U of MN Leads $1.4 Million Project to Advance Animal Health on Organic Farms

WCROC Brad Heins
September 29, 2016

The University of Minnesota (U of MN) has been awarded a three-year, $1.4 million project to advance animal health on organic farms from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).  

Researchers involved are from the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine, with partners from the University of Colorado, Kansas State University, and The Ohio State Veterinary College.

The collaborative effort will assess innovative preventive and curative approaches for mastitis, lameness, reproductive disorders, calf health, and fly management under field conditions on organic dairies across the Nation.  Alternative therapies and prevention strategies for common cattle diseases in an organic dairy herds will be evaluated on several large organic dairy farms in Colorado, as well as at the U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) in Morris, MN.

“One of the most frequent questions I get is in regards to organic dairy herd health.  Organic producers and veterinarians across the United States have repeatedly expressed the need for evidence-based preventative care when it comes to treating organic dairy animals,” says Dr. Brad Heins, Associate Professor of Dairy Science at the WCROC. 

In addition to on-farm research efforts, the research team will create a searchable online database complete with alternative therapies and treatment protocol resources made available for veterinarians.  The American Association of Bovine Practitioners strongly supports the project and called the database an “exceptionally valuable resource” for its members.

The interdisciplinary team - led by Dr. Heins – includes Dr. Ulrike Sorge, Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Pablo Pinedo, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University; and Dr. Hans Coetzee, Professor, Kansas State University.

Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture in the U.S.  The U of MN has strong commitment to supporting organic agriculture with nearly 700 acres of certified organic land.  Additionally, the U of MN WCROC has the largest certified organic dairy herd of any land grant institution in the U.S.  This is the second USDA-OREI grant that Dr. Heins has received for improving organic herd health. 

The funding for this project is provided by USDA-OREI grant 2016-51300-25734.