Parasitism is a major challenge to the health and welfare of organic livestock. In this project, we will evaluate available means to monitor and control endoparasites through a series of farm-based parasitological and socio-economic studies under organic conditions. Participating countries are Denmark, France, Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK.
Over the last 15 years, several projects funded either by EC (European Commission) or national governments have been commissioned to investigate sustainable ways of controlling parasites in organic and low-input livestock production systems. Although these projects have largely delivered the underpinning scientific research, progress to implement effective control strategies has been hindered by: i) little research at a farm systems level, ii) the absence of clear cost-benefit or societal acceptance analysis and iii) difficulties in delivering user-friendly innovation and reaching the appropriate stakeholders.
The consortium will engage with stakeholders beyond the academic community, farmers and advisors at a first stage and standard-setting organisations, EC (European Commission) and national decision-makers at a later stage, to promote awareness and knowledge and to explore the wider societal implications of the research work further.
One of the desired outcomes will be a reduction in the use of allopathic (commercial) drugs for helminthosis controls, which will have a positive impact on the environment and slow down the development of anthelmintic resistance. Project innovations will also improve sustainability of organic ruminant production, which has positive implications in improving farming income, and, as a consequence, human welfare and cultural development of rural communities. To ensure a significant impact on this, a specific work package dedicated to cost-benefit and farmers’ acceptance analysis has been included to identify approaches that will facilitate the wide deployment of integrated strategies by organic ruminant farmers.
The project will develop and deliver innovations for organic ruminants in Europe, through stakeholder participation throughout. For example, for cattle it will deliver: i) an electronic application that will facilitate liver fluke control for organic farmers and ii) a parameterised model where weight gains are used as a proxy for early diagnosis and targeted treatment of GIN. For small ruminants, it will deliver: i) a set of farmer friendly criteria formulated as a tool to help farmers decide drenching requirements of their flock/herd and ii) an economic model, that will generate estimates of the extra costs of implementation of alternative strategies for GIN control. The project will also deliver novel information based on surveys and stakeholder participation studies on current helminth control strategies in organic farms in Europe, fluke prevalence data and associated risk factor analysis, which will improve animal health and welfare through improved monitoring.
The overall objective of this project is to generate information and tools that can be readily used by organic farmers to improve animal health and welfare. The expectation is that the implementation of alternative approaches to control parasitism will be facilitated following the realisation of the project.