reducing the risks of residues and the risks for the development of antibiotic resistance.
However taking the perspective of the farm animals and their well-being into account, the considerations with respect to additional purposes are only justified when the use of alternative remedies can be expected to as effective as the allopathic medication. To provide evidence for the effectiveness and appropriateness of alternative remedies is a crucial challenge. Both are depending on various influencing factors. These cannot be assessed adequately in single case studies and or be generalized from the results of research studies under standardized conditions. Among others, the therapeutic effectiveness of remedies depend on:
- Effectiveness of the remedy in relation to the specific disease,
- Quality of the remedy with respect to concentration and formulation of active ingredients,
- Valid diagnosis of the disease and estimations with respect to the prognosis,
- Selection of the appropriate remedy, the dosage of the remedy and the duration of therapy,
- Supportive and palliative measures,
- Removal of causative factors.
In addition to estimations about the effectiveness of alternative remedies, there is a need to assess the context and the surrounding conditions in which alternative remedies are used and to evaluate the preconditions and the control measures that should be put into force to ensure recovery of diseased animals in farm specific conditions and to prevent a prolonged suffering of farm animals due to ineffective treatments.
WP9 will combine literature research, questionnaires, workshops and simulation modelling to cover the wide range of topics involved and expertise required to achieve a secured state knowledge that enable valid statements concerning the possibilities to reduce the use of antibiotics by making use of alternative methods.
The role of alternative methods when striving for options to reduce the use of antibiotics in organic and conventional livestock farming (cattle, pig and poultry production) will be assessed by:
- Reviews on research projects in the field of homeopathy and phytotherapy,
- Investigations regarding the cooperation between research bodies,
- Workshops with proponents and detractors of alternative methods,
- Research on the preconditions and diagnostic procedure for the use of homeopathic and phytotherapeutic treatments according to the state of the art in pig and poultry production,
- Economic impacts of the use of homeopathic and phytotherapeutic treatments in conventional pig and poultry production,
- Summarizing report, conclusions and recommendations for assistance policy.
WP1&8: Coordination and project management
Involved partners: UKS, SLU, ONIRIS, WU, IRTA, DSP, UREAD
At the strategic level, it is aimed at steering the project together with the project coordination committee (PCC) so it remains relevant against the changes that may occur in the area, be they scientific, technological, environmental, or political.
At the operational level, it is designed to ensure that the project will progress in conformity to the work plan in particular with regard to achievements of the scientific objectives, the milestones, the deliverables, the transfer of knowledge, as well as the planned resources, and is supported by the workpackage managers, being responsible for their WP.
External communication will be performed by the co-ordinator, establishing a close contact and
communication with relevant European Commission DGs, IFOAM, the European certifier group, and various stakeholder groups on different scales.
At the organisational level, internal communication will be ensured by regular meetings with the partners and video conferences with the PCC to achieve maximum efficiency of the infrastructural setup, with special attention paid to financial, logistic, information, and coordination issues and in terms of quality and conformity to EC rules and procedures.
Management activities are split up in WP1 and WP8 according to the type of activity.