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IMPRO Sintesi della relazione

Project ID: 311824
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP7-KBBE
Paese: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - IMPRO (Impact matrix analysis and cost-benefit calculations to improve management practices regarding health status in organic dairy farming)

Project Context and Objectives:
Animal health status in organic dairy farming does not in all respects meet consumers’ expectations. Improvements are crucial to support consumers’ confidence and their willingness to pay premium prices. These are needed to cover the higher production costs. Previous herd health planning concepts have prepared the ground for advancements. However, heterogeneous living conditions for farm animals providing invalid generalisation of recommendations or insufficient implementations of measures are counteracting an improvement of the animal health status.
The IMPRO project aims to substantially overcome some weak points in the current health management strategies on organic dairy farms and to increase the implementation of evidence based measures and to improve practice of health management. This will be achieved by a multidisciplinary, participatory, and equifinal approach to develop farm specific solutions regarding preventive measures and early treatment strategies. Researchers, experienced in conducting applied research, will aim for the following:
• to develop a participatory and farm-centric tool for a sound diagnostic procedure at the farm level, identifying the most effective measures to improve animal health;
• to evaluate farm-specific costs and benefits of recommended measures, to optimise farm-specific allocation of available resources, and to emerge incentives;
• to examine the motivation and attitudes of farmer, advisor, and veterinarian directly involved in health management practice;
• to elaborate reference values for achievable standards for the animal health status;
• to develop a pro-active monitoring protocol aiming for improved effectiveness of preventive and treatment strategies and for a reduction in the use of allopathic remedies;
• to assess the manageability of alternative treatments according to the state-of-the-art;
• to develop a software-based tool including health monitoring, farm diagnostics’ procedures, cost-benefit calculation, and break-even analysis.
The envisaged objectives will be achieved within the time period of the project by the development of a tool for the use on the farm level to enable well-directed and accurately fitting strategies to improve management practices (work package [WP] 2, 6). The effectiveness of proactive preventive and early treatment strategies on the herd level will be assessed within the project (WP3). Decision trees for the diagnostic procedure and the use of alternative treatments will be provided as well as results about the manageability of alternative treatments according the state-of-the-art under commercial conditions (WP4). The state of the art on alternative treatments in pig and poultry production, research projects in the field, findings that have been made, the degree of cooperation between institutes and the possibilities to reduce antibiotics will be assessed (WP9). A further outcome will be an overview on the legal and factual prescriptions in relation to the use of alternative treatments in Europe. Calculating the costs needed for the implementation of measures identified as being most effective enables an assessment of the most efficient cost-benefit-relationship to improve incentives for farmers (WP5). The various outcomes of the individual workpackages will be integrated into a beta-version of a validated software-based decision support tool which will function as an operational base to consolidate the gained knowledge and to transfer the scientific and technical advancements into practice, breaking down the comprehensive and complex issue into action in farm specific situations (WP6). The project structure aims at an efficient project management (WP1; WP8), ensuring a widespread and target-group oriented dissemination (WP7).

Project Results:
During 36 months of the IMPRO project research activities took place in all workpackages. An on-farm assessment of the animal health status, resources and general characteristics of organic dairy farms was carried out on 218 farms in four countries. Data on sociological and economic tasks in WP5 were collected and the elaboration of reference values for the animal health status have been finalised (WP2). The data collection provided an estimation of the European-wide and structural variability of health status on organic dairy farms. The participatory and farm-centric approach based on an impact matrix was very well appreciated by the participants.
The initial proactive monitoring and preventive protocols have been developed in WP3 for five major diseases as planned. Testing of the protocols is on-going in France and in Sweden.
In WP 4 protocols / decision trees for the diagnostic procedure and the use of homeopathic treatments have been elaborated. Five questionnaires have been addressed to different stakeholders in Germany, France and Spain to assess the manageability of alternative treatments according to the state-of-the-art. The results of the surveys displayed considerable heterogeneity in the use of homeopathic remedies among the farms. Main barriers regarding the appropriate use of homeopathy have been identified. Legal and factual prescriptions and constraints in European countries have been identified.
In WP5 farmers’ perception towards animal health problems has been analysed. Also the intention and motivation of farmers to implement recommendations have been evaluated. It was found that dairy farmers across the four study countries were positive about taking additional preventative measures to improve the health status of their herds. Furthermore, a generic partial budgeting calculation model has been elaborated based on the calculation of failure costs of production diseases. The development of a linear programming model to optimise allocation of resources in managing multi-factorial syndromes is in progress. Moreover, policy recommendations have been formulated.
In WP6, the software module “impact matrix” as well as a health monitoring tool, two approaches of cost-benefit analyses, and protocols for prevention and treatments have been developed relying on the results that have been provided by other workpackages. The test phase to prove the applicability of the software tools is prepared according to the schedule.
In WP7, the project website was established, providing the outline of the project ( The project brochures as well as accepted public Deliverables are available for download on the web-site. A range of outreach and dissemination activities have been carried out including conference presentations and the writing of articles. After have gained the results, the latter will become a main focus in the next reporting period.
The IMPRO project was expanded by an additional WP9, the Pilot Project 'Coordinate research on alternative treatments in livestock farming'. To gain comprehensive knowledge of the state of the art, reviews on the efficacy of homeopathy and phytotherapy have been elaborated, showing quite heterogeneous results. The currently existent research net-work can be regarded as poor. Furthermore, two workshops have been conducted to discuss the results of the reviews with proponents and opponents of the alternative treatment strategies to receive a comprehensive overview of the arguments. To assess the preconditions for the use of phytotherapeutic treatments according to the state of the art in pig and poultry production, veterinarians and feed advisers with experience in the use of phytotherapy in pig and poultry have been interviewed through a structured questionnaire in four European countries. A report will be prepared in time. Task 9.5., addressing the economic impacts of the use of homeopathic and phytotherapeutic treatments by a stochastic model is still in progress.

Potential Impact:
The main deliverable of the IMPRO project is an arrangement of a novel equifinal approach for health planning on organic dairy farms that is tailored to the specific opportunities and limitations of the farm and incorporates cost-benefit calculations. IMPRO will provide pro-active approaches for health monitoring and measures to reduce prevalence rate of production diseases. The results of IMPRO will be incorporated in a herd health management software-based tool for use on organic as well as on conventional dairy farms.
The results and the software tool will be useful for farmers and their advisors and veterinarians in addressing the health situation on (organic) dairy farms. The participatory and farm-specific approach will provide valid information with respect to the likely most effective and efficient measures in the farm specific situation. This will increase the chance that the plan will be adopted compared to more traditionally conceived animal health plans.
Economics of animal health planning and pro-active monitoring and measures will be a relevant outcome of the IMPRO project. While it is generally expected that improved animal health decreases production costs and improves productivity, it is widely unknown, how much expenditures especially in labour time and investments will be necessary to gain an improved health status. It is highly important for the farmer to estimate the break-even point in the farm specific situation.
The assessment of the economic benefits of improved management practices will be useful for advisory services and veterinarians to further increase the adoptability of animal health planning by farmers and thus lead to a further improvement of animal health and welfare.
With regards to the sensitive topic of treatments of diseased animals, IMPRO will address the effectiveness of alternative treatments by elaborating reviews, performing workshops and by conducting on-farm investigation to assess if and to what degree the preconditions needed for an appropriate use of alternative medicine are fulfilled. Thus, a comprehensive overview on the role of alternative methods when striving for options to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock farming will be gained.
The results will be processed and prepared for the potential use by regulating bodies to modify rules and regulations for organic dairy farming according to the state-of-the-art in farm management and treatment of diseases. Results of the IMPRO project will support policy development of the organic farming regulation by providing sound scientific data about of the characteristics of animal health in organic dairy farms across Europe and their associations with management practices. The information obtained through the corresponding reports will enable regulatory bodies, nationally and on EU level, to adapt regulations in a more evidence based approach, which will increase approval by farmers in general and the scientific community as well.
The project will also establish target values for achievable animal health. Such target values for minimum health standards of organic dairy herds have so far not been incorporated into regulations, but the ability to do so will enable regulatory bodies to put pressure on the producers to improve. This will have major effects on the credibility of organic dairy production and better meet the high expectations of consumers, and therefore also allow marketing to concentrate on documented “added value” qualities.

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Sigrid Reinhard
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