In 2008, Pamela Ruegg, University of Wisconsin veterinarian and milk-quality specialist, and a multi-state research team received funding from the USDA to identify management factors that influence dairy herd health and milk quality on organic dairy farms. The team consists of researchers from Cornell University, Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin….hence Project C.O.W.

To date, the project has collected data on animal disease, diagnostic methods and treatment, and herd health management on 200 organic and 100 conventional dairy farms located in Wisconsin, New York and Oregon. Analyses from the preliminary data provide new information about the perception of disease, treatment strategies and the role of veterinarians on organic dairy farms. To read these preliminary papers, click here.

Dairy management factors, such as disease recognition and treatment, can influence herd well-being and net farm income. By identifying indicators of animal health and milk quality, performance benchmark reports for participating organic dairy farms will be created. The peer benchmarking approach can help organic farmers identify areas of strengths and weaknesses on their individual farms and set performance goals, such as improved diagnosis of future health-related problems. The need for cost-effective, preventative, health management programs exists for organic producers at large, especially for those transitioning from conventional systems.

The results of Project C.O.W. will be used to develop and disseminate information and extension recommendations consistent with optimizing herd well-being and maximizing the profitability of organic milk production. In addition, an Advisory Board will be created to assure continued guidance and expertise. More resources will be available soon.

Source: University of Wisconsin Milk Quality Web site