Cattle and goats – breeds adapted to organic and low input dairy production

SOLID, WP2 is studying breeds which are perceived by producers and industry partners as being specifically adapted to the conditions of organic and low input dairy production systems.

By Werner Zollitsch, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria, WP2

The core question of SOLID work package 2 is to study breeds which are perceived by producers and industry partners as being specifically adapted to the conditions of organic and low input dairy production systems. This issue will be studied for both dairy cows and goats in different geographical regions.

In order to contribute to the understanding of the consequences of adaptation, system-specific risks for animal health and welfare will also be analysed.

Currently ongoing activities: screening of farms, feeding experiments, analysis of complex data bases
The concept of adaptation of breeds to a specific environment is not restricted to dairy cows. Together with producer groups and industry partners, scientists are working to indentify differences in production and health traits between different breeds of dairy goats, including indigenous breeds, in Greece. This work is the first of its kind in Greek dairy goats.

In order to find out how adapted breeds react to nutritional challenges which are typcial for low input systems, they are currently compared with conventional breeds in
feeding trials at two different geographical locations; the work will be expanded to a third site in the coming winter. Differences in energy utilization are frequently discussed
as a potential factor contributing to the adaptation of breeds to a specific environment. Because of its highly complex nature, only a small number of extensive data sets exist which would allow to characterise this phenomenon. The cooperation between two leading institutions makes it possible to properly address this complex issue.

Coming up: Biomarkers, on-farm animal welfare
Conducting feeding experiments and screening herds not only yield primary production data and information on milk quality; collecting milk and blood samples for analysing
biomarkers will result in a much deeper insight into the animals’ physiological and health status. In close cooperation between different working groups, this task will start once the sample collection has been finished in the experiments mentioned above.

In the coming winter season the animal health and welfare status in typical organic and low input production systems will be assessed at three different geographical locations. This will contribute to a better understanding of system-specific risk factors which is essential for developing improvement strategies and for utilizing adaptation concepts in livestock breeding.