2019 NVSS

2019 National Veterinary Scholars Symposium (NVSS)

Organic dairy farmer herd health decisions on treatment and prevention of disease

K. Weaver*, J. Pempek, C. Brock, D. Jackson-Smith, L. DaCosta, and G. Habing


Little is known about the organic dairy farmer’s approach to herd health management. Therefore, the goal of this study was to use semi-structured interviews to characterize organic dairy farmers’ perspectives on disease prevention and treatment strategies. Twenty-two organic dairy producers in Ohio were interviewed to explore the decision-making processes on herd health challenges, as well as a focus on vaccine and antimicrobial use. Qualitative answers were analyzed to assess key concepts using NVivoTM software. The top reported herd health challenges were mastitis (73%), lameness (50%), metabolic disease (41%) and flies (41%). The top reported prevention strategies were dietary supplements (77%), cleanliness (64%), high forage diet or balanced rations  (59%) and vaccinations (41%). The majority (59%) of producers reported using vaccines and the primary concerns of safety and inconvenience were cited by 71% (5/7) and 86% (6/7) of non-vaccinating producers, respectively. Any use of antimicrobials was reported by 45% of producers, most of whom reported isolated treatment events and grappled with a case definition to initiate therapy. Beyond removal from the organic herd, barriers to antimicrobial use included the inconvenience and financial disincentive of managing the treated animal through withdrawal. Overall, while the majority vaccinated, not all producers viewed vaccination as a top prevention strategy, and findings highlight opportunity to address negative perceptions about vaccine safety. Further, protocols that clarify case definitions that warrant antimicrobial therapy are needed to guide farmers with this decision when treatment is necessary.