Organic Farming and Animal Health

Background and Methodology

Organic standards aim at good livestock health and welfare. There was a genuine interest among the pioneers of organic farming in creating livestock systems that better fulfill animal needs than do the industrialized systems in conventional agriculture. On the other hand, organic animal husbandry has been strongly criticized by veterinarians who have noted concerns regarding diseases and malnutrition. The aim of this paper was to review relevant scientific literature focusing on animal health and welfare in organic farming. A literature search on organic animal health and welfare was performed in October-November 2001 to investigate how well these aims compare with reality and to see what areas have been researched.

Only 22 peer-reviewed papers were found in the search mainly dealing with cattle health and parasitology. Ten were comparative studies and two were overview papers. No papers focused on welfare issues other than health. None of the published articles found indications that health and welfare are worse in organic than in conventional livestock farming, with exception of parasite-related diseases. A cautious conclusion based on this material is that except for parasite-related diseases, health and welfare in organic herds are the same as or better than in conventional herds.

Lund, V. & Algers, B. (2003). Research on animal health and welfare in organic farming- a literature review. Livestock Production Science 80: 55-68.