Skip to main content Accessibility help

Effects of a participatory approach, with systematic impact matrix analysis in herd health planning in organic dairy cattle herds

  • K. Sjöström (a1), S. Sternberg-Lewerin (a2), I. Blanco-Penedo (a1) (a3), J. E. Duval (a4), M. Krieger (a5), U. Emanuelson (a1) and N. Fall (a1)...


The animal health and welfare status in European organic dairy production does not in all aspects meet the organic principles and consumers’ expectations and needs to be improved. To achieve this, tailored herd health planning, targeted to the specific situation of individual farms could be of use. The aim of this study was to apply herd health planning in a structured participatory approach, with impact matrix analysis, not previously used in this context, in European organic dairy farms and to assess changes in animal health and welfare. Herd health planning farm visits were conducted on 122 organic dairy farms in France, Germany and Sweden. The farmer, the herd veterinarian and/or an advisor took part in the farm discussions. The researcher served as facilitator. Baseline data on the animal health status of the individual farm, collected from national milk recording schemes, were presented as an input for the discussion. Thereafter a systematic impact matrix analysis was performed. This was to capture the complexity of individual farms with the aim to identify the farm-specific factors that could have a strong impact on animal health. The participants (i.e. farmer, veterinarian and advisor) jointly identified areas in need of improvement, taking the health status and the interconnected farm system components into account, and appropriate actions were jointly identified. The researcher took minutes during the discussions, and these were shared with the participants. No intervention was made by the researcher, and further actions were left with the participants. The number of actions per farm ranged from 0 to 22. The change in mortality, metabolic diseases, reproductive performance and udder health was assessed at two time points, and potential determinators of the change were evaluated with linear regression models. A significant association was seen between change in udder health, as measured by the somatic cell count, and country. At the first follow-up, a significant association was also found between change in the proportion of prolonged calving interval and the farmers’ desire to improve reproductive health as well as with an increase in herd size, but this was not seen at the second follow-up. The degree of implementation of the actions was good (median 67%, lower quartile 40%, upper quartile 83%). To conclude, the degree of implementation was quite high, improvement of animal health could not be linked to the herd health planning approach. However, the approach was highly appreciated by the participants and deserves further study.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Alvåsen, K, Jansson Mörk, M, Dohoo, IR, Sandgren, CH, Thomsen, PT and Emanuelson, U 2014. Risk factors associated with on-farm mortality in Swedish dairy cows. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 117, 110120.
Anneberg, I, Østergaard, S, Ettema, JF and Kudahl, AB 2016. Economic figures in herd health programmes as motivation factors for farmers. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 134, 170178.
Cha, E, Hertl, JA, Bar, D and Gröhn, YT 2010. The cost of different types of lameness in dairy cows calculated by dynamic programming. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 97, 18.
Chapinal, N, Weary, DM, Collings, L and von Keyserlingk, MAG 2014. Lameness and hock injuries improve on farms participating in an assessment program. Veterinary Journal 202, 646648.
Denis-Robichaud, J, Cerri, RLA, Jones-Bitton, A and LeBlanc, SJ 2018. Dairy producers’ attitudes toward reproductive management and performance on Canadian dairy farms. Journal of Dairy Science 101, 111.
Derks, M, van Werven, T, Hogeveen, H and Kremer, WDJ 2014. Associations between farmer participation in veterinary herd health management programs and farm performance. Journal of dairy science 97, 13361347.
Derks, M, van Woudenbergh, B, Boender, M, Kremer, W, van Werven, T and Hogeveen, H 2013. Veterinarian awareness of farmer goals and attitudes to herd health management in The Netherlands. Veterinary Journal 198, 224228.
Dippel, S, Dolezal, M, Brenninkmeyer, C, Brinkmann, J, March, S, Knierim, U and Winckler, C 2009. Risk factors for lameness in freestall-housed dairy cows across two breeds, farming systems, and countries. Journal of dairy science 92, 54765486.
Dohoo, IR and Leslie, KE 1991. Evaluation of changes in somatic cell counts as indicators of new intramammary infections. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 10, 225237.
Dubuc, J, Duffield, TF, Leslie, KE, Walton, JS and LeBlanc, SJ 2010. Definitions and diagnosis of postpartum endometritis in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 93, 52255233.
Duval, JE, Bareille, N, Fourichon, C, Madouasse, A and Vaarst, M 2016a. Perceptions of French private veterinary practitioners’ on their role in organic dairy farms and opportunities to improve their advisory services for organic dairy farmers. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 133, 1021.
Duval, JE, Fourichon, C, Madouasse, A, Sjöström, K, Emanuelson, U and Bareille, N 2016b. A participatory approach to design monitoring indicators of production diseases in organic dairy farms. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 128, 1222.
Emanuelson, U 1988. The national Swedish animal disease recording system. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica Supplement 84, 262264.
Emanuelson, U 2014. IMPRO D2.4 – Report on health plans. Retrieved on 28 May 2018 from
Ettema, JF and Østergaard, S 2006. Economic decision making on prevention and control of clinical lameness in Danish dairy herds. Livestock Science 102, 92106.
Eurostat 2017. Statistics on Certified organic livestock by type of species. Retrieved on 1 December 2017 from
Green, MJ, Leach, KA, Breen, JE, Green, LE and Bradley, AJ 2007. National intervention study of mastitis control in dairy herds in England and Wales. The Veterinary Record 160, 287293.
Harper, GC and Makatouni, A 2002. Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare. British Food Journal 104, 287299.
Heuer, C, Schukken, YHH and Dobbelaar, P 1999. Postpartum body condition score and results from the first test day milk as predictors of disease, fertility, yield, and culling in commercial dairy herds. Journal of dairy science 82, 295304.
Huijps, K, Hogeveen, H, Lam, TJGM and Huirne, RBM 2009. Preferences of cost factors for mastitis management among Dutch dairy farmers using adaptive conjoint analysis. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 92, 351359.
Hultgren, J 2002. Foot/leg and udder health in relation to housing changes in Swedish dairy herds. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 53, 167189.
Huxley, JN, Burke, J, Roderick, S, Main, DCJ and Whay, HR 2004. Animal welfare assessment benchmarking as a tool for health and welfare planning in organic dairy herds. Veterinary Record 155, 237240.
Ivemeyer, S, Smolders, G, Brinkmann, J, Gratzer, E, Hansen, B, Henriksen, BIF, Huber, J, Leeb, C, March, S, Mejdell, C, Nicholas, P, Roderick, S, Stöger, E, Vaarst, M, Whistance, LK, Winckler, C and Walkenhorst, M 2012. Impact of animal health and welfare planning on medicine use, herd health and production in European organic dairy farms. Livestock Science 145, 6372.
Jones, PJ, Sok, J, Tranter, RB, Blanco-Penedo, I, Fall, N, Fourichon, C, Hogeveen, H, Krieger, M and Sundrum, A 2016. Assessing, and understanding, European organic dairy farmers’ intentions to improve herd health. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 133, 8496.
Krieger, M, Hoischen-Taubner, S, Emanuelson, U, Blanco-Penedo, I, de Joybert, M, Duval, JE, Sjöström, K, Jones, PJ and Sundrum, A 2017a. Capturing systemic interrelationships by an impact analysis to help reduce production diseases in dairy farms. Agricultural Systems 153, 4352.
Krieger, M, Sjöström, K, Blanco-Penedo, I, Madouasse, A, Duval, JE, Bareille, N, Fourichon, C, Sundrum, A and Emanuelson, U 2017b. Prevalence of production disease related indicators in organic dairy herds in four European countries. Livestock Science 198, 104108.
Kristensen, E and Jakobsen, EB 2011. Challenging the myth of the irrational dairy farmer: understanding decision-making related to herd health. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 59, 17.
LeBlanc, SJ, Duffield, TF, Leslie, KE, Bateman, KG, Keefe, GP, Walton, JS and Johnson, WH 2002. Defining and diagnosing postpartum clinical endometritis and its impact on reproductive performance in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 85, 22232236.
LeBlanc, SJ, Lissemore, KD, Kelton, DF, Duffield, TF and Leslie, KE 2006. Major advances in disease prevention in dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 89, 12671279.
Luttikholt, LWM 2007. Principles of organic agriculture as formulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 54, 347360.
March, S, Brinkmann, J and Winckler, C 2011. Improvement of udder health following implementation of herd health plans in organic dairy farms: results of a pilot study in Germany. In Udder health and Communication (ed. H Hogeveen and TJGM Lam), pp. 9199. Wageningen Academic Publisher, Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Nyman, A-K, Lindberg, A and Sandgren, C 2011. Can pre-collected register data be used to identify dairy herds with good cattle welfare? Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 53, S8.
Olsson, SO, Baekbo, P, Hansson, SO, Rautala, H and Østerås, O 2001. Disease recording systems and herd health schemes for production diseases. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica Supplementum 94, 5160.
Rehman, T, McKemey, K, Yates, CM, Cooke, RJ, Garforth, CJ, Tranter, RB, Park, JR and Dorward, PT 2007. Identifying and understanding factors influencing the uptake of new technologies on dairy farms in SW England using the theory of reasoned action. Agricultural Systems 94, 281293.
Richert, R, Cicconi, K, Gamroth, M, Schukken, YH, D P Stiglbauer, KE and Ruegg, PL 2013. Management factors associated with veterinary usage by organic and Conventional Dairy Farms. Journal of the American Veterinary Association 242, 17321743.
Sjöström, K, Madouasse, A, Duval, JE and Emanuelson, U 2015. Effects of threshold levels for milk somatic cell count on ranking of dairy herds within and across European countries. In Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economy: Planning our future, 3–7 November 2015, Merida, Mexico.
Stengärde, L, Hultgren, J, Tråvén, M, Holtenius, K and Emanuelson, U 2012. Risk factors for displaced abomasum or ketosis in Swedish dairy herds. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 103, 280286.
Stiglbauer, KE, Cicconi-Hogan, KM, Richert, R, Schukken, YH, Ruegg, PL and Gamroth, M 2013. Assessment of herd management on organic and conventional dairy farms in the United States. Journal of Dairy Science 96, 12901300.
Tremetsberger, L, Leeb, C and Winckler, C 2015. Animal health and welfare planning improves udder health and cleanliness but not leg health in Austrian dairy herds. Journal of dairy science 98, 68016811.
Tremetsberger, L and Winckler, C 2015. Effectiveness of animal health and welfare planning in dairy herds: a review. Animal Welfare 24, 5567.
Vaarst, M and Alrøe, HF 2012. Concepts of animal health and welfare in organic livestock systems. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25, 333347.
van Soest, FJS, Mourits, MCM and Hogeveen, H 2015. European organic dairy farmers’ preference for animal health management within the farm management system. Animal 9, 18751883.
Vaarst, M, Nissen, TB, Østergaard, S, Klaas, IC, Bennedsgaard, TW and Christensen, J 2007. Danish stable schools for experiential common learning in groups of organic dairy farmers. Journal of Dairy Science 90, 25432554.
Vaarst, M, Winckler, C, Roderick, S, Smolders, G, Ivemeyer, S, Brinkmann, J, Mejdell, CM, Whistance, LK, Nicholas, P, Walkenhorst, M, Leeb, C, March, S, Henriksen, BIF, Stöger, E, Gratzer, E, Hansen, B and Huber, J 2011. Animal health and welfare planning in organic dairy cattle farms. The Open Veterinary Science Journal 5, 1925.
Vester, F 2007. The art of interconnected thinking: Ideas and tools for a new approach to tackling complexity. MCB-Verlag, München, Germany.
von Meyer-Höfer, M, Nitzko, S and Spiller, A 2015. Article information. British Food Journal 117, 15271546.
Whay, HR, Main, DC, Green, LE and Webster, AJ 2003. Assessment of the welfare of dairy cattle using animal-based measurements: direct observations and investigation of farm records. The Veterinary Record 153, 197202.
Whay, HR, Waterman, AE, Webster, AJF and O’Brien, JK 1998. The influence of lesion type on the duration of hyperalgesia associated with hindlimb lameness in dairy cattle. Veterinary Journal 156, 2329.


Effects of a participatory approach, with systematic impact matrix analysis in herd health planning in organic dairy cattle herds

  • K. Sjöström (a1), S. Sternberg-Lewerin (a2), I. Blanco-Penedo (a1) (a3), J. E. Duval (a4), M. Krieger (a5), U. Emanuelson (a1) and N. Fall (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed